Monday, October 02, 2006

Yom Kippur Renewal in the Secular Kibbutz

An encouraging article from Haaretz.

" the past Yom Kippur had no particular significance on kibbutzim. "The important holidays were the ones with significant agricultural connotations," he explained, "but today the kibbutz is losing its spiritual 'religion of work' content. The holiday rituals are held more because of the need to celebrate and to be together than because of their spiritual content. At the same time there is a renewed interest in Judaism in the form of secular study forums, as there is throughout the country. Yom Kippur reflects that processes."

Read the article.

Earlier this year, Yair Sheleg published a series of articles (see here and here and here) on the new connections that secular Israelis are making with traditional Judaism. In an ideal world, I would like to see Israelis doing this within the traditional framework of Torah Umitzvot. But seeing that such a scenario is pretty unlikely, I certainly welcome warmly dialogue and study of traditional sources in an attempt to fashion contemporary practice, ritual and lifestyle along more "Jewish" lines. It is wonderful and encouraging to see.

But let me add two points. The first relates to Israel's strength and Zionism.

I believe strongly that with so many forces trying to cause Israel's demise - enemies from without like Hamas and Hezbollah, not to mention Syria and the World Socialist Left; and enemies from within - PostZionism and rampant empty commercialism - the State of Israel will only continue to exist if we understand why we are here, if we know our basic culture, our Tanach and our History, and begin to explore an create within it. (If we are to fight, we must know why we are fighting and why Medinat Yisrael is worth protecting.) If this renewed interest in Secular circles can expand and grow , then it can provide a wonderful counterweight to the negative forces that seem to seek to erode our Jewish roots and national character.

Second point, (and some people may not like this,) I believe that some of the exploration and freedom available to the secular thinker may allow them to create something new in Torah forging fusions that we might not have thought of otherwise. In general, I am a believer that Torah should emerge from the hearth of Yirat Shamayim and Shmirat Mitzvot. And yet, this is happening anyway. And there is a certain boldness and new perspective that the secular world might be able to offer. Maybe the very existence of Medinat Yisrael is a case in point! I very much doubt that the religious would have embarked boldly on so radical an idea. There is an innate conservatism in traditional Judaism. Baalei Teshuva have frequently added new dimensions to Orthodox communies. Believers in Torah Umadda are confident that the secular world and its thoughts have what to enrich Torah with even if they argue as to the manner in which the cross-fertilisation takes place. Who knows? - maybe in the same manner as I can enjoy and feel enriched by Yehudah Amichai's Biblical Poems - these secular Batei Midrash will produce something that will enlarge the mainstream world of Torah, Lehagdil Torah Uleha'adira.
B'ezrat Hashem!

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