In the midst of all the pre-election activities, when self-interested motivations are clouded by ideological slogans, now is a good time to clarify the standpoint of the Torah’s inner dimension by remembering the type of positive leadership that the Jewish People is truly worthy of, and by doing so, derive insights into the current political situation.
Sectoral Parties and National Parties
The current political map in Israel is characterized by a division into two main types of political parties:
- “Sectoral” parties, which take care of one particular segment of society (the middle classes, new immigrants, Sephardim, Charedim, or settlers etc.), and
- “National” parties that are allegedly committed to the population at large.
Although we would expect those parties that purport to be “national” to be founded on a clear ideological platform, while the sectoral parties take care specifically of their sector’s unique requirements, surprisingly, we find that the opposite is true. Parties that clearly identify with a particular value system are viewed as self-distinctive and sectoral, while parties that purport to be national obscure their ideology and boast of a relatively wide range of opinions, and flaunt their celebrity members. A prime example of this phenomenon is the Jewish Home party, which is attempting to metamorphose from a sectoral party into a national leadership party by obscuring its religious and even its Jewish identity. Those who oppose the process claim that the drive for expansion and for national leadership is not worth the cost of surrendering its ideological identity.
Fear Only God and Love Every Jew
From a Chassidic perspective, we can analyze this political trend by comparing the two primary attributes of the heart: love and awe. Uncompromisingly preserving a clear ideology is viewed as an aspect of awe, or even fear—a dread of losing the basic premise with which one identifies. The Charedi parties—as their name suggests (in Hebrew, Charedi means God-fearing)—are founded on fear and trepidation. They are generally occupied with safeguarding the purity of their own camp, and the fact that they avoid taking direct responsibility on issues that involve the general population, such as security, economy and foreign relations, reinforces their awe-inspired image.
By contrast, expansion and obscuration can be likened to lovingly identifying with the public at large, in its varying shades and colors. Indeed, the attribute of love tends to extend a loving hand to everyone and to indiscriminately encompass all that it can, while fear painstakingly classifies every detail, resulting in tension and withdrawal.
The principal rule here should be that love and fear must be interincluded. The Ba'al Shem Tov’s father’s last words to his son were, “Srulik, do not fear anything except God, and love every Jew.” The will and testament that he received from his father guided this great Chassidic leader throughout his life, and it should be a guiding light for us too. Fear causes positive tension and direct focus in which the only thing that guides the individual is awe of God and total commitment to His will (as it is stated in the Torah), without fearing other people at all, without considering, “What will they say about me…?” or which of my self-interests are likely to be harmed by clinging to my values? By contrast, love expands outward to love every Jew (and as a result of that, to love every one of God’s creatures).
Ba’alei Teshuvah – Leading Teshuvah to the Public Arena
Translating this into today’s political situation in Israel, it would be best if the balance between love and fear could be expressed through a pact between all the God-fearing political parties. This would create a party that is Charedi by definition, but one that lacks sectorization in its structure (i.e., without cultural and sectoral discrimination)—whose fear of heaven does not detach them from the general public, but rather commits them to take responsibility and to occupy themselves with the broader issues of public leadership through their love of all Jews.
The ones who should play the chief role in this context are ba’alei teshuvah. Their love and fear of God caused them to deviate from the path of the sector that they grew up in and to transform themselves as an individual. Since they were not nurtured from infancy in the greenhouse of any particular religious/ultra-religious faction, they do not necessarily identify with them sectorally, and they also retain some affinity with the rest of the population in the country. For example, someone who was educated to national commitment—which is basically a positive trait—may find it difficult to confine themselves to the restricted sectoral philosophy that they have joined (and any attempt to do so probably causes them great frustration).
Those who have undergone a process of reassessing their ideology and valiantly transforming their private life by committing themselves to their new beliefs are invited to reach the necessary conclusions about the public life of the Jewish People. They are the ones who are most suited to lead—by uniting together with all those who fear God—a process of public teshuvah.