Israeli Values Religious Voices

Letter 3 - Rabbi Gabriel Abensour

To the State of Israel and all its inhabitants,

The State of Israel was established 75 years ago as a Jewish state, at a time when there was no need to think about its Jewishness.

Are we a Jewish state just because most of the inhabitants are Jewish? Is our Jewishness only an ethnic-national component? I believe that the State of Israel can adapt Jewish values that were essential to Judaism for generations and are still the foundation of its spiritual essence. Therefore, for Israel’s 75th birthday, I would like to suggest adapting the value of tzimzum (contraction). This word is not used much nowadays, but contraction is one of the core essences of the Kabbalah, a beautiful wisdom that teaches us the proper way of life. 

Rabbi Isaac Luria wrote: “In the beginning there was an eternal simple light, nothing was clearer than it. With the desire to create a world that will know greatness, God contracted itself and remained a vacant central space. There all worlds were enlarged.”  According to the Kabbalah, before the creation of the world, God made space in order to allow a non-divine reality to exist. This is a dramatic ethical statement, because the basic assumption is that no existence is possible unless the ruling side contracts its being, and in a certain way gives up ownership.

We are commanded to resemble God and follow its path. If God, who is all good, contracted itself in order to allow humans to live their lives, then humans should resemble God in their relationships with other humans – personally and nationally – in order to make room for those around them.

Contraction is scary, certainly for a generation that is used to think about power as a superior value. But it is a must for all who desire life. Contraction is not an act of self-annulment, but rather an act of seeing the other. I contract myself so that the other can live next to me and among me.

May we all know how to contract ourselves a bit, in order to allow spiritual space to the neighbor next to us, to the social group who is different from us, and to other nations who share this land with us.


Rabbi Gabriel Abensour

Gabriel Abensour is a PhD student at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. His research is dedicated to the cultural and intellectual history of the Maghreb Jews. He was ordained at the Shalom Hartman Institute – Beit Midrash for Israeli Rabbis in 2021. Gabriel teaches in various places in Israel and abroad.

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