Throughout the years I’ve met many Jews, both here in Israel and in the Diaspora, who share my inner belief that the Jewish people have been chosen by God for a special task. Similarly, they also understand that the Jewish concept of chosenness has nothing to do with better or worse but rather entails roles for different people. Described in the poetic language of the Bible this uniquely Jewish role is known as being “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” as well as becoming “a light unto the nations”.
However, despite our agreement on the chosenness issue, many of them believe that this role can be fulfilled while scattered amongst the nations of the world. In other words, for them the Jewish people being a sovereign nation in the Land of Israel is not inherently connected to the fulfillment of this role. Therefore, to counter this belief I would like to present one straightforward reason as to why this lofty role can only be fulfilled while being a nation in our land. For those who are interested in acquiring a deeper understanding of the issue, something which is clearly beyond the scope of this article, I would recommend the writings of spiritual giants such as Rabbi Yehuda Ha-Levi, the Ramban, the Vilna Gaon or Rabbi Kook.
To flush out my point, one must first briefly understand what it is the point of a Jewish state. In other words, although many believe that the purpose of building the State of Israel and establishing Jewish sovereignty is to finally have a country of our own, the truth is that it is not. Of course it is very important and it has profound significance in and of itself, but this is not the whole story. If it were, then the building of the State of Israel would simply be another in a long line of nationalist endeavors, albeit an interesting one, but nothing more. Although it is true that Israel is similar to other nationalist endeavors in that it too needs to build the country on a purely physical level – with firemen and bakeries, clothing stores and electricians – for Israel, however, there is much more. For in addition to building a full-fledged country in every meaning of the word, Israel also has to do this according to the beautiful ideals, morality and divine laws of Judaism. Done correctly, Israel is to create a socially just society. On the one hand, a thriving economy, strong army, educational and scientific achievements, literary and artistic excellence, etc, etc, while on the other hand a caring and equitable attitude towards the weaker segments of society, honest and dedicated public officials, polite discourse amongst the populace, etc, etc. Moreover, all of this is to be anchored in an awareness of God and the understanding that it is the following of His will and wisdom which enables such a society to be built and thrive. True, this may sound like a dream, especially in the current state of affairs, but nonetheless this is the goal.
Still further, as beautiful as such a state would be, this is not the final goal. For what really separates Israel from other nationalist endeavors is that Israel also has an international agenda. Briefly stated, the building of such a socially just society is merely to serve as an example for other nations of the world. Thus the nationalistic aspect of building the country, settling the land and establishing sovereignty is not an end-goal in and of itself but rather a platform to be used for projecting a divine message of “what could be” to the rest of humanity.
For a world that has been ravaged by endless wars, famines and suffering, as well as by gross disparities between the rich and the poor, all the while searching and hoping for a better way, the State of Israel is to serve as the paradigm of how to build such a socially just society and eventually a socially just world.
Thus, leading by example, the state of Israel is essentially charged with nothing less than rescuing the world from its own seemingly endless madness. True, this is quite a grand and lofty ideal, but nonetheless, this is the ultimate goal.
If one understands the above, then it’s very simple why this cannot be fulfilled by individual Jews, no matter how righteous, scattered throughout the world. The clearest proof of this is history. Although there have been many righteous individuals throughout the ages, both amongst the Jews and non-Jews, history attests to the fact that no lone individual has succeeded in changing the world to such a degree that wars and suffering are finally a thing of the past.
However, if an entire nation were to erect the model society described above despite the usual trappings of state that engulf many leaders and the widespread ills that typically plague most societies – corruption, perversion of justice, distortion of ideals, feuds over money and power, cheating, stealing, killing – then that would be something truly unique in the annals of history and one that would undoubtedly turn heads throughout the world causing other nations to say “Wow, how did they build such a society? Let’s go to Israel and learn the secret.”
The Jewish people as a nation in the Land of Israel are just at the beginning of this process, even if we are barely cognizant of it. Nonetheless, this is our goal and it will be fulfilled, no matter how farfetched it might currently appear. Moreover, since this can only be achieved as a nation in our land and not as scattered individuals amongst the nations, anyone who wishes to partake in this lofty task should quickly get on board and come to Israel for there is a lot of work to be done.