Awakening Redemption: Embracing Core Torah Values Will Heal the World and Teach Nations Compassion, Justice, and Mercy

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The Jewish people have stood at the crossroads of history, tasked with a divine mission to uphold the sanctity of Torah and to serve as a beacon of ethical and spiritual light unto the nations. Yet, throughout the ages, this mission has been fraught with internal and external challenges that have not only tested our resilience but have also mirrored the very struggles that we face within our own spiritual and communal life.

From the time of the Exodus from Egypt, the Jewish people have carried the burden and the promise of a unique covenant with HaShem. This covenant, detailed extensively in the Torah, from the narratives of Genesis to the legal stipulations in Deuteronomy, sets forth not just a set of laws but a path towards spiritual refinement and ultimate redemption. However, the fulfillment of this promise has perennially been delayed by various forms of internal discord and spiritual malaise, which are often reflected in external conflicts and societal breakdowns.

The concept of the Erev Rav, or the “mixed multitude” that left Egypt with the Israelites, provides a profound allegorical lens through which we can view these challenges. Described in the Zohar (Shemot 29b) and other Kabbalistic texts, the Erev Rav symbolizes elements within the Jewish people that resist full integration into the spiritual mission of Torah and instead sow discord and corruption. These elements are not outsiders but part of the community, manifesting throughout history in various forms, whether as proponents of idolatry in biblical times or as agents of secularization and moral relativism in modern times.

This internal struggle is not merely a historical or cultural issue; it has deep spiritual implications. The Talmud in Yoma 9b explains that the Second Temple was destroyed due to sinat chinam (baseless hatred) among Jews themselves. This baseless hatred is a direct manifestation of the spiritual shortcomings that the Erev Rav symbolizes—selfishness, disunity, and a departure from divine values. The destruction of the Temple, a center of unity and divine service, thus reflects a broader spiritual disintegration within the community.

Moreover, the ongoing challenges faced by the Jewish community in maintaining a cohesive identity and mission in the diaspora and in the State of Israel echo these ancient conflicts. The pressures of assimilation, the allure of secular ideologies, and the internal divisions over religious observance and identity are modern manifestations of the Erev Rav’s influence. These challenges not only hinder the observance of mitzvot and Torah study but also impact the Jewish people’s ability to present a united front in fulfilling their role as a light unto the nations.

The struggle within is mirrored by the struggle without. Just as internal division and moral compromise weaken the community, they also give rise to external threats and conflicts. The prophetic writings are replete with admonitions that link the moral and spiritual state of Israel with their political and material conditions. For example, the prophet Isaiah repeatedly links social justice and adherence to God’s commandments with security and peace (Isaiah 1:27).

Thus, the path to redemption, both personal and collective, involves a deep, introspective look into the mirror of our own community and selves. We must identify and rectify the aspects within us that correspond to the wickedness we observe in the world. This process of tikkun (rectification), as articulated in Kabbalistic teachings, particularly those of Rabbi Isaac Luria (the Ari), involves returning to a state of spiritual purity and unity that reflects the divine image in which we were created.

In confronting and overcoming these challenges, the teachings of the Torah and the insights of our sages provide both guidance and inspiration. The process of teshuvah (repentance), a central theme especially during the High Holy Days, calls for a return not just to God but to our truest selves, aligning our actions, community life, and societal structures with the divine will. This alignment involves not only individual moral rectitude but also communal justice and compassion, as underscored in the Torah’s commandments about treatment of the stranger, the poor, and the vulnerable (Leviticus 19:18, Deuteronomy 15:7-8).

Through this comprehensive approach to teshuvah, where individual transformation is linked with societal reform, the Jewish people can move closer to fulfilling their covenantal role and hastening the redemption. This transformative process is not quick or easy, but it is the essence of the Jewish mission, encapsulated in the call to be “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6).

By recommitting to this mission, and by striving to live out the values that this mission entails, we not only address the internal divisions symbolized by the Erev Rav but also strengthen our capacity to influence the world positively, fostering an environment where “nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (Isaiah 2:4). In doing so, we not only move closer to personal and communal redemption but also contribute to the universal redemption that is prophesied to bring peace and divine awareness to the entire world. This effort requires a collective introspection and a recommitment to living out the values of Torah in every aspect of life, both private and public.

