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THE ART OF BEING A LIGHT TO ALL THE NATIONS
The Zionistic dream of Ben Gurion was that the State of Israel would be “a light to the nations”. “History did not spoil us with strength, wealth, spacious lands, or a large nation. But it gave us a unique ethical and intellectual structure and nature, which obliges us to be a light unto the nations.” (Ben Gurion) The principal for being a light unto the nations is sourced in Tanach. וּנְתַתִּ֙יךָ֙ לְא֣וֹר גּוֹיִ֔ם ( Yeshayah 49 ;6) In three places, Yeshayah tells us to be a light to the nations. When Netanyahu speaks at the UN, he justifies our right to exist, as this is ultimately our agenda: to be a light to the Nations.
Christians, Americans, and many others have tried to rob us of being the light to nations. Donald Trump’s dream was that United States of America, would be “the light to all the nations”. (Feb 2018, at the Christian National Prayer Breakfast.)
When the State of Israel was looking for an emblem, they were not sure what to choose. Maybe the Dove with the Olive Branch, which inspires hope, independence, peace, and the natural draw to come back to Israel, as in the natural GPS that pigeons have? Or maybe it should be the Tablets of the Ten Commandments? Or maybe the Deer, which is a sign of the Nation coming back and filling the borders of Israel… Or maybe the burning bush, that is aflame and is not consumed, to communicate the Nation’s ability to survive all the Exiles? Or maybe a lion, as the sign of Judea was – ? גּ֤וּר אַרְיֵה֙ יְהוּדָ֔ה Finally, they agreed on the Menorah. Because the purpose of our People is to be a light to the Nations. One of the reasons why they agreed upon this is because the Menorah needs to be made, in entirety, from one unified piece of original material, וְעָשִׂ֥יתָ מְנֹרַ֖ת זָהָ֣ב טָה֑וֹר מִקְשָׁ֞ה תֵּעָשֶׂ֤ה הַמְּנוֹרָה֙ in order to spread light to the Nations. We need a unified nation, to spread the light to the other nations.
What does it even mean, to be a light to the nations, practically, and what does it have to do with me?
R’ Shimshon R. Hirsch wrote what it means that we are to be a light to the Nations: The Land of Israel, is the meeting place between three continents: Europe, Asia, and Africa. All the biggest wars of history hit Israel hard. And that is why G-d chose it as the Chosen Land! If the Jews would merit and live a holy life in this land, no one will dare to come capture it, or come close to its borders! Three times a year, at the Jewish Festivals, all the Jews of the Land would come to the Temple and leave the borders with no guards! And no one even tried to capture it! Even in times when Israel was full with blessing and plenty, no one would even try and infiltrate it! All the kings of the world would fight one with another and just pass over our land, and no sword would pass through our Land! וְנָתַתִּ֤י שָׁלוֹם֙ בָּאָ֔רֶץ וּשְׁכַבְתֶּ֖ם וְאֵ֣ין מַחֲרִ֑יד וְהִשְׁבַּתִּ֞י חַיָּ֤ה רָעָה֙ מִן־הָאָ֔רֶץ וְחֶ֖רֶב לֹא־תַעֲבֹ֥ר בְּאַרְצְכֶֽם: (Vayikra 26;6) And all the Nations of the world, would see with their own eyes, THAT G-D IS IN ISRAEL!! As the passuk states, אֱלֹקים בְּאַרְמְנוֹתֶ֗יהָ נוֹדַ֥ע לְמִשְׂגָּֽב: (Tehillim 48) And in this way, Tzion (Jerusalem) will be a light to the Gentiles, and the Nations will say, “Let us join this Nation for G-d is with them!” (R Shimshon R Hirsch Bereshit 14;1) To become a light unto the nations, it is not about getting more Nobel prizes. It is not about being the Start-Up Nation, or the Silicon Valley of the Middle East. It is much more than that. It is being a nation who lives with miracles!!!!
