Sunday, September 03, 2006

Commission of Inquiry Mandate

I read an very interesting article in last weeks' (Parshat Shoftim 2nd of Elul 5766) 'B'Ahava uB'Emunah' published in Hebrew by Macon Meir. the writer was Rav Menachem Man, formerly of Gush Katif, and he explored the necessity of widdening the mandate of any National Committee of Inquiry that might be formed (once Olmart & co. are deposed). Whether or not the suggestions in the article are very likely to happen is moot, but the ideas expressed were, IMHO, right on the mark. Here are a few roughly translated excerpts from the article titled "Vaadat Chakirah Shorshit" (Commission of Inquiry for Root Causes):

One of the key questions is what should the Commission of Inquiry that is expected to be set up investigate. A commission that will investigate only the Military and Foreign Policy of the past few years can only touch the tip of the iceberg. This is of necessity important, but will not bring about long lasting changes. Even if the commission should investigate the assumptions upon which the decision makers relied, assumptions about the Middle East conflict and how to resolve it - from this will not come the redemption.

It is difficult to disconnect the decisions of the upper eschelons of the military and government from the cultural foundations that are deeply rooted in the Israeli society. Some examples: A cultural in which quick and immediate gratification of needs and wants is central, causes those that are involved in creating policy to seek quick and immediate solutions to security issues. ... It is [therefore] important to widden the subject investigated to include the culture that influenced the way of thought that led to the mistakes [we are suffering from].

The central question in the topic of "culture" is "what is the objective?" What do we want here in the State of Israel? ... The central question [could be phrased], "Is the purpose of Israel to provide a 'safe haven' for the Jewish People, or a country the purpose of which is to make it possible to live a way of life where Torah and the Mikdash are central?"

A 'safe haven' implies that the purpose of the state is to protect the physical existence of each individual and the people. This purpose places the individual in the center. Making the life of the individual of primary importance causes the needs and wants of the individual to become of over riding importance. From here the road is very short to many of the short comings of our society. This same world-view caused the Supreme Court to place the rights of the individual above all others and in the name of this belief, to make decisions that endanger the entire country.

Placing Torah in the center of our lives creates an entirely different culture. Placing the "vision [of Torah values]" in the center, engenders life of truth seeking, of idealism and a willingness to sacrifice [for the common good]."

What interested me was the similarity of Rav Man's ideas with an insight I had when I first discovered Judaism and emersed myself in Jewish thought and values.

It became very clear to me that Western Society as I knew it from North America was a "Vertical" society which places the individual and their "pursuit of happiness (success)" as society's highest value. The result, in my eyes, was a society where individual clamoured over the backs of others in order to "get ahead (above)".

As I experienced Jewish community life and learned traditional sources it became apparent to me that Jewish society's highest value was the collective! A sort of "Horizontal" society. The expression and preservation collective ideals and values was a traditional Jewish society's raison d'etre. As such, individuals were more willing to sacrifice their own advancement, wealth or self interest to contribute to the preservation and enhancement of the collective.

I haven't thought of this insight for decades until I read this article last week. Your thoughts?

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