Act Local, Think Global!

This letter is dedicated to Hazon participant, Channa Shapiro.


Dear Friends,


In the previous letter, we began to discuss the following Divine call to Avraham, our father:


“Go for yourself, from your land, from your birthplace, and from the house of your father, to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation; I will bless you, and make your name great; and become a blessing!” (Genesis 12:1.2).


The Divine call concludes with the following promise:


“And all the families of the earth will be blessed through you” (Ibid 12:3).


Avraham is to journey to this land so that a new nation will emerge from him – one which will become a source of blessing for all the families of the earth.


As we mentioned previously, this Divine promise regarding the chosen nation was passed down to Avraham’s grandson, Yaakov, whose 12 sons became the fathers of the 12 Tribes of Israel. After Hashem gave to Yaakov the promise of the land (Genesis 28:13), Hashem added:


“And all the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your offspring” (28:14).


We, the descendants of Yaakov, were given the responsibility to continue the mission of Avraham in the Promised Land. We therefore are to “act local” through being centered in a particular land; moreover, we are to “think global” through the awareness that we are to become a source of blessing for all the families of the earth.


In this spirit, when we arrived at the borders of the Promised Land, Moshe, our teacher, reminded us that we are to “act local”:


“See! I have taught you statutes and social laws, as Hashem, my God, has commanded me, to do so in the midst of the land to which you come, to possess it.” (Deuteronomy 4:5)


Moshe then reminded us to “think global” through the awareness that our fulfillment of the mitzvos in the land will inspire other peoples:


“You shall safeguard and fulfill them, for it is your wisdom and understanding in the eyes of the peoples, who shall hear all these statutes and who shall say, ‘Surely a wise and understanding people is this great nation!’ ” (Deuteronomy 4:5,6)


The Prophet Isaiah reminded us that we are to “act local” when he proclaimed to our people in Zion:


“O House of Jacob: Come, let us walk by the light of Hashem!” (Isaiah 3:5)


Isaiah also reminded us to “think global” when he revealed the universal goal of our acting locally:


“Nations will go by your light, and sovereigns by the brightness of your shine.” (Isaiah 60:3)


When we, as a nation, walk by the light of Hashem in our own land, we can inspire other nations to walk by this light in their lands. In this way, we fulfill the original Divine promise regarding Avraham, our father:


“For Avraham is to become a great and mighty nation, and through it, all the nations of the earth will be blessed.” (Genesis 18:18)


Why do we need to be centered in our own land” As my late teacher, Rabbi Aryeh Carmell, points out in his book, “Masterplan,” we can best serve as an inspiring social model in our own land, as having our own land enables us to apply the ethical and spiritual teachings of the Torah to all areas of a nation’s life, including political, economic, and agricultural activities. And Rabbi Carmell adds the following insight: The Land of Zion is especially suited for our universal mission to serve as a model which can influence other nations, as it is at the juncture of three continents, Asia, Africa, and Europe; thus, the Prophet Ezekiel describes our land as, “the navel of the earth” (Ezekiel 38:12). This central location increases our ability to inspire other nations through the Torah. (This insight regarding the central location of Zion was cited in the name of Rabbi Solomon D. Sassoon, a noted Sephardic Torah scholar of the 20th century.)


The above teachings lead to the following insight regarding our primary role among the nations: We are to become a living example of the Divine Teaching. It is a difficult challenge which we may be tempted to avoid, as it is much easier to serve as a “social critic” among the nations than to serve as a “social model” for the nations. This insight can guide us as we relate to the difficult and dangerous challenges facing the earth’s nations in our era.


As we know, it is darkest before the dawn, and we have a tradition that just before the “dawn” of the messianic age, a great “darkness” will descend upon the nations. During this dark period, we ourselves need to walk by the light of Hashem so that we can become a source of light for others. This is why the Prophet Isaiah proclaimed, “O House of Jacob: Come, let us walk by the light of Hashem!” We therefore need to act locally and think globally, in the spirit of the Torah. In this way, we will experience the fulfillment of the following prophecy regarding our role in Zion at the dawn of the messianic age:


“Arise! Shine! For your light has arrived, and the glory of Hashem has shined upon you. For, behold! Darkness shall cover the earth and a dense cloud the kingdoms; but upon you, Hashem will shine, and His glory shall be seen upon you. Nations will go by your light, and sovereigns by the brightness of your shine.” (Isaiah 60:1-3)


May we be blessed with Shabbat Shalom.

Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen

Related Comments:

We have the mitzvah of “tzedakah” – the sharing of our resources with those in need. As we discussed in our series on tzedakah, “acting locally” includes helping the needy non-Jews who are entitled to live with us in the Land of Zion, when they observe the universal moral code of the Torah.

In addition, when we went into exile, our sages extended the mitzvah of tzedakah to our non-Jewish neighbors in the Diaspora. Tzedakah, however, begins with our own people; thus, Jewish givers who help every people but their own are violating the spirit of the Torah. For further study, you can read the following two articles from our series on tzedakah:

A. Extending the Mitzvah of Tzedekah:


B. Tzedakah Begins With Our "Family":


The archive of our series on tzedakah appears on our website.


2. “Masterplan” by Rabbi Aryeh Carmell, is a modern adaptation of the 19th century classic “Horeb” by Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch. In Horeb, Rabbi Hirsch explores the ethical and spiritual teachings which can be derived from the mitzvos of the Torah. An English translation of “Horeb” is published by Soncino Press:   .

In “Masterplan, Rabbi Aryeh Carmell explores how all of the mitzvos are actually “building blocks” in the Master Architect’s plan for a caring and just society in the Land of Zion. And he reminds us that this unique society is to serve as a “light” to all the nations.

“Masterplan” is published by Feldheim: . A review of this book appears on our website, in the section, “Our Universal Library.”

Hazon - Our Universal Vision