Monday, July 25, 2011

On the threshold of greatness (IV): renewing Zion

For more than a hundred years, Jews have had a dream called ‘Zion’. It has been a dream to create a national homeland for the Jewish people in the land of Israel. But this modern dream has a flaw. It is not the original Zion.  It is a secular Zion. It is not organically whole. It is not authentic. It is imperfect.
Today, we see those imperfections. Indeed, the call has already been sounded to move ‘beyond’ Zion, to replace this flawed Zion with a new dream –a post-Zion dream. Those who trumpet this call seek an Israel emptied of Judaism, to create a State that will be both free and new. But the ideology of this new post-Zion is not new. In the Jewish Tanach, we see repeatedly how Jewish kings of the past have sought this same dejudaizing dream; and their results have always been the same—disaster for the Jewish people.

The dream of the new post-Zionist is no different than the dream of the old rebellions—and yet the modern dreamer expects a different result.  The new dreamer is adamant: our only chance to remain free is to drop all that is Jewish; our only chance for a true peace is to dejudaize Israel.  The new dreamer believes this fervently. But the flaw of his dream is revealed by an unexpected source--Corporate America, where managers report what they have learned in the harsh cauldron that is business in America:  the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while always expecting a different result. And, Corporate America reminds us, insanity is not the key to survival or success.
The post-Zionist dream is wrong. This dream would not yield different results. Life—and history-- do not work that way.  Post-Zionists are the new rebellious kings of Tanach: their dream would bring a nightmare to the Jewish people.

The dream of the original Zion is eternal.  Newer is not better.  Yes, the modern secular Zionist dream has served the Jewish people -- to this point-- for it has been primarily through the effort of the modern secular Zionist that we have our modern Jewish State. But because that dream is flawed, it is a dream that can weaken and die. The post-Zionist is right. If we are to remain successful, something has to change.
But change does not mean we replace Zion. We need to renew Zion. In American sports, if you want to win the Big Prize (the World Series, the Super Bowl, the National Championship), you do not change who you are when the competition increases:  you continue forward by relying on your known strengths—or, as the saying goes, you “go with what brung you here”: you play the way you have always played; you do not change what is your hallmark game-plan.

What has kept Jews Jewish these last 2000 years of exile has not just been the dream of Zion—though, certainly, that is a part of our story; what has allowed us to survive as Jews has been our commitment to our Heritage. That is our strength. That is the key to our success. Without that commitment, there would be no Jews to dream of Zion. But if we are to go forward from this point—to win the ‘Big Prize’-- we cannot rely on our Heritage.  You cannot have a wedding with just the groom.  We need to develop our commitment to our Homeland just as we must remain committed to our Heritage—we must, in other words, prepare both the groom and the bride. We do not alter our game plan by dropping either the bride or the groom or both: we “go with what brung us here”--our strength, which focuses not only on our Heritage but also on an authentic Zion.
We step into our future by reconnecting with our past.

What we dream today is not to replace Zionism or to move beyond it. Our dream is to renew Zionism. Our dream is to promote a spiritual renewal; and we start that renewal by removing the defect of secular idolatry from the dream. We begin. We renew. We strengthen.
This renewal will be a ‘Tikun’ in the classic religious sense, where Tikun does not mean serving the poor in Africa (important as that is), but rather turning to our own heart in order to correct those dimensions within us that distort our commitment to our Heritage. That Tikun must also apply to the land. We must renew, rebuild and re-strengthen our commitment to the land. We renew, we ‘repair’, so that our wedding includes both bride and groom.

Zionism is not a replacement of our Heritage. Zionism must instead be a true Yishuv—a true return both to our Heritage and our Homeland.  To define Zionism as a substitute for our Heritage is the same as telling a man you will make him whole by cutting off his right arm; and to tell a man that he has only a Heritage is like telling him he has only a body, no soul. In fact, our Heritage lives only for Zion’s purpose; for Zion starts with the Davidic Kingdom, when David first unified Israel and then his son Solomon built and dedicated the Temple, which is the heart, the soul and the full spiritual expression of our national and religious reality.
That is our Zion—the ultimate union of our national and religious essence into one unique place, in one unique land.

It is no coincidence that some modern archaeologists deny the existence of the Davidic dynasty and its unified national kingdom. They are shrewd.  They understand our religion. They understand what we forget: by telling the story of the Davidic dynasty, the Bible ennables the story of a powerful, unified Jewish Nation which controlled and protected an entire people under one king, one G-d and one religion—a perfection of reality. If David and Solomon never lived, they become nothing more than fictional characters. When the Bible is nothing more than fiction, you deny the existence of Zion; and when you deny Zion, you can then deny the G-d of Israel  (who is so intimately tied to David and Solomon), and you can also deny the (national) story of Israel itself.
With a single denial, the Bible becomes fiction and the whole story of the Jewish ‘people’ collapses. The history of the Jews then becomes a  story of disjointed tribes who have promoted the fiction of a unified, national kingdom so that today they can make a claim of ownership to land that was never under their power.

But the G-d of Israel has a plan, and today modern archaeologists just now begin to discover tangible evidence of David, Solomon, and the Unified Monarchy.
The G-d of Israel is showing us that Zion lives.

 Zion is our story. It is our Homeland and our Heritage, bride and groom celebrating our national and religious story of unification and worship. It is the secret of our survival. It is the source of our power. It is the story we must retell not only to combat the nations and peoples who would deny us; it is a story we must retell so that we remember it ourselves and embrace it; for this is how we will renew our dream of Zion. This is how we will give ourselves the courage (and the desire) to step over the threshold to greatness. 

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