As a teacher in the e-mail study program, “Hazon – Our Universal Vision,” I have shared Torah teachings which indicate that each people on earth has something unique to contribute to human civilization. In this spirit, I have had informal dialogues with individuals from various peoples and cultures. During these dialogues, I shared relevant information about Jewish tradition which related to their questions and interests, but I would not “preach” to them about how they should live their lives. This is because my study of the Torah’s universal vision helps me to understand that the primary role of the Jewish people is not to “preach” to other groups, but to develop an ethical and spiritual society which can serve as a model for other groups. As the prophets remind us, we are to accomplish this goal through living the Torah – the Divine teachings. These teachings are our source of light, as it is written, “Torah is light” (Proverbs 6:23). Through living the teachings, we can become a vessel for the Divine light, for the Compassionate One desires that we strive to serve as a “light to the nations” (Isaiah 42:6). In addition, the prophets proclaimed the Divine message that Jerusalem is to become the center of this Divine light, and an example can be found in the following prophecy of Isaiah:
“It will happen in the end of days: The mountain of the Temple of the Compassionate One will be firmly established as the head of the mountains, and it will be exalted above the hills, and all the nations will stream to it… For from Zion will go forth Torah, and the word of the Compassionate One from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:2,3)
Isaiah then describes how this spiritual renewal will bring peace to the world: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, and they will no longer study warfare” (Isaiah 2:4). After presenting this universal vision of peace, Isaiah then proclaimed to our people:
“O House of Jacob: Come, let us walk by the light of the Compassionate One” (ibid 2:4).
With these words, he is conveying the following sober message: We ourselves first need to walk on the path of the Divine light before we can help to achieve universal peace.
The above prophecy refers to the messianic age when there will be an ingathering of our exiles in Zion, and there will be peace in our land. As the prophecy indicates, this peace will spread all over the world. At this stage of our history, we have merited to experience a partial ingathering of our people in Zion, but we have not yet achieved peace. There have been political dialogues and agreements to achieve this goal that ultimately failed. We still have enemies that are actively seeking our destruction; moreover, primitive and vicious forms of anti-Jewish hatred appear in the government-sponsored media of certain Arab countries and are spreading all over the world. In addition, the various wars fought by the State of Israel against those who are actively seeking our destruction did not bring true and lasting peace.
The Hebrew word for “peace” is “shalom” – a word which also connotes harmony and wholeness. How are we to find the path to true and lasting shalom in the land? To get the right directions, we need to hear the voice of our own tradition, which is expressed in the messages of all our prophets. If we develop the art of listening, we will understand the following theme of their messages: The way to have genuine and everlasting shalom in this sacred land is to renew the Divine covenant which defines our purpose in this sacred land. An early example of this theme is the following Divine proclamation to our people before we entered the Promised Land:
“If you will follow My statutes and guard My mitzvos…I will provide shalom in the land, and you will lie down with none to frighten you” (Leviticus: 26:3,6).
In a search for shalom in this land, some dedicated Jewish peace activists have become involved in creative projects and dialogues. One of their sources of inspiration is the following verse:
“Turn from evil and do good, seek shalom and pursue it.” (Psalm 34:15)
Yes, we are to “seek shalom and pursue it.” The order of the verse indicates, however, that the first step in the process is to “turn from evil and do good.” If we seek true and everlasting shalom within this sacred land, then we need to turn away from all forms of corruption, selfishness, injustice, and decadence, so that we can dedicate all aspects of our existence to doing good. This “good” can include the renewal of our people through the study of Torah, heartfelt prayer, the sharing of our resources with those in need, and the healing of the divisions within our own families and communities. Our dialogues with other groups may be helpful in some ways, but they should not become a substitute for our responsibility to become vessels of the Divine light. As the prophets indicate, we cannot gain the friendship and respect of others, if we are not true to ourselves and our universal mission in this land. It was this realization that caused the Prophet Isaiah to cry out:
“For Zion's sake I will not be silent, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not be still, until her righteousness emanates like bright light, and her salvation blazes like a torch; nations will perceive your righteousness and all the sovereigns your honor” (Isaiah 62:1,2).
May we walk together by the light of the Compassionate One and thereby merit to experience the fulfillment of the following prophecy:
“They will neither injure nor destroy in all of My sacred mountain; for the earth will be filled with knowledge of the Compassionate One as water covering the sea bed.” (Isaiah 11:9)
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen