A prayer for 5771

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On August 28, Fox News commentator Glenn Beck confounded his colleagues in the media when he brought hundreds of thousands of Americans to the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, DC for a rally he called “Restoring Honor.”


While former Alaska governor Sarah Palin was the keynote speaker, the rally was decidedly apolitical. The speakers said nothing controversial. The crowd was enthusiastic but not rowdy. US President Barack Obama was never even mentioned by name. In the event, the massive crowd gathered, prayed, celebrated American military heroes, listened to patriotic speeches and songs. Then the participants picked up their garbage and went home.


So what was it all about? Why do many people see it as a watershed event? 


Although Beck called the rally “Restoring Honor,” it wasn’t really about restoring honor. It was about restoring something even more important. It was about restoring the American creed. 


That creed is so ingrained that it has served as the subtext of every major political and civic speech by every American political and civic leader since the eighteenth century. 


The American creed has two main components. First, its core belief is that America is an exceptional country and that the American people are an exceptional nation. Second, it asserts that as Abraham Lincoln first said outright, America is the last, best hope for mankind. 


The reason Beck’s rally was a watershed event is that in the Age of Obama, millions of Americans for the first time feel the need to reclaim what they believe is their birthright as Americans. Because what distinguishes Obama from his predecessors is that he is the first American President who clearly rejects the American creed. 


This basic truth was first brought to the public’s attention during Obama’s visit to Turkey last year. A reporter there asked him, “[Do] you subscribe, as many of your predecessors have, to the school of ‘American exceptionalism’ that sees America as uniquely qualified to lead the world, or do you have a slightly different philosophy?”


Obama replied, “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.”


That is, the US President said, no, he doesn’t believe in American exceptionalism. He rejects the American creed.


Obama’s unprecedented position stands at the core of the actions he has taken and the positions he has adopted since coming into office. From his move to nationalize the American healthcare system, to his attacks on the free market; from his insinuations that his political opponents are bigoted and primitive to his effective rejection of the mantle of US superpower status and global leadership in favor of transnationalism, Obama has clearly rejected the building blocks of America’s national DNA. 


And this is why Beck’s rally was important. At the rally Beck and the crowd he assembled committed themselves to repairing the damage Obama is causing. What the multitudes who congregated at the Lincoln Memorial two weeks ago understood is that America’s greatness as a nation is entirely predicated on its creed. If the creed is abandoned, while America may hang around for awhile, its path to ruin will be inexorable. 


Lincoln once called Americans “God’s almost chosen people.” In saying that, he linked American history to the history of the Jews. Whereas the Jews singled ourselves out as the chosen people by agreeing to accept God’s law, in Lincoln’s view, Americans accepted the burdens and the gifts of a unique national path and mission in accepting the American creed.


THE AMERICAN creed has been cultivated, preserved and defended for some 350 years. The Jewish creed America’s founders turned to for inspiration has been cultivated, preserved and defended for 3,500 years. 


The Jewish creed is predicated on the dual destiny of the Jews: to be both a nation that dwells alone and a light to the nations. 


God bestowed the Jews with three tools to achieve these twin, and seemingly contradictory missions. He gave us the Law of Israel. He gave us the Nation of Israel. And he gave us the Land of Israel. 


The law of Israel, the Torah, is the human path to righteousness and holiness. By obeying the laws and recognizing the frailty of mankind as a collective, the Jews comprise a distinct nation that is a blessing and an inspiration to the world. 


By building our lives in the land of Israel, our birthright, the Jews are able to cultivate our heritage and perform our dual mission in relative peace and make the blessing of choseness tangible for ourselves and the world as a whole.


For 3,500 years, successive generations of Jews have understood our mission and creed. They internalized it and lived their lives by it. 


Since the dawn of modern Zionism, the overwhelming majority of Jews, in Israel and throughout the world have recognized the return to the land of Israel as the harbinger of redemption for the Jewish people – and through it, for the world. This understanding has been so ingrained that it has seldom necessitated a mention. 


