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My First Writing Anniversary
Torah V'Avodah

It's a year since I started my writing career. My opening gambit says I started on 13th Iyar, 5768 and today is Lag b'Omer, 5769! Yippee!

I'm going to let you read the text of a speech I gave to a packed hall at the Mizrachi Synagogue in Bondi back in 1974, at the twenty-fifth anniversary of Bnei Akiva in Australia and the forty-fifth of B.A. worldwide. The text was also published in the dinner journal. [Howard just pointed out that should be doing something in Oz, as this year is the sixtieth anniversary.]

Some of you may find it is interesting to see whether my style and thinking have developed in the intervening years, or perhaps how much has remained as it was back then. As the French love to say, "plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose", meaning "the more things change, the more they stay the same" or in the immortal words of Koheleth, Ecclesiastes, "there's nothing new under the sun".

The ideals of Bnei Akiva are generally summed up in the motto "Torah V'Avodah".

Any literal translation of the words, such as "bible and work", cannot pay true justice to the potential power of the phrase, and indeed the full extent of its meaning, is in some way dependant on the time and the place.

"Torah" encompasses many facets of Judaism, from the actual learning of Torah for its own sake, an obligation on every Jew. The reason for our existence is based purely on this fact. Coupled with this is the fulfillment of the precepts of the Torah, and the teaching of Torah to others.

The original meaning of "Avodah" was work relating to the Beit Hamikdash, the Temple in Jerusalem. As this type of work is no longer feasible, another type of work must replace it. This work falls into a variety of categories, encompassing works that come under the crown of Torah. These categories naturally divide into two classes -- the first relating to the Jew in his land of origin, and the second, relating to the Jew when he leaves that place to go up to Israel.

The phrase, "Kol Yisrael Arevim Zeh lazeh" perhaps sums up his responsibilities in both places, for the Jew has a responsibility to his own community -- a responsibility that cannot be ignored in this day and age when the strength of Judaism is waning in many areas and boosting itself in others. No member of Bnei Akiva can deny his place in bringing about a new enlightenment in Judaism. But he must keep in his mind that this is not the place that he belongs, and not the place he may stay. His example to his fellows must include the fulfillment of the Mitzvah of going up to the land of Israel. And here his responsibilty does not stop; it perhaps begins anew, for his example should continue to be felt in his country of origin. He must not be forgotten there, but must maintain an important communication link. And in Israel, where the government is not always conducive to traditional Jewish life, and where even large parts of the population associate Judaism with stone throwing, grey bearded fanatics, the place of chaverim from Bnei Akiva cannot be over emphasised.

The responsibility of a Jew to his fellow Jew here encompasses all that was mentioned for his Chutz La'aretz stay, and more -- the example of a modern person who in everyday life is also a conscious Jew, with Kipa, Tzitzit, Tephillah and all other components of Jusaism as part of his person. While it is up to each individual and his circumstances to decide the time and place for transferring his responsibilities from this place to that, one cannot in all fairness to himself think in terms of a long period. To grow strong roots in this place, with all the best intentions, as we often see in our community in people with the noblest of aims, leads to the loss of all direction of their beliefs, and even perhaps a counterproductive attitude to their old ideas.

With these ideas in mind, members of Bnei Akiva in Australia, are forming groups to settle various parts of Israel. Those groups, though not comparable to the pioneering actions of the early Aliyot, also have the strong pioneering spirit,and we are discussing and involving ourselves in such projects as settling the newer territories of the modern state of Israel, including taking part in the establishment of a new Moshav, Etzion Gmmel and settling a young Kibbutz, Rosh Tzurim.

The world Jewish population is one united community, one nation. The home of the nation is in Israel, though the whole family has yet to come home.

"If I Forget Thee Oh Jerusalem"

An interesting postscript -- this is how Wikipedia today explains the Torah v’Avodah concept:

The other axiom associated with Bnei Akiva is that of 'Torah v'Avodah', a phrase coined by Rav Shmuel Chaim Landau (Shachal). Torah is viewed as not just a set of laws to which each Jew must adhere but also "the spirit of our nation, the source of our culture and the essence of our souls". This nationalistic element of Torah is the reason for our rebirth of the Jewish people in Israel and allZionism must stem from it. Meanwhile, Avodah is an aim to make the Jewish people productive as a nation by rebuilding the land of Israel. Rather than just being a group of individuals, Avodah calls for the nation to begin to rebuild itself through creativity and physical labour.


Please feel free to stop by my site to look at my latest (and classic) photographs. There are even some photographs there which I took on my trusty Canon A1 back in the 80's


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