Thursday, December 14, 2006

Hashomer Hatzair is a Jewish Movement by Tal Beery

The following is something I wrote and does not necessarily reflect the views of every member of Hashomer Hatzair. It only reflects my views after spending the last two months learning about Judaism and reflecting on the ideology of our movement in this context. While it makes the relationship between Judaism and Hashomer Hatzair clearer than it had been before, it raises more questions than it answers. Please ask these questions. It isn’t every day that a historically anti-religious movement is billed as fundamentally Jewish, and any questions, comments or concerns are welcome.

_____

The Jews gave monotheism to the world effectively ending their connections to a world of many gods and relative morality. This is not all or even the most significant of Jewish contributions. The ideology of Hashomer Hatzair is founded on this and two other equally significant Jewish contributions, the desire for messianic redemption and the conception of collective fate.

Jews conceive of history as a process with a clear beginning and end. The end is an era of peace, of proximity to God’s limitless love. Lion will sleep with lamb and swords will be turned to plow shears. Greed, poverty, hatred, mistrust, and jealousy will all be not because every person will be profoundly fulfilled.

Jews believe that history progresses to this point, and that people’s actions can either delay or quicken their inevitable redemption. The sins of the few can delay the redemption of all and the unity and justice of humanity will bring about the utopian end. The chosenness of the Jewish people, therefore, is no crown, no unconditional privilege. God’s covenant with the Jews is their heavy burden. They must work to bring justice and peace to the world, knowledge of God’s oneness and mankind’s oneness with God.

The covenant between God and the Jewish people also emphasizes the collective fate of the Jewish community in the pre-Messianic era. The second Temple was destroyed, we are taught, because Israel was not united. If our fates are collectively bound, then the modern Capitalist emphasis on individual achievement and advancement, forcing us to compete with other members of our societies, is an elaborate deception causing many to stray from a true and just Jewish life. A Jewish socioeconomic system would replace competition with collaboration, would abhor poverty and cherish honesty and trustworthiness. Together we would strive for mutual advancement, recognizing that nothing in this world follows the rules of a zero-sum game.

Hashomer Hatzair labors to create that society, to bring more peace, more justice, and more brotherhood into the world, to quicken our pace towards our worthy end goal. Hashomer Hatzair does this in two ways. First, members of the movement take part in projects designed to improve people’s lives by building communities, initiating dialogue between disconnected communities, and educating youth responsibility and empowerment. Second, members are asked to build their own, more intimate communities. The small communities we create strive to reflect the society we hope to create; we cannot hope to build a peaceful and just society if we cannot build peaceful and just Hashomer Hatzair communities.

Our movement is historically anti-religious, but we find now that our century-old ideals are absolutely Jewish. In our current renewal, we are reacquainting ourselves with the ancient texts and teachings. But our practice of Judaism is not only focused on the study of those texts but is concerned primarily with actively manifesting Jewish ideals in our world. If everything that exists in the physical world is a reflection of the spiritual world, then our efforts to bring more peace and proximity between peoples in this world reflects our effort to bring ourselves and others closer to God.

20 comments:

Thesman Droid said...

The "God question" is a turn off for many who consider themselves secular Jews. However, please understand that the meaning of God for me or for others is open to explanation and debate. To be sure, God is something to be discussed, not dismissed. - Tal

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