Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Shame of a Nation

The allegations against the president of Israel, Moshe Katzav, are now international news. Headlines around the world blare the rape and corruption charges against the figurehead of the Jewish State. It is not hard to hear the relish in some news outlets. The undercurrent of schadenfreude inevitably stems from the perception that those who consider themselves the most 'moral nation on earth' have been proven hypocrites. Katzav seems to demonstrate that Jews are no more moral than anyone else, and it would seem that they may even be a cut below in the area of government officials.

Indeed, members of the Knesset have complained of the shame that the Katzav debacle is causing Israel in the international community. They end up sounding like calculating politicians, who care only about opinion polls and public perception, instead of truth, justice and morality.

During the formation of our Nation, Moshe made sure not to use his position to take anything from the people. He used his own donkey for transportation, and never made personal demands on the Jews, even the kind that we might consider appropriate. How our leadership has changed from those times. Where has the honor of Israel gone?

The governing class in Israel has, for the most part, rejected the practical aspects of the Torah. Israel is, as much as they can influence it, a secular state, one where religion, God and Torah have little to do with the governance of the land. In fact, the founders and visionaries of our State made it clear that they wanted a state just like any other state. I recall reading that when the newly minted Israel caught and convicted its first thief, the feeling was palpable that now we are really a country; we have Jewish scientists, Jewish policemen, Jewish doctors, and now, Jewish robbers!

What a far cry this is from the ethical standard that the Torah requires! We are meant to be a 'kingdom of priests, a holy nation'! Our social and judicial rules gleaned from the Torah would set our status as a beacon of light, standard-setters for the rest of the world. When Israel sits in its land and follows the Torah, the nations of the world will see utopia! And yet, when we fall from grace, when we abandon the ways of God, we become lower than any other. Our substantial national soul has the ability to fall far below, just as it can soar high above. And so, without God squarely before our consciousness constantly, we flounder, and eventually sink. And the results are the Katzavs, Olmerts, Halutzes and a hundred others, who only represent the tip of the depraved iceberg we allow ourselves to become.

Israel is a gift from God. It is our chance to enable the redemption in a quick, painless way. If we abuse it, it can be a source of suffering, until God redeems us despite our actions. However, if we utilize it correctly, it will continue to flower and bear fruit, unfolding the messianic era before our eyes, and the eyes of the whole world. This can only be accomplished by applying the Torah to the State.

When a child is created, he is born incomplete. It is up to his father to circumcise him, thus perfecting what God has given him. Part of the lesson to the father is that the boy must be educated and perfected spiritually, as he was completed physically. In this world, everything God gives us must be perfected by our own actions. We take part in creation with God, and become like Him in this way. When God presented us with the gift of Israel, it was imperfect. It is up to us to complete it with God, and have a hand in our own redemption.

We must return to God, not only on a personal level, but on a national level. We must take this unfinished gift that God gives us, and complete it by his instruction. May God guide us, and help us replace corruption and hedonism with justice and morality. May swift, merciless justice be done to the Katzavs and the Olmerts, and thus Israel's national glory be restored.