On almost every level, the State of Israel has been an overwhelming success for the Jewish people and for the world that has enjoyed its blessings. Economically today, the Israeli economy is the envy of the world. And this is no mean feat. In its first forty-five years of independence, Israel’s socialist and otherwise economically backwards leaders went to extraordinary lengths to stifle market forces and essentially doomed Israel’s economy to sclerotic performance and basket-case status.


But the reforms enacted over the past fifteen years or so, mainly initiated and pushed through by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu have transformed Israel into an economic powerhouse. Although much remains to be done to expand economic opportunity and growth, because of Netanyahu’s sound economic leadership, Israel has been largely immune to the recession now plaguing much of the Western world. 


Technologically as well, as the world is now recognizing, Israel has become a pintsize superpower. As George Gilder demonstrated in The Israel Test, Israeli computer entrepreneurs created the foundations of the digital age by inventing, among other things, the microprocessor and the main components of cellular telephone technology. The world we inhabit would be inconceivable without Israel’s pioneering role in building it. 


As for Judaism, it is flourishing in Israel today as it never has at any time in the past two thousand years. The Jewish people emerged from the brink of annihilation 65 years ago to build a Jewish state whose population is more learned in Jewish law than any Jewish community has ever been. More Jews study in institutions of Jewish learning in Israel than have studied at any time in our history. And even non-observant Jews live Jewish lives in Israel to a degree their families could never have enjoyed or imagine just four generations ago. 


ISRAEL’S EXTRAORDINARY success is marred by but one failure. Since Theodore Herzl’s untimely death in 1904, Israel has lacked a leader who recog
nized the importance of espousing the Jewish creed both to the world and to the Jewish people. That is, since Herzl, Israel has lacked leaders who have understood the first principle of statecraft. 


For a nation to flourish and succeed over time, its leaders must assert its creed with utter confidence both to their own people and to the world at large. They must assert their nation’s creed with complete confidence even to leaders who reject it. And they must never give anyone else the right to deny their people their identity.


That is, whereas Obama is the first American president to deny and denigrate the American creed, Israel has never had a prime minister who was willing to assert Israel’s creed. Leftist prime ministers have failed to assert the creed because they don’t accept it. Rightist prime ministers have failed to assert our creed because they fail to understand what it means to have the confidence to boldly assert an identity that people don’t want you to have.


Many scholars have argued that Jewish history is also the history of anti-Semitism. By not asserting Israel’s creed, Israel’s leaders have essentially accepted this claim. But this claim is utterly false. The history of the Jews and the history of anti-Semites are based on parallel narratives – one is true and one is false. And like parallel lines, they never intersect.


Throughout history, anti-Semites have sought to deny Jews the right to define ourselves by replacing our creed of law and holiness and homeland with a false creed of conspiracy and avarice and rootlessness. Today the instruments anti-Semites employ to tell Jews who we are involve accusations against a monstrous “Israel lobby,” and an attempt to deny our rights to the land of Israel. 


Jews have survived repeated attempts to destroy us not because we have argued the finer points of the anti-Jewish narrative of the day, but because we have been faithful to our creed. That is, we have not survived by attacking anti-Semitic slurs, but by loyally upholding our truth. 


Yet in Israel, rather than proudly assert the extraordinary, tenacious and indeed miraculous nature of our people, our law and our land, our leaders have turned our creed into a bargaining point. And if this course is not soon abandoned, it will be our undoing. 


Our leaders are leading us astray by insisting that it is possible to achieve peace in the near term with our neighbors. Peace today is impossible because our neighbors reject at least two of our national creed’s three components: Jewish nationhood and the Land of Israel. 


Furthermore, by introducing the demand that the Arabs recognize Israel as the Jewish state, our leaders are only making matters worse. In presenting this demand, our leaders are suggesting that the Arabs have the power to grant or deny that which is not theirs to give or take away. 


