Spark: Wisdom and understanding are the Jewish people’s ultimate sources of strength and identity. When we think about strengthening Israel, we should think about how to strengthen its sources of wisdom. We can do this in two ways: striving to improve education for all of its citizens, as well as improving our own Israel education and awareness.
Framing: National Symbols
Think about the symbols of other nations and what they represent:
America – The Bald eagle. Power. Vision. Freedom
Soviet Russia – Hammer and sickle. Industry. Labor.
China – The red of revolution, the power of the yellow stars.
What is Israel’s national symbol? The Menorah. What kind of a symbol is a lamp??
And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying: ‘Speak unto Aaron, and say unto him: When thou lightest the lamps, the seven lamps shall give light in front of the candlestick.’ And Aaron did so: he lighted the lamps thereof so as to give light in front of the candlestick, as the LORD commanded Moses.
Rabbi Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin, commonly known as the Netziv observes that the Menorah symbolizes all forms of wisdom shining together. For the Netziv, in Ha’emek Hadavar, each of the 7 lights represents the 7 different areas of wisdom of the Oral Torah required to understand the Written Torah. Without one of these lights, we cannot access complete wisdom.
In other texts, the Menorah, represents wisdom and the source of Jewish possibility.
Zecharia – Chapter 4.
1 And the angel that spoke with me returned, and waked me, as a man that is wakened out of his sleep. 2 And he said unto me: ‘What seest thou?’ And I said: ‘I have seen, and behold a candlestick all of gold… ‘What are these, my lord?’ 5 Then the angel that spoke with me answered and said unto me: ‘Knowest thou not what these are?’ And I said: ‘No, my lord…’ 6 Then he answered and spoke unto me, saying: ‘This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying: Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit, says the LORD of hosts.
In the Talmud as well, we find many statements about the importance of study:
אאין העולם מתקיים אלא בשל הבל פיהן של תינוקות של בית רבן שבת קי”ט:ב –
“The very world rests on the breath of a child in the schoolhouse.” (Babylonian Talmud: Shabbat, 119b)
“And Rabbi Tarfon and the Elders were already gathered in the upper chamber of Nitza’s house in Lod, when the following question was raised before them: What is greater, study or action? Rabbi Tarfon answered, saying: Action is greater. Rabbi Akiva answered, saying: Study is greater. All of them answered, saying: Study is greater, because study leads to action.” (Kiddushin 40b)
The Menorah was chosen as a symbol for the Jewish State because it represents wisdom and study. Wisdom and study are at the heart of Jewish potential and the source of our strength. In order to support Israel, we must pursue knowledge and wisdom about it. Here are some examples of places to do that:
Makōm – sophisticated Israel education.
Makōm, is a ‘next-practice’ endeavor, forming and driving experimental community networks that meet the call of re-imagining the place of Israel in Jewish life. MAKOM works to empower Jewish educators, rabbis, arts and community leaders to develop deep, sophisticated and honest Israel programming. Our team, based in Israel and New York, is made up of experts in travel, education, arts, and religion.
Eretz Acheret is an Israeli NGO comprised of people from different sectors of society with a broad range of backgrounds and personal beliefs. The goal of this website is to provide Israeli and Diaspora Jews with a platform for open discourse and dialogue on all facets of the Israel-Diaspora relationship, as well as the opportunity to express their identity through the written word.