Our weekly Torah portion Re’eh begins with Moses’ haunting words to the people of Israel:
“Behold, I set before you today the blessing and the curse: the blessing, if you are obedient to the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you today; but the curse, if you disobey the commandments of the Lord your God, and turn aside from the way which I am commanding you today…” (Deuteronomy 11:25-28)
Here Moses speaks in the name of God to the entire people and explains to them what their blessing or curse will depend on when they live in their land: the observance of His commandments.
The people of Israel are repeatedly asked in the Bible to obey God’s commandments and not to fall away from them. Not only the individual is addressed, but the whole of the people. The receipt of the divine blessing is therefore based on the observance of the commandments by the entire people.
This fact has major implications for society and politics in modern Israel. At the societal level, there are efforts by religious Jews to bring the Torah closer to their brothers and sisters, so that they too will observe God’s commandments and the people will come closer to the promised blessings. It also means that Jews are responsible for each other because we are all in the same boat.
On the political level, especially in our chaotic times, one can see that religious parties call for unity, while secular parties have no biblical basis to love their neighbor as themselves and to fulfill God’s will together. There are very good practical reasons for Jewish unity, but at present they are not heard by many Israelis.
But Orthodox Jews can also be criticized on this issue, as the so-called Haredim, or ultra-Orthodox Jews, pursue a policy of isolation. Especially the Ashkenazi Jews of the Lithuanian movement, who lived in Central and Eastern Europe before the war, and have now cut themselves off from their surroundings. The Enlightenment, which drove many Jews towards secularism, and the two world wars in Europe severely traumatized these communities, and they still feel surrounded by enemies today. Instead of convincing their fellow citizens to keep the commandments, their behavior often conveys a negative image of the Torah.
So we are still a long way from the promised blessing of our weekly portion, and the current unrest in the country has shown how deeply divided the nation remains. What will it take to bridge this gap and bring the Jewish people closer to their destiny?
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