Saturday, March 3, 2007

The Third Commonwealth

It’s early morning on Tisha B’Av, sitting in my office and listening to the news on our war against Hizballah, and wondering about my fellow Jews who are in Shul, fasting and morning the loss of our Temples and Jerusalem. And while they are in a state of self flagellation I am celebrating the Third Commonwealth, the State of Israel. While they are looking to the past for their “yeshua”, hoping that Mashiach will arrive in a white limo, leading them back to Eretz Yisroel where they will sacrifice live stock, I look to the future when our military, together with visionaries will be able to silence the katyushas reigning over our northern border. I look to the future when there will be quiet, and our sons and daughters will be able to go back to their routine way of living, where creativity in the arts and sciences once again dominate, where research in medicine and technology give humanity hope.

I never understood Mashiach as an individual, but as a concept. Since the world operates according to the laws of nature it doesn’t seem probable that one man can change the entire direction of a world hell bent on self destruction. I base this observation on the simple premise that the Kingdom of David didn’t succeed during the first two commonwealths. Anyone slightly familiar with Jewish history knows of the internecine civil wars as well as palace intrigue and revolutions and ultimately the bifurcation of the Israel into two. The second commonwealth didn’t fair any better throughout its duration. There is absolutely no precedent to believe in this individual coming forth from the House of David. I can however believe in a Messianic age. I am not the first to subscribe to this approach. Harav Kook put forth this theological position when Israel was first established.

This period, known as the Hitchalta D’geulaIt began with the birth of the Zionist movement and continues on today, as Israel is still a work in progress. This age doesn’t assume that there will be another Beit Hamikdash where animal sacrifice will be practiced. The Rambam, in Moreh Nevuchim, discusses the nature of prayer. He believes that animal sacrifice was a default form of Avodah permitted until the Israelites would develop their intellectual and spiritual senses. At a certain point of development, the Rambam believed that we would graduate to Tefilla and sacrificial worship would phase itself out. Interestingly enough, this is precisely what happened during the final phase of the second Temple period.

The Pharisees understood the corruption of the Saducees and also realized that because of this corruption alternatives had to be available to those wishing to express their Avodat Hashem in a manner that was appropriate and sincere. The Pharisees took Tefillah very seriously wishing to connect it in some way with the Temple rites and thus established fixed times of Tefillah as well as fitting Tefilot for those time frames. The Rambam, however, continues to say that a time will come when Tefillah will give way to another form of Avodah-Avodat Halev. Meditation. This, he asserts, would depend on the further development of man’s mind and soul. Man would have to reach a higher intellect and greater sensitivity. At that stage of development conventional Tefillah would no longer be a meaningful approach to Avodah. The natural progression would lead to Meditation, it becoming the medium and method by which man would form a relationship with God.

Logic dictates that since we are living during this incredible time period of Hitchalta D’geula we ought to be celebrating our fortune and God’s blessings rather than bemoan an age gone by that will never be able to satisfy our spiritual needs again. And if this be true, perhaps it is time to wake up from your Tisha B’Av stupor, stop living vicariously, and commit yourselves to the Third Commonwealth where you will fulfill your destiny as proud and devoted Jews.