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Mordechai Nisan: BALANCE AND HARMONY IN THE TORAH
The Jewish people's historic contribution to civilization and mankind was essentially drawn from the Torah. It related to the domains of theology, philosophy, psychology, morality, and law, which together reflected the spiritual world of man and life. The instrumentalities of life, or proceeding from science to technology, did not preoccupy the classic and rabbinic Jewish geniuses.
Considering the moral confusion and political acrimony of the times, the rebellions against God, nature, and order - no less the vicious campaigns against the Jewish people and the state of Israel - the Torah offers the way of mending the ills of society and nations.
The Torah's formula for balance and harmony is embodied in its texts and traditions. Let us present a succinct and systematic sketch as a guide for the Jews, and mankind.
Part 1: a binary model
*God created the heavens and the earth to encompass the universe, the above and the below, the higher and the lower;
*God created the sun and the seasons to service the array of human needs;
*God created man and woman as partners to preserve the human race on the planet earth;
*God fixed six workdays and the Sabbath for a life of productivity and creativity, for rest and renewal.
Part 2: ethics, sociology, economics
*The Torah in its laws presents a paradigm for balancing the rights and duties of citizens, personal prerogatives and self-fulfillment with public responsibility;
*The Torah teaches balance in the soul and calls for moderate behavior, reflective talk, and congeniality with others;
*The Torah's philosophy of education practices love and patience mixed with discipline.
Part 3: politics and diplomacy
*The Torah seeks to accommodate and balance truth and peace in the world and among peoples, transcending clashes with a higher resolution of harmony between both principles.
*In modern Israel there is a healthy balance between the civilian and military domains, each with its own ethos and spirit;
*Israel as a Jewish state in her foremost and essential definition yet grants liberty and dignity for others in a tolerant social ambience;
*Israeli culture and its social space embody a mix of the old and the new, between tradition and modernity, for arriving at a modus vivendi for the two features;
*Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people has maintained and cultivated an extraordinary relationship with the Jewish diaspora around the world;
*Israel is neither soft nor brutal in contending with enemies, while assuring security and national welfare;
*The duality and complementarity of nationalism and universalism in the Hebrew Bible is delicately proportioned in the soul and outlook of the Jewish people.
Overall, Judaism rejects extremism and fanaticism; envisages the Jewish people practicing exclusivity balanced by inclusivity; while the Torah creates the platform for morality, honesty, decency, and spirituality in the lives of people.
The Torah created the balance bringing heaven down to earth, and raising to heaven the sights for the people on earth. Judaism neither values otherworldliness alone nor this-worldliness alone. It possesses the formula for balance and harmony.
(Dr. Mordechai Nisan is retired from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem
and a CIJR Academic Fellow)
Prof. Frederick Krantz, Director (Canadian Institute for Jewish Research)
Rob Coles (Canadian Institute for Jewish Research)