Friday, November 17, 2006

Israel and the Nations

Israel  and  the  Nations Magen DavidThe following paragraph is from Dr. Asher Eder’s book The Star of David, which was published in 1987 in English in Jerusalem by Rubin Mass Ltd. The publication here is courtesy of Oren Mass
This version includes corrections and new materials that do not appear on the printed version
Israel, in many ways a nation (goy) like other nations, has been "chosen" and set apart for a special task. This makes it appear in the eyes of the world as separate from it, "dwelling alone, and...not to be reckoned among the nations", as the Gentile seer Balaam put it.
Israel does not separate itself out of self-conceit, as some would have it; its peculiarity is a natural result of the Divine Covenant which was made with the Jews, with its special commandments congenial to its priestly service.
Let us not forget that it was Nimrod who deviated from the order set by Noah, and that by founding Babel he tried to do away with Shem and 'Eber and the Divine teaching they represented. Thus Abraham's exodus from Babel was a necessary step in the process of healing the world.
Within the healing process, Israel is called a "kingdom of priests, and a holy nation." That is to say, Israel fulfills a priestly role for the rest of the world. Since this service is on behalf of the Holy One ("Blessed be His Name"), Israel is also called goy kadosh, "people of the Holy" or "holy people". So the Name of the Lord (Shem) is laid upon Israel, and the Jews pass through history as bearers of the Name, or Semites - visible witnesses to the Divine Covenant.
Neither the Israelites' transgression of the commandments nor their blindness can dissolve the Covenant or annul their priestly position. Only assimilation with other cultures can bring it to naught, as we learn from the fate of the "Ten Lost Tribes" of the Northern Kingdom. They turned away from Jerusalem, built their own sanctuaries, adopted foreign ideologies and practices and disappeared shortly after their deportation by the Assyrians, when they mingled with other nations.
The danger of assimilation was indeed a main concern of the prophets, as reflected in their numerous warnings. In the course of history, the Israelites withstood many attempts to undermine the Covenant which God made with them. Such attempts sometimes came from inside the nation, sometimes from outside, as for instance when Hamor the Sichemite suggested that the children of Israel join with his people. Other examples include the cunning device of, modern missionary practices, and the attempt to tear the Temple Mount and other parts of the ancient homeland away from the Jews (a striking description of such an attempt is found in Psalm 83:3-11
In this context, it should be stressed that Israel is not only a congregation in the religious sense, as are Catholics and Protestants. It is also a specific nation tied to a specific land, with all the attendant consequences, such as the need to develop, administer and defend the country. Israel is not meant to remain aloof from the world; on the contrary, it has to partake fully of it, but without adopting the world's mindset. Nor is Israel meant to preach morality to other nations. Rather, it must teach by example, and work out all the human problems within its own family in the light of the Divine Teaching. To live in the country is, from this perspective, vital for the people's self-fulfillment, and to the healing of the world.
This, "the Holy Land", is for the Jews "the Land of the Sanctuary", "the Land of the Moriah" and "the Land of the Hebrews". These terms serve to identify us as we call for self-fulfillment, thereby providing a foundation for much of Israel's priestly function. It is for this reason that the country was allotted to the people of Israel as an everlasting inheritance from the Lord of the Covenant. Within the framework of its priestly function, Israel's three descents into the world - first Egypt, then Babylonia and now the entire planet - and its subsequent ascents back to the Land of the Fathers, the Torah and the Prophets, are highly important, as they bear witness to God's Hand in history. This ongoing revelation of Divine will is what actually gives meaning and direction to history, which would otherwise appear as a chain of random events, or as another example of the stronger eating the weaker. Moreover, it sets God's existence and might before the eyes of the world.
Thus, Israel's return to the Land of the Fathers should never be reviled as invasion. It rather merits the explanation given by Prophet Jeremiah, who was appointed a prophet to the nations (1:4):
"Hear the word of the Lord, O ye nations,
and declare it [even] in the islands far off,
and say He who scattered Israel will gather
him and keep him, as a shepherd does
his flock... therefore they shall come and
rejoice in the height of Zion." (ch.31:10)

The intention is that Mankind come to recognize its true Lord and Creator, and acknowledge His laws in the physical as well as in the psychic and spiritual realms, in order to "serve Him in one consent" for the sake of peace and for the welfare of all. Knowledge of the Lord goes in tandem with peace and welfare. It is to this end that "the Name of the Lord shall become known to all nations."
To speak in terms of our symbol, Israel, the bearer of the Divine Name, may well be represented by one triangle, and the nations by the other. Both should join into the harmonious six-pointed Star, centered in the One who is Lord over all.