In this week’s parasha the Torah tells us that the whole Jewish nation are Kohanim to the world. The Seforno in this week’s Parasha tells us that this is how G-d looks at His People. ואתם תהיו לי ממלכת כהנים. ובזה תהיו סגולה מכלם כי תהיו ממלכת כהנים להבין ולהורות לכל המין האנושי לקרוא כלם בשם ה’, ולעבדו שכם אחד, כמו שיהיה ענין ישראל לעתיד לבא, כאמרו ואתם כהני ה’ תקראו (ישעיהו סא, ו) וכאמרו כי מציון תצא תורה (שם ב, ג): We are to be G-d’s Kohanim to the world, to teach Mankind how to connect to G-d, and to serve G-d together, as will be in in the Future. This is the true way to be a light to the nations.
Jews all over the world are scratching their heads, trying to figure out why so many people are siding with Hamas, who have our hostages and raped our women and broke every war crime if there ever was one! It all makes no sense!!
The answer is so obvious, if you look in the words of our Sages! The gentiles hate us because we are the Chosen Nation, that G-d gave us the Torah at Har Sinai, which caused the Sinah- the hatred to the nations of the world. They naturally hate us, because G-d spoke to us, and never spoke to them. We will be hated. Until… we become the Kohanim of the world! How do we become the Kohanim of the World?
When we learn Torah, keep G-d’s Mitzvoth, with love, G-d turns that hate of the Gentiles into love! The only way for us to have the gentiles respect us is not something we can do directly, but indirectly. וְהָיָ֗ה אִם־שָׁמ֤וֹעַ תִּשְׁמַע֙ בְּקוֹל֙ יְקֹוָ֣ק אֱלֹקיךָ לִשְׁמֹ֤ר לַעֲשׂוֹת֙ אֶת־כָּל־מִצְוֹתָ֔יו אֲשֶׁ֛ר אָנֹכִ֥י מְצַוְּךָ֖ הַיּ֑וֹם וּנְתָ֨נְךָ֜ יְקֹוָ֤ק אֱלֹקיךָ֙ עֶלְי֔וֹן עַ֖ל כָּל־גּוֹיֵ֥י הָאָֽרֶץ: When we learn G-d’s Torah, then G-d will put us above all the Nations of the World. It is something that only G-d can do for us, not something we can achieve directly, ourselves! We can’t fight the Muslims’ social media strength with social media, through showing how we fight or how socially just we are. Because that is not what the world wants to see, that we are morally and politically correct! They want to see that G-d is with us!
The Radak explains this concept of being a Light to the Nations to mean that from Tzion, from Jerusalem, Torah will spread to the world. When Mashiach comes, he will teach peace to the Nations, and they will destroy their own weapons. He will teach them to keep the Seven Noahide Laws. The Netziv, though, learns that to be a Light to the Nations is referring to the times of the Jews going through Exile, spread all over the globe. That was what G-d revealed to Avraham: that his descendants will be a light to the nations, as they are spread all over the globe, through the exiles. (Netziv Bereshit 47 28)
We have to ask ourselves what type of message we are giving to the Gentiles, and in what way we are guiding them to connect to G-d? What are we known for? For doing well in business and driving nicer cars, living in fancier houses? That we are the winning team?? That is not something that they look up to us for and want to learn from us! If anything, that just makes them jealous of us and mad! What they want to see in us is that G-d is amongst us, either through miracles, or through our behavior. We are content with what we have, a happy people, a balanced people, kind people, people who don’t fight. People who pay on time, who don’t over-eat and don’t indulge, who don’t laugh in a light-headed manner and greet other people with a smile. Who don’t answer back or take things personally; people who are honest in business and know how to get along with others and relate to them. People who study G-d’s word, who are proud of their Tzizit and Tefillin and live by what they learn. When we live this way, G-d prides Himself in us. וַיֹּ֥אמֶר לִ֖י עַבְדִּי־אָ֑תָּה יִשְׂרָאֵ֕ל אֲשֶׁר־בְּךָ֖ אֶתְפָּאָֽר (Rambam Yesodei Hatorah 5 11)
Most of all, this can be displayed in our living with a proper balance between Emunah and Hishtadlut. When you believe that all your business efforts, are just “effort”, but the success is in G-d’s Hands, then you are much calmer in all your dealings. You don’t have to be tough; you don’t have to overwork. With everything you do as a Jew is supposed to do, you are representing the Ribbono shel Olam, His Torah and His people in the best light possible.