As we seek to eradicate the negative influences within our community, including those attributed to the Erev Rav, we must also engage in building positive structures that uphold Torah values. This involves creating educational systems that emphasize not only the study of Torah but also its application to everyday life, ensuring that our children and future generations are not only knowledgeable about Jewish laws and customs but are also deeply connected to their spiritual implications and purposes.

Furthermore, community leadership plays a critical role in this transformative process. Leaders who embody the values of humility, justice, and compassion, and who are committed to the principles of Torah, can guide the community towards greater unity and spiritual integrity. These leaders must be supported and held accountable by the community to ensure that their guidance aligns with the highest ideals of our tradition.

Social justice and charity, foundational principles within Torah, also need to be re-emphasized as central components of Jewish life. The prophets spoke fervently about the importance of justice and righteousness, not as abstract ideals but as practical imperatives that should characterize a society devoted to God. Actions such as caring for the poor, defending the rights of the oppressed, and practicing honest business are not only commendable but obligatory for creating a society reflective of divine will. This effort, is not merely an isolated endeavor within Jewish communities, we are obligated to establish global reconciliation, rectification, healing, and unity with all nations.

In addition to these communal and social reforms, personal spiritual practice remains essential. Practices such as prayer, meditation, and the observance of mitzvot are avenues through which individuals connect with HaShem and cultivate personal qualities that reflect divine attributes. These practices are not merely ritualistic but are means of transforming the heart and mind, aligning them with the divine purpose and preparing the individual and the community for the redemption.

The vision of a redeemed world, as articulated in Jewish thought, is one where “the earth will be full of the knowledge of HaShem as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9). This prophetic vision is not passive but requires active participation from the Jewish people and indeed, from all humanity. Each step we take towards rectifying ourselves, our community and the world, each act of kindness, justice, and piety, adds to the collective merit that hastens this ultimate redemption.

Therefore, in confronting the internal and external challenges that face us, in battling the influences of the Erev Rav and other negative forces, our greatest tools are the teachings of Torah and the examples set by our sages and righteous ancestors. By embracing these teachings, by living out the commandments with integrity and passion, and by fostering a society that is both devout and ethically rigorous, we not only address the spiritual malaise that has delayed our redemption but also create a microcosm of the redeemed world we hope to see.

This ongoing effort to live out the divine commandments, to engage in teshuvah (return, ie: “repentance”), and to foster a society that reflects the highest values of Torah is the key to overcoming the challenges that have historically beset us. As we undertake this sacred task, we do so with the hope and belief that each positive change, each moment of spiritual clarity and unity, brings us closer to the ultimate redemption promised to our forefathers—a redemption that will bring peace, justice, and divine awareness to the entire world.

This redemptive vision calls for a collective awakening, where every individual and community recognizes and confronts the internal and external manifestations of discord and division. The struggle against the Erev Rav’s influence, which mirrors the broader battle between spiritual fidelity and moral compromise, is emblematic of the age-old conflict between the forces of light and darkness described throughout our sacred texts.

It is critical to understand that the redemption process is not merely about waiting for an external savior but about actively participating in the creation of a world that embodies the values and principles of the Torah. This active participation involves both resistance to negative influences and the proactive cultivation of a society based on Torah values. Each action taken in this direction not only counters the divisive forces like the Erev Rav but also contributes to building the kind of world envisioned by the prophets.

In this context, every Jew is called upon to engage in a personal and communal process of teshuvah, which transcends mere ritual observance and enters the realm of transforming one’s character and actions to align with divine will. This process involves rigorous self-examination, honest assessment of one’s actions and their impacts, and a heartfelt commitment to change. It is through this deep, personal transformation that the broader societal changes necessary for redemption can begin.

Moreover, the community must take a proactive role in educating and nurturing its members, not just in the letter of the law but in its spirit. This education must instill a deep sense of responsibility towards one another and towards the world, promoting actions that reflect kindness, justice, and righteousness. By doing so, the community can act as a counterforce to the divisive and destructive tendencies represented by the Erev Rav, promoting unity and collective sanctification instead.

