Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Yom HaZikaron and Yom Ha'Atzmaut

It's a strange time of year. The Jewish month of Nissan is a time of Joy. Of course, all the kids are let out of school on the first day of the month, and we remember how that feels. During our davening (prayers,) the tachanun prayer of penance and beseeching for the rebuilding of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem is suspended for the entire month. And of course, on the fourteenth of the month, we celebrate Pesach (Passover,) the festival of our physical redemption from Egyptian captivity and our spiritual liberation to dedicate our lives to Hashem. At the same time, immediately after the first day of Pesach, even during Chol Hamoed (the intermediary festival days,) we enter a period of mourning for a plague which struck the students of Rabbi Akiva, during which we do not listen to music, cut our hair, shave our beards, get married, or purchase any items of great significance.

Add on top of that the Israeli state's addition of Holocaust Remembrance day, when sirens sound throughout the country, and everything, from the Israeli stock market, to traffic on the busiest freeways, to the rambunctious arguments passing through our yeshivah, comes to an abrupt stop as everyone drops what they are doing and stands at attention.

This morning was another siren, for Yom Hazikaron, the day of Rememberence of Israel's fallen. Those who own televisions watch the brief, one or two minute biographies of soldiers who fell in various wars, which continue, one after the next, broadcast on every Israeli station for twenty four hours non stop. In yeshivah this morning, we took a moment out of our Tanachic studies to discuss the importance of obligation and sacrifice, and we all stood for the siren. But now, outside my window, the fireworks rage. Yom Hazikaron is over, Yom Ha'Atzmaut, Israel's day of Independence, has begun! Just as the time is a mixture of the joy and sorrow of life in Israel, so too, religious Jews begin the dispute over what is the appropriate response to this day. After all, secular Zionism was intended to replace and obliterate Judaism. Even today, among the National Religious, who have supported the Jewish state from the very beginning in spite of it's anti-Jewish tendancies, there is much dispute over continuing to support a state which expelled 5,000 Jews from their homes in Gush Katif two years ago. How can we celebrate its success?

Traffic stops, standing at attention in honor of Israel's fallen

Then again, Zionism resulted in the fulfillment of the mitzvah of bringing millions of Jews home to Eretz Yisrael. It has created the strongest, most creative and successful religious Jewish community in the world. Today, more students study in Yeshivah then have ever studied before. Not every religious Jew lives here yet, but almost all would acknowledge that the levels of spiritual success which can be achieved today thanks to Israel are incomparable to anywhere else in the world. How can we not be grateful for the miraculous salvation Hashem has bestowed upon us?

As the Israeli expression goes, "If there were another Jewish state, I'd move there in a minute."


NormanF said...

The establishment of Israel was an act of physical Redemption. Jewish people are being ingathered into the country, as foretold in the Prophets.

But the process is incomplete. Israel needs a new chapter, the work of spiritual Redemption, of drawing closer to G-d and becoming a nation of holy priests that is her destiny. We have seen Israel's outer light on display to the world. In the future, the world will need to witness her inner light.

At 60 years, its the culmination of a human lifetime but its nothing in the life of a nation. Israel is going through a lot of growing pains.

Yes, there is bad to be witnessed in the Jewish State. But there is also good - an untapped reservoir of it to raise Israel to far greater heights.

Zionism has accomplished the task of restoring Jewish sovereignty in its ancient homeland. Now Judaism has to accomplish the task of restoring the Jewish people's spiritual life - their inner essence and at 60 one might say that Israel is embarking on a long journey that is just in fact beginning.

Evan said...

Couldn't agree more. Defeats in the struggle for the land of Eretz Yisrael and the soul of Am Yisrael can be disheartening, but in the end, we know we are going to win.