THIS EVENING we begin our observance of Rosh Hashana. The Bible describes Rosh Hashana as the day of trumpeting. When we assemble in prayer and blow the shofar, we engage in a loud and boisterous celebration of national unity and uphold our sacred birthright to our religious heritage and the land of Israel. 


At his rally Glenn Beck reminded us of the importance of loud, boisterous celebrations which recommit nations to their destiny and creed. Yet what Lincoln referred to as “the mystic chords of memory” cannot only be recalled in times of celebration. Like the American nation, for the Jewish nation to survive and prosper, that creed must resonate in all we do on all the other days of the year when the trumpets are silent.


It is my prayer for the coming year that our leaders take a measure of strength from our people and our creed. I pray that they recognize that it is both their sacred duty and their great privilege to confidently represent and defend our exceptionalism and our destiny as the nation of Israel.  


Originally published in The Jerusalem Post. 
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  • Marc Handelsman, USA 09/08/2010 at 12:37

    The American creed came from a Judeo-Christian worldview, which was unique in the history of mankind. It is what made the US a great nation. Until recently, Americans knew what made them exceptional. Now there is moral confusion because the underpinnings of our culture were shaken by the turbulent 1960’s. Similarly, Israel is going through an identity crisis, and the vigor of earlier Zionist pioneers has diminished. It should be our prayer that Americans and Israelis renew their relationship with God, and have the moral courage to stand fast in their convictions.

  • Gavriela 09/08/2010 at 13:00

    We Jews are like Yonah, running away from G*d has told us to do. But He won’t let us get away. He will keep sending obstacles to us till we acknowledge who and what we are.
    Caroline hit it on the head when she said that the Arabs have no right to decide who is or isn’t a Jew and who does or doesn’t have a right to our land. She is so right on all of her points.
    May G*d raise up to us a leader who will unabashedly stand up and tell the world: No! We will not surrender our land! We will not cede even one square millimeter of Jerusalem! And whoever doesn’t like it can eat our dust.

  • Kevin Bjornson 09/08/2010 at 15:06

    As you point out, the Glenn Beck rally focusd on general themes, not political. I didn’t view the entire event, but what I heard from Beck was worse than useless to America.
    The US Declaration of Independence pointed out that human rights derive form “Nature and Nature’s God”. Note the linguistic structure: “God” is viewed as a possession of Nature (the apostrophe indicates that). That is, for the intellectual leaders of the American Revolution,
    “God” existed within a natural universe, governed by natural laws. 18th-century deism had thought that the existence of “God” (or “xyz”) can be proven rationally.
    However all those alleged proofs, from Aristotle on down, have been disproven over and over again. To even talk about a supernatural being as the determiner of the natural world, is facially contradictory. If nature were determined supernaturally, it would not be natural.
    Judaism is more humanistic than other religions, which is the main reason for it’s success in the real world. If it were just another faith, it would no longer be exceptional, and would compete on the same ground as Islam, Christianity, and other mystical cults.
    Unfortunately classical civilization had flaws and problems, such as the lack of a printing press, outmoded paganism, slavery, and a philosophy that was contradictory and difficult to communicate. This allowed Christianity to conquer the western world. Over the centuries, western civilization reasserted itself in the renaissance and enlightenment. We must work to repair and improve western civilization, and not fall back to mysticism.
    Reason builds the path to tomorrow.

  • Brianna 09/08/2010 at 17:27

    Well yes, we believe in American exceptionalism. But why do we believe in it? What makes Americans exceptional? Why is America considered the world’s last, best hope?
    This column was frankly, off your usual mark. You made a huge mistake, and that was to list an effect, American exceptionalism, as a cause. I appreciated your defense of Beck and America, but was dismayed by your failure to grasp the principles of America, especially as you were by birth an American citizen.
    To me, to be an American is to believe in freedom and the sovereignty of the individual. To be an American is to believe that I own my own life and possess an inalienable right to pursue my own happiness. The exceptionalism of America comes from our willingness to fight that battle, to live for those values and if need be, to die. We are the last best hope of Man because we are the only nation which was explicitly founded on these principles, and as such are the nation which does the most to keep them alive in the world. Doesn’t mean we always get it right, doesn’t mean we’re perfect, but in the striving for that ideal, America became the richest, greatest, freest society in the history of man. And it will remain as such for as long as we remain true to those principles, because those are the principles at the root of all human freedom and happiness.