Community leaders, educators, and every individual must also be vigilant against the subtler forms of division and moral compromise that can creep into communal life under the guise of pragmatism or modernity. This vigilance requires a grounding in Torah scholarship and ethical reflection, which can provide the wisdom needed to navigate the complexities of modern life while remaining faithful to our ancient covenant.

The redemption narrative within Judaism is deeply interactive; it calls for active engagement with the world through the lens of Torah. The principles of justice, mercy, and humility taught by the Torah provide a framework for addressing not only internal community issues but also the broader societal and global challenges we face today. As Jews, our mission is to apply these principles in every aspect of our lives, serving as examples of what it means to live a life dedicated to God.

As we continue this journey towards redemption, it is crucial to remember that every small act of kindness, every decision made in accordance with Torah values, and every moment of unity within the community contributes to the healing of the world. In this way, we are all participants in the divine process that moves us closer to a world redeemed, a world where peace and righteousness prevail.

This journey requires perseverance, faith, and a deep commitment to the values we hold dear. It is a journey that does not promise immediate rewards but offers the profound satisfaction of knowing that we are each playing a part in fulfilling the divine plan. As we undertake this sacred task, let us draw strength and inspiration from our rich tradition, from the wisdom of our sages, and from the enduring spirit of our people. Through these sources of strength, we can strive to bring about the redemption that has been the hope and prayer of countless generations.

As we look forward, the path to redemption requires not only spiritual awakening and community action but also a deeper engagement with the global society in which we live. This engagement is predicated on the principle that the spiritual health of the Jewish community is interconnected with the moral and ethical state of the world at large. Therefore, addressing the broader societal issues from a position informed by Torah values becomes an integral part of our redemptive process.

This perspective aligns with the concept of “Tikkun Olam” (repairing the world), a fundamental Jewish belief that emphasizes our responsibility to enhance and perfect the world. This duty extends beyond our personal and communal boundaries to include advocating for and implementing justice, equity, and compassion on a global scale. By actively participating in efforts to improve societal structures, the Jewish community can serve as a catalyst for positive change, embodying the prophetic vision of being a “light unto the nations” (Isaiah 49:6).

Furthermore, our engagement with the world must be characterized by an openness to dialogue and a willingness to learn from others while remaining steadfast in our commitment to Torah principles. This approach not only enriches our own understanding but also fosters respect and collaboration between diverse communities. Such interactions can break down barriers of misunderstanding and mistrust, paving the way for a more harmonious global community.

In this effort, the role of education cannot be overstated. By prioritizing Torah study that deeply explores the ethical, moral, and spiritual dimensions of our texts, we prepare ourselves and future generations to navigate the complexities of modern life with wisdom and integrity. This education should be holistic, combining the study of sacred texts with an understanding of contemporary issues, equipping individuals with the tools to apply age-old wisdom to modern challenges.

The ongoing struggle against the internal and external influences that delay our redemption, such as those attributed to the Erev Rav, underscores the necessity for a community that is not only learned but also actively engaged in the world. It is not enough to be passive recipients of tradition; we must be dynamic participants in its application. Each decision to live by Torah values, each act of kindness and justice, and each effort to foster community unity and global understanding are steps toward the redemption we yearn for.

Our communal and individual actions, therefore, are not isolated but are deeply connected to the divine plan for humanity. Each positive act contributes to the sanctification of God’s name and brings the world closer to the ultimate redemption, where “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9). This ultimate vision of redemption is not merely the cessation of conflict but the affirmation of divine values across all of human society.

Thus, our journey toward redemption is both a return to spiritual roots and an advance into a future where those roots inform and transform the world. By committing to this dual process of internal refinement and external engagement, guided by the enduring wisdom of the Torah and the prophetic call to justice, we actively participate in bringing about a redeemed world. This commitment requires continuous effort, unwavering faith, and a profound belief in the power of each individual to effect change.

In embracing this mission, we honor the legacy of our ancestors and contribute to a future where peace, justice, and divine presence permeate every aspect of human life. This is the path of redemption—a path that we walk together as a community, guided by the light of Torah and propelled by a commitment to repair the world in partnership with God.

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