Holy and Secular – Lyndon Johnson was the thirty-sixth President of the United States. He was known as a brilliant politician, ambitious and with a strong will. When he was a Senator, Johnson published a very interesting article called “My Political Philosophy,” where he wrote: “I am a free man, an American, a United States Senator, and a Democrat – in that order.” (Texas Quarterly, 1958).
The way we live puts us into different categories with different outlooks. These categories usually do not conflict with each other. Mostly, they dwell together peacefully and quietly. We can be religious while at the same time we are also active in a volunteer association fighting traffic accidents. We can be citizens of our country while at the same time we belong to the neighborhood nature preservation association. Most of the time, there is no conflict or tension between the various categories.
But sometimes a conflict does occur. There are times when we are forced to decide which allegiance is our primary one and which is secondary. It can happen that there is a conflict between our allegiance to one principle and another. We then must decide which principle is most important to us.
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“Please take your one and only beloved son…” Avraham was commanded, “and offer him as an Olah sacrifice” [Bereishit 22:2]. Avraham was given the most difficult test in the history of mankind. He was forced to choose between the most important principles of his life. On one side was his family, his strong love for his son, his innate moral sense, and his desire for offspring. Against this stood only one thing – a direct command by G-d. Our father Avraham was forced to choose which principle took precedence.
Avraham did not hesitate. “And Avraham woke up early in the morning… He rose and went to the place which G-d had told him about” [22:3]. Avraham made his choice. He was first and foremost a servant of G-d, and only then did his other allegiances take effect.
The choice made by Avraham, our Patriarch, must accompany us all the time. We must remember that we are first of all servants of G-d, and everything else is secondary to this. It is true that in the overwhelming majority of cases, there is no conflict between the fact that we serve G-d and our belonging to our family, our social group, and our country. But if we are ever put to the test, we must remember the correct priority.
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“Everybody should write briefly about himself or herself…” That is what was written in an e-mail that I recently received on a very important and vital subject: matchmaking. “For example, you can give details about such matters as: age, where you live, outlook (secular, traditional, religious, Chareidi), hobbies, languages, and country of origin (for Olim)… You can pass this invitation on to other single men and women. But please, send it only to those in the ‘Orange’ sector who are faithful to Eretz Yisrael – otherwise the people will not have any common ground.”
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Our great obligation towards Eretz Yisrael is very important to us. But we must never forget our most basic obligation. We must not forget that we are first and foremost servants of G-d, and only afterwards belong to specific categories. Our basic obligation is to the Creator and to His mitzvot, and only as a secondary item are we faithful to Eretz Yisrael.
The idea that a traditional person can marry a Chareidi and that a religious person can marry one who is not religious, but that an ‘orange’ person cannot marry one who is ‘blue’ is not acceptable to a person who truly serves G-d. Anybody who is sure that he or she can get along with somebody who is lacking in the observance of the Torah and the mitzvot will also be able to get along with a partner who is not faithful enough to Eretz Yisrael.
The common ground between rightist and leftist religious people is ten times greater than that between a rightist religious person and a rightist who is an apostate. We can have deep feelings of friendship for Yoram Sheftel who has strong rightist opinions but is a total apostate (by his own definition) but we should certainly feel much closer to a person who obeys the commands of the Torah and observes the mitzvot. Our most basic identifying trait is that we are servants of G-d, and our ideological and political relationships are secondary to this.
Reprinted with permission from Zomet Institute (www.zomet.org.il). Translated from the Hebrew by Moshe Goldberg. To subscribe to receive the complete version of Shabbat BeShabbato please write to email@example.com.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.
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