Chapter 1: A Nation Is Born
The Birth of the People of Israel
ISRAEL—THE DEEPEST CRAVING
The astounding result of Abraham’s efforts was the birth of a nation that knew the deepest laws of life, the ultimate Theory of Everything, or in the words of Maimonides: “A nation that knows the Lord was made in the world.”[i]
Indeed, Israel is not merely a name of a people. In Hebrew, the word, Ysrael (Israel), consists of two words: Yashar (straight), and El (God). Thus, Israel designates a mindset of wanting to discover life’s law, a desire to attain or perceive the Creator. In the words of Rabbi Meir Ben Gabai, “In the meaning of the name ‘Israel’ there is also Yashar El [straight to God].”[ii] Likewise, in his Drush [written sermon] regarding the Traveler’s Prayer, the great Ramchal wrote simply, “Israel—Yashar El.”
Put differently, Israel is not a genetic ascription or attribution, but rather the name, or direction of the desire that drove Abraham to his discoveries. Genetically, the first Israelites were either Babylonians or members of other nations who joined Abraham’s group. The meaning of their name was clear to the ancient Israelites. As Maimonides wrote, they had their teachers, the Levites, and they were taught to follow life’s essential laws.
Today, however, we are unaware of the fact that “Israel” actually refers to the desire to know life’s basic law, the Creator, and does not allude to a genetic lineage. Nearly 2,000 years of concealment of the truth since the ruin of the Second Temple have practically obliterated the truth that Abraham’s discovery was intended for all the people in the world, just as Abraham himself intended it for all the people in Babylon, and later “began to call out to the whole world,” to quote Maimonides.
Through the years, only Kabbalists kept this truth alive. Kabbalists such as Elimelech of Lizhensk,[iii] Shlomo Ephraim Luntschitz,[iv] Chaim Iben Attar,[v] Baruch Ashlag[vi] and many others wrote in plain words: Ysrael means Yashar El (straight to God).
Moreover, the need to discover this force is more pertinent today than ever. Nothing has changed in Nature since Abraham’s time, and the Creator is still the one force that creates, governs, and sustains life.
What has changed is that today we need true knowledge of the Creator more than ever. In Abraham’s time, humanity had numerous other paths to follow besides Abraham’s path of truth. Today’s social paths, however, are gradually proving themselves ineffective in solving our declining social morals and cohesion.
Indeed, in time, the Babylonian culture dissipated and the people dispersed the world over. Their alienation and social discord, which caused their fall—represented by the fall of the tower—became inconspicuous and unobtrusive. People resettled in new places, bringing with them the Babylonian culture and attitude, unaware that they were carrying their customs of disharmony among them—the seeds of future struggles.
Now that we have a global community, every crisis is on a global scale. The mistakes we make take their toll on the whole world, making Abraham’s discovery of a single force paramount, life-saving information that must be added into our calculations and plans if we wish to survive.
[ii] Rabbi Meir Ben Gabai, Avodat HaKodesh [The Holy Work], Part 3, Chapter 27.
[iii] Elimelech of Lizhensk, author of Noam Elimelech (The Pleasantness of Elimelech), Likutei Shoshana (“Collections of the Rose”) (First published in Levov, Ukraine, 1788), obtained from http://www.daat.ac.il/daat/vl/tohen.asp?id=173
[iv] Shlomo Ephraim Luntschitz, author of Keli Yakar [Precious Vessel], Concerning Beresheet [Genesis], 32:29.
[v] Chaim ibn Attar, in Ohr HaChaim [Light of Life], Bamidbar [Numbers], Chapter 23, Item 8, https://sites.google.com/site/magartoratemet/tanach/orhahaym
[vi] Baruch Shalom Ashlag (Rabash), in The Writings of Rabash, Vol. 1, Article no. 9, 1988-89 (Israel: Ashlag Research Institute, 2008), 50, 82, 163.
Like A Bundle Of Reeds—A Nation Is Born, Part 1