Days to week to months have passed and the wandering Jews are truly starting to earn their name. The people hood is forming and religious tradition is slowly becoming a part of day to day life.
In this week’s parsha Tetzaveh a massive symbol of Jewish history is in the spot-LIGHT when God tells Moses that the Jews need to gather pure olive oil for the Menorah to be constantly lit up in the tabernacle. The Menorah is a big and easily spotted symbol for the Jewish people, it is on the coat of arms of the state of Israel and features prominently in Jewish art and architecture over time.
There are many symbolic meanings for the Menorah but the one that I like the most is the ever present light being a metaphor for the Jewish people being a light unto the Nations. It’s a line that gets thrown around a lot in strong Zionist communities in the galut. I’m not convinced that people have actually given it much thought. I often hear people say, “did you know Israel created the cherry tomoato?” A true and important fact to which I would reply, so what? There are plenty of countries in the world that have made agricultural breakthrughs, does that mean they are all a light unto the nations? Probably not.
You don’t need to go too far back in Israeli/Jewish history to see the attempt and creation of the light unto the nation. It started with the Kibbutzim, a union of small scaled communities based of an alternative and counter culture ideology. They dreamed to create the, ‘New Jew,’ Living in a new state set to be a beacon of sustainable and meaningful life to all others. History will show that it didn’t turn out so well for the chalutzim and you need only see the state today to realise. The question for me now is, How do we want the Jewish people to look? How do we want Israel to look? And how do we want ourselves to look? What example are we sending out to our friends, family, community and nation?
To bring it closer to home, this weekend Habo is running a hadracha seminar for our junior madrichim. The concept of Dugma Ishit (personal example) is a staple in the hadracha diet and we are going to delve into the idea from all angles. The idea of using the world around you as a mirror for what you wish to reflect back out to it, bringing the lines of idealism and reality closer together and living an intentional life where values manifest into action. Positive action that sets the standard for ourselves and those round us; our chanichim, teachers, family, friends and gentiles. In a world that loves to categorise races and religions into stereotypes let’s try and create the Jewish stereotypes to truly be an example to the world.
‘What if we made a change in ourselves before hoping to change the world? What if we made sure our hearts, minds, and everything else was in the right place before doing good?
Are we asking for people to be more loving, kind, and generous even though we haven’t been loving, kind, or generous ourselves?
The next time you go off to change the world make sure to reflect on who you are inside and out.
A cold heart can’t warm a nation.