  • naomir 09/08/2010 at 17:31

    Caroline, this is probably one of the most beautiful pieces you have ever written. As the child of immigrants I was always taught respect and allegiance for America and what it stood for until now. America can only be as great as its leaders and unfortunately our president takes no pride in the country that gave him so much. It is time for us to finally realize that we can depend only on G-d as our supreme leader and ourselves His chosen people. We must all start preparing to go home where we belong.

  • Ron Grandinetti 09/09/2010 at 9:47

    Caroline, your right on about the creed and the importance in regaining it, for both nations.
    I believe over the years we have been complacent and paid no attention to those we elect to run our countries, the result has not always been the best or pretty.
    In America a group called the Tea Party was born, Americans from every political party and walks of life who had enough and want to reclaim their government.
    In Israel as you stated the leadership needs to recognize the importance of espousing the Jewish creed.
    Both nations face a strong assault from the secular progressive movement who want to destroy the creed, We can’t allow that to happen.
    G-d/God has blesses both nations, first His chosen people the Jews as He returned them to Israel, the Holy Land and He shed is grace on the young nation of America.
    Let’s show G-d/God we accept the challenge to regain the creed He entrusted us with.

  • Anonymous 09/10/2010 at 2:09

    Caroline – Thanks for the focus on defining the American Creed. I have always believed those thoughts, but not quite as you have so clearly stated.
    America and Israel are today the linchpins for saving Western Civilization. Both nations need to work on absorbing and projecting their creeds.

  • Loudmer 09/12/2010 at 13:13

    Menahem Begin was the complete jewish and israeli leader : He was proud about judaism, he had the moral stamina of a founding father of the state and he demonstrated true resolve once in power. Therefore your judgment of a total lack of a true leader in Israel since the days of Herzl is inexact. Wishing you a successful new year.

  • Jeff 09/16/2010 at 8:59

    Terrific article Caroline, however, if it had not been on your blog and someone had handed it to me without your name on it, I would have thought that it had been written by someone like Moshe Feiglin. If this is what you truly believe, then I think it is time that you take a closer look at Manhigut Yehudit and their philosophy about the land of Israel, the people of Israel and the state of Israel. I think you will benefit from them and they will benefit from you. Gamar Tov! Have an easy and meaningful fast.

  • Aman OhevArtzi 09/24/2010 at 4:51

    Shalom Mrs. Glick!
    Sorry. I did not find any other way to contact you directly and get your personal attention.
    Please watch the next new clip.
    In case you have no Interest in responding my request, at least, let me know so I’ll search for another way to convice any other Artist/production to do something out of it.
    Hag Sucot Samech.
    [email protected]
    אשמח מאוד אם תפיקו אותו – לי אין את הכישורים או המשאבים לבצעו
    באופן מקצועי אבל ללאטמה יש!
    הרגישו חופשי לשנות,להוסיף, לתקן ולעשות בו ככל העולה על דעתכם – אתם אנשי המקצוע.
    אני יודע כי אני איש שיווק גרוע ואיני יודע להפיץ את רעיונותי.
    המעט שנחשפו לדברים שכתבתי, אמרו לי שחבל שזה יתבזבז.
    גם אם תחליטו לגנוז את הרעיון – בבקשה, החזירו לי תשובה שאדע כי שקלתם את הנושא ואנסה למצוא גוף אחר שיתעניין.

  • Admin 09/27/2010 at 9:00

    Thanks so much for submitting your clip, but this is a song which we have used before. Please do let us see any other ideas you have – we always welcome your suggestions. Thanks for writing. Best regards, Judith (Caroline’s assistant)


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