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The Secret to Nation Building

The Secret to Nation Building

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Why is Nation Building Taking So Long – It only took 7 weeks to Build the Jewish People!!

Iraq and Afghanistan are still countries that struggle with what's come to be termed "nation building." What taking so long? 

Yet some 3,300 years ago, it took exactly forty-nine days to map.jpgform the Jewish Nation. Seven weeks for an enslaved nation to become G‑d's nation, and a light unto all the other nations.

When G‑d took us out of Egypt all those years ago we were eminently unready to become His Chosen Nation. Although we had retained certain aspects of our heritage, such as our Jewish names, garb and language, we had assimilated with the local culture on a grand scale, worshipping their idols and debasing ourselves by following their immoral practices. The situation was so bad that, according the Midrash, the angels questioned whether we were in fact any better than the Egyptians who were being punished.

How did we manage to transform from a downtrodden nation of slaves to a G‑d-fearing nation in forty-nine days?

There is a parable of a farmer whose prize peacock falls into a muddy pit. The farmer is dismayed by the mud-covered bird and tries to scrub it clean, however it seems that the quicker he removes the mud, the quicker the mud seems to spread to another part of the peacock. After a few hours the farmer takes a break from his exertions; the peacock picks itself up and walks out the barn. With one shake of its plume all the mud flew off and the bird was back to its magnificent self.

As we move through the seven-week "Counting of the Omer" period from Passover to Shavuot, we retrace the steps of the Jewish people as they moved from being freed from slavery to receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai.

Each day of these weeks we count one more day and we also enumerate how many weeks we have counted. During the Ribono shel Olam prayer that follows the counting, we also ask G‑d to help us fix one of our character traits. Kabbalah teaches that G‑d created the world through ten distinct sefirot or Divine Emanations. Corresponding to these are the ten soul-powers through which our souls express themselves. Three of these powers relate to our intellect and seven to our emotions.

Through the seven weeks of the Counting of the Omer we attempt to rectify these seven soul-powers: love, discipline, compassion, perseverance, humility, bonding and implementation. Each of these soul-powers is to the power of seven – love is comprised of love, discipline, compassion and so on; discipline is comprised of love, discipline, compassion and so on – so each day of the week we rectify one seventh of a soul-power. (And for seven weeks we read Ethics of Our Fathers to help attain this character refinement.)

The beauty of this whole system is that it is all of our own making. G‑d brought us out of Egypt and pointed us on the way to Mount Sinai, but the process of nation building was our own. As we work our way towards Shavuot, we need to have the will to transform our natures to be fitting recipients of the Torah.

When it comes to nation building, it is great that these formerly oppressed nations are being given the opportunity to redefine themselves. But there has to be a will of the people to build their nation. Otherwise, no amount of dollars or political pressure will do the job.

 

 

 

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