Tuesday, April 1, 2014

On the Gordis Begin Biography in Commentary

Daniel Gordis has established himself as one of today’s most vibrant thinkers on the Jewish people with his books Saving Israel and The Promise of Israel. What sets him apart from so many other observers is his facility for exploring large and important ideas in a way that the general reader can understand. The achievement of Menachem Begin is twofold: The illumination of a complex but pivotal figure in Jewish history and, in its execution, the guiding of the Jewish people towards a better understanding of themselves.

...While Gordis perhaps overeggs the pudding in suggesting that for Begin “Zionism was but the Jewish expression of a universal yearning,” it is true that Begin the Zionist and Begin the humanitarian, though sometimes in conflict, were never that far apart. He navigated the age-old Jewish tension between tribalism and liberalism by recognizing that the noblest tenets of universalism—human dignity, liberty, the rule of law—were secular descendants of the mitzvot, and that faith and observance could lead one towards rather than away from them.

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