"Setting Out On a New Path" Part 2

Learning to Condemn Evil

In order to accomplish this, we will have to review in depth the laws
of slander and gossip. We will have to learn that we are obligated to
relate the disrepute of evil people or people with evil opinions who
bring evil upon the public.

Our precious, honest community is not accustomed to behaving in such a
manner. Many of us saw corrupt ministers, or senior officers acting
with extreme crudeness, or wealthy individuals cheating the poor. Due
to naivety, we tried to interpret these sins in a positive manner.

We must now learn to take a more honest look at reality. It is
entirely possible that on a personal level, in many cases, an
individual may be judged favorably. However, when the corruption takes
its toll upon the “vineyard of Israel,” we must condemn it. (I will
expand elsewhere upon the halakhic and ethical foundations of the
obligation to rebuke, as practiced by the Prophets of Israel upon the
kings and ministers).

Preparing an Alternative

Employing criticism will allow us to think creatively and come up with
fresh ideas for building an original Jewish society according to the
illumination of the Torah. The Almighty gave us His Torah, and it
contains advice and instruction for ideal life. However, it is
necessary to delve into its teachings in order to illuminate and
rectify creation.

For two thousand years, the Torah accompanied us in our exile, and due
to its power we succeeded in surviving the most difficult situations.
However, we did not accustom ourselves to deriving from the Torah
instructions for all aspects of life. This is our task today, to pave
a path for national life based upon the Torah.

Our sages teach us to “embrace the wisdom of the nations,” and a Jew
who sees a wise man from one of the nations must bless: “Blessed are
You, O Lord . . . Who has imparted His wisdom to His creatures.”
Therefore, we must occupy ourselves with secular wisdom, for it too is
“His wisdom.” However, only the Torah can provide us with life’s moral
content.

Despite all of the technological advancement in recent generations,
man’s distress has remained as it always was. Only the Torah can give
true meaning to life. We must learn one discipline after another, the
humanities and the natural sciences alike. We must unravel the
difficulties and problems in each field and search the Torah for
advice and direction in order to arrive at solutions.

Foreign Relations

For example, let us look at the field of foreign relations. We, the
nation of Israel, live amongst the nations of the world, and our task
is to be like a heart for the organs. The question is, how should we
be managing our relations with the countries of the world today? In
what manner should we be establishing relations with friendly nations?
How should we respond to the animosity of our Arab neighbors? How
shall we sanctify God’s name amongst the nations?

To answer these questions, we must examine the foundations of Jewish
faith and the role of the nation of Israel in the world. We must learn
history and political science, familiarize ourselves with the various
nations of the world, and think about how we can earnestly bestow upon
them the sort of goodness that contains both spiritual truth and
practical benefit.

Economics and Education

In the field of economics, too, we face weighty questions. How is it
possible to create an economic system which provides maximum autonomy
for free enterprise on the one hand while preventing the rich from
taking advantage of the poor on the other? How can we transform
commercial transactions into something with moral value? How can we
build a social system which, while aiding the weak, does not
legitimize joblessness at public expense?

The Torah points us in certain directions, however, in order to
realize the vision, we must delve into both the Torah and economic and
social sciences. We need both of these ingredients if we wish to apply
Torah values to modern conditions.

But dealing with theoretical economic questions is not enough; we must
also cope with practical questions. How do we go about preparing a
national program to reduce traffic accidents? How do we build safer
roads? How do we create a system of punishment which will be less
burdensome and more effective?

How do we improve the educational system and also reduce the
burdensome expenses which fall upon the parents? And how do we at the
same time protect the conditions of the teachers? These problems
appear difficult, but I am certain that if we wrestle with all of the
questions, without accepting the present norms as sacrosanct, we will
succeed in greatly improving the educational system. These two courses
together – “abandon evil” and “adopt good,” i.e., criticism of evil on
the one hand and the proposal of a worthy alternative on the other –
will gradually allow us to replace the controlling elites “for the
good of our nation and the cities of our God” (see 2 Samuel 10:12).

Inward Strengthening

The principal that underlies all of this depends upon an
intensification of the inner strength of those who are loyal to the
Torah, the nation, and the land. We must solidify the spiritual stance
of a sector which has had a tendency to be dragged to the right or the
left, forward or backward. It is not because we admire the generals or
because we wish to please the secular public that we enlist for army
service. We enlist because it is a Torah obligation. Therefore, we
shall not be deterred from criticizing security policies, because
voicing criticism in order to improve things is also a Torah
obligation.

We do not uphold the laws of the state in order to prove to somebody
that we are loyal to the state; rather, we uphold them because Jewish
law demands this of us. However, we shall not uphold laws which run
counter to the words of the Torah. We shall continuously remember that
we must strive to “restore our judges as in earliest times” (Amida
prayer), and that in order to achieve this we must critique the courts
which are estranged from the Torah, the nation, and the land.

Freedom

This inner strengthening is connected to the attribute of freedom,
which is the only vehicle for critiquing and creating. By freeing
ourselves from alien influences, we will be able to strengthen family
life and educate our children as admirably as possible. By freeing
ourselves from luxuries, we will be able to economize and establish
ourselves financially. This will allow us to reach that ideal state
wherein money is a vehicle for performing good deeds and realizing
ideals – not an end in itself, an end which is never satisfactorily
achieved.

When we finally merit living according to the Torah, living with a
mission of mending the world, living with a proper balance of ideals
and actions, a family life rich in love and faith and mutual
fertilization, financial stamina, and joy of life – when this is
achieved, all will know that those who follow the path of the Torah
merit life. Then, all of Israel will chose life, return to God, and
inherit the goodly land, and God shall act benevolently towards us in
accordance with that which he swore to our forefathers.

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