"And he shall effect atonement upon the Holy from the defilements of the children of Israel and from their rebellions and all their unintentional sins. He shall do likewise to the Tent of Meeting, which dwells with them amidst their defilements." (Leviticus 16:16)
Today, the fifth day of Iyar, (April 29th), the nation of Israel marks its Independence Day - Yom Atzma-ut. As a sure sign that G-d's guiding hand is still at the helm, the day of the modern state of Israel's Independence Day falls squarely between the day marking the nascent nation's crossing of the Sea of Reeds, (seventh day of Passover, 3,500 years ago), and the nation's receiving of the Divine revelation of Torah at Mount Sinai, (Shavuot, forty three days later). This dramatic juxtaposition of historical events begs the question: What exactly is independence - atzma-ut?
Upon crossing the Sea of Reeds, the twelve tribes of Israel were escaping the bonds of their bitter exile, shedding their shackles of slavery to the whims and desires of foreign potentates and the strange ways of distant cultures, far from the teachings of their fathers. Yet this freedom was strictly physical in nature. The spiritual revolution required to free their souls, and not just their bodies, had not yet transpired. This would happen only at Sinai, where G-d and nation would meet, and the eternal Torah would be revealed to each and every man, woman, and child of the Israelites.
Precisely between these two point is where Israel dwells today. G-d has brought His people back to the land of Israel, and there they enjoy their physical freedom from the nations around them. But the children of Israel, an infant nation again in her own land, is still on its way to receiving the spiritual liberation of Torah and the true liberty that it bequeaths.
Many people today, Jews and Gentiles alike, express their disappointment that the nation of Israel that dwells today in the land of Israel, has not yet accepted upon itself the yoke of Torah in its entirety. Disappointment can lead to disgust and to rejection: "This people which dwells in the land of Israel, but does not always walk in the spirit of the Torah of Israel, what right have they to claim their independence from the nations?"
Scorners and cynics whose shortness of patience is equalled only by their shortness of vision, should bear in mind that the road from the Sea of Reeds to the mountain of Sinai also was a long journey fraught with both physical dangers and perilous swings in spiritual readiness and maturity. And those who would write off Israel as failing to make the grade, should pay special heed to the words of Leviticus 16:16: "And he shall effect atonement upon the Holy from the defilements of the children of Israel and from their rebellions and all their unintentional sins. He shall do likewise to the Tent of Meeting, which dwells with them amidst their defilements."
If the Creator of the universe, Himself, broadcasts so clearly and unequivocally, that He, in the Tent of Meeting, the place of the Shechinah - G-d's manifest presence on this earth, will dwell amongst His people, even amidst their failings, then who among us mortals would dare cast the fate of the nation of Israel to the four winds, citing her shortcomings and blemishes as evidence of her imminent demise?
Yom Atzma-ut in Israel todays manifests itself as a celebration of the very land of Israel, itself. It is a day in which the entire nation steps forth from their houses and gathers together, picnicking in the parks and fairgrounds, hiking along the mountain trails and in the valleys. In its own instinctual way, the nation engages in twenty-four hour reenactment of settling the land. The day is coming, and it is not far, when the newly returned children of Israel will find themselves ready to fully re-embrace as a nation, the liberating promise of Torah from Sinai.
Tune in to this week's TEMPLE TALK as Rabbi Richman and Yitzchak Reuven continue to reveal the tender relationship between G-d and His children, as set forth in the book of Leviticus. The Holy blessed one Himself coaxes both the pure and the impure to engage in uplifting their respective spiritual stations, as illustrated so poignantly by the individual who is afflicted with tzora'at, (a leprous like ailment), and is banished from the Israelite encampment until his cure is affected. G-d's tender concern for His children is evident even today, as the nation of Israel celebrates her independence back in the land of Israel.