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SINAI 2005: Our Calling Today

by Rabbi Simon Jacobson

  

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Many pundits are lauding President Bush’s inaugural address, in which he declared that the “calling of our time” is the advancement of freedom around the world.

But many are also questioning the practical application of this principle, and whether this should be our focus today. Europeans in particular are enraged at America today and it’s cavalier attitude (but that’s another story).

Fareed Zakaria asks in his Newsweek column this week: Is liberty actually the “calling of our time?”

The question is posed as a challenge to President Bush’s words in his inaugural address, that the “best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world… Advancing these ideals is the mission that created our nation. It is the honorable achievement of our fathers. Now it is the urgent requirement of our nation's security and the calling of our time. So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.”

Mr. Zakaria rightfully questions whether, outside of the Middle East, the problem of tyranny is indeed the “calling of our time”? Is it the dominating issue for the world at large today? “Is ending Burmese tyranny the urgent requirement of America’s security? Is battling Cuba’s decrepit regime the calling of our time?”

Which comes first – freedom or organization? Marx argued that first order would have to be imposed to control the transition from the “capitalist” model... to the “socialist” revolution of equality... in practice those imposing order became the worst abusers of power and savagely abolished all basic human freedoms...
He argues that today, we live in a world that is mostly free. “For much of the world, the problem is not the will for democracy but the capacity to build and sustain a stable, effective and decent government… The great challenge today is civil strife, extreme poverty and disease, which overwhelms not only democracy but order itself. It is not that such societies are unconcerned about freedom. Everyone, everywhere, would choose to control his own destiny. But this does not mean as much when the basic order that precedes civilized life is threatened, and disease and death are the most pressing daily concern. Much of Africa is reasonably free, holds elections and is far more open than ever before. The great challenge in, say, Senegal and Namibia is not freedom but an effective state. The author of American liberty, James Madison, wrote in The Federalist papers that ‘in framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.’ Order and then liberty.”

So, while the call for global freedom is a noble, visionary goal, Mr. Zakaria makes the case that America cannot be satisfied with the virtues of its grand goals, but it must also provide a practical plan how to implement freedom in a workable system of government.

It’s actually a fascinating question: Which comes first – freedom or organization? Marx, for instance, argued that first order would have to be imposed to control the transition from the “capitalist” model of private ownership and class struggles to the “socialist” revolution of equality, which would emancipate the masses.

In theory this sounds logical. Which is why socialism initially attracted so many progressive thinkers. However, in practice those imposing order became the worst abusers of power and savagely abolished all basic human freedoms – all in the name of some “future” vision of equality.


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Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Temple
1. Usually a reference to the Holy Temple which was/will be situated in Jerusalem. 1st Temple was built in 825 BCE and was destroyed in 423 BCE. The 2nd Temple was built in 350 BCE and was destroyed in 70 CE. The 3rd Temple will be built by the Messiah. 2. A synagogue.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.