Independence Day 5768
The nation of Israel is today commemorating the tens of thousands of soldiers who have fallen in battle. They fell while bravely defending the people of Israel from their enemies throughout these first six decades of the reborn nation's life. With nightfall, Yom HaZikaron - Memorial Day - will be superseded by Yom Atzma'ut - Independence Day. The somber and reflective will be replaced by the celebratory. It is a sudden and jarring transition that never fails, year after year, to provoke a strong emotional and spiritual reckoning: our loss is tempered by our historic gains, our sadness is sweetened with the joy of our return to the land of our fathers.
Yet, in recent years, an increasing number of Jews here in the land of Israel have begun to question whether it is appropriate at all to celebrate the rebirth of the state of Israel. We have indeed suffered many disappointments, the bitterest at the hands of our own leaders. The Israeli disengagement of 2005 from the southwestern coastal plain of the land of Israel, known in the vernacular as the Gaza Strip, in which 10,000 Jewish individuals were uprooted from their homes and communities by order of the Israel government, proved for many the last straw. Their continuing status as refugees within their own land and the current government's callous disregard for their hapless fate has only exacerbated the people's growing sense of disaffection. And then there are the missiles falling daily on Sederot and the western Negev...
Yes, the list of disappointments is great, but where does Torah teach us that in the face of struggle the preferred response is despair? Wasn't it just the other day that we stood, as a nation, at the edge of the Sea of Reeds with the Egyptian legions breathing down our necks? And weren't these the words that G-d spoke: "Why are you crying out to Me? Speak to the Israelites, and let them start moving." (Exodus 14:15) And where in Scripture is it written that when times get tough we are to raise our hands in helplessness? When the children of Israel fought Amalek G-d indeed did instruct Moses to raise up his hands. But that was to rally the people to place their trust in Heaven, and to fill their hearts with courage.
In spite of the continuing pains of rebirth that this nation is experiencing, and even in spite of all careless and sometimes cruel damage we have inflicted upon ourselves, their is no humanly rational way possible to deny that a great historical and redemptive process is taking place here in the land of Israel. The ongoing ingathering of millions of exiled Jews and ancient Jewish communities from scores of countries the world over dwarfs any temporary setbacks we have met along the way. The revitalization of Jerusalem as the source of Torah learning and teaching for the entire world cannot be erased by the crazed ravings of the Haman from Iran.
Yes, the challenges are daunting and the stakes could not be higher. But is not G-d in His Heaven? Does G-d not oversee all that transpires? He empowered us in Egypt. He trusted us at the Sea of Reeds. He betrothed Himself to all souls who stood that day at the foot of Mount Sinai. Can't we place our trust in Him?
Setbacks aside, Israel is racing forward, our date with destiny unfolding before us. Nowhere is this more evident than in the growing longing throughout the world for the rebuilding of the Holy Temple, for the Holy Temple is a crucial and undeniable testimony to G-d's immanent presence here among the nations. The Holy Temple is proof positive that the loss and suffering that this nation has experienced these past six decades is not in vain. We at the Temple Institute have the unique privilege to both play an active role in G-d's unfolding cosmic drama, and also to witness, first hand, the nation of Israel awakening to its responsibility in making the Holy Temple a tangible and transcendent reality, here in the land of Israel and throughout the four corners of the world, speedily and in our days. We enjoin you to join us - in celebrating the rebirth in the land of the nation of Israel.
Tune in to this week's TEMPLE TALK as Rabbi Chaim Richman and Yitzchak Reuven discuss the joys of Israel as the modern state celebrates her 60th birthday, the new month of Iyar, the bracing message of this week's Emor Torah reading, and the mystical musings of a mysterious cabbie.
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