Yom Ha’atzmaut is one of the most joyous days in Israel. It is not merely a commemoration of our independence gained in 1948 that elicits this euphoria. While Independence grants us autonomy, freedom and liberty, which is more than sufficient cause for celebration, it is the long awaited homecoming that adds layers of intense meaning to this day.
It was just last month we celebrated our first national freedom after having suffered hundreds of years of harsh slave labor. We left our slave status behind and began the freedom march towards home. G-d then honored His pledge to our forefathers by bringing us into the promised land. We were on the brink of fulfilling our destiny. Alas, that did not occur. As the story goes we entered the land, possessed her and were spit out when she could not bear our sins any longer.
We began new chapters of an extended story that is still unfolding in anticipation of a happily ever after ending. We spent two thousand years roaming from one foreign land to another with ups and downs. Our prayers and Torah learning kept us ever cognizant of our goal to return home. We suffered brutal persecutions at the hands of our enemies for too many long, painstaking years. It was hard to imagine how and when we would ever return home.
And then an unimaginable nightmare occurred. The Holocaust. Devastation. Destruction. Near-annihilation. The Holocaust left us reeling until this very day. We swear never to forget and made sure of it by dedicating a day once a year, Yom Hashoah, to remembering.
I close my eyes and envision the day of the UN Partition Plan. The millions of souls who perished stood in the heavenly court testifying to the need and demanding the right of our people to finally possess the promised land. How powerful and compelling! The Judge could not refuse and so it was… we were finally granted our homeland.
For 67 miraculous years, we have blossomed and flourished. This did not come easy and we have paid a hefty tax. We lost many more precious lives. Many brave soldiers who fought for our freedom died. Innocent people murdered by terrorists are gone forever from our midst. We will never forget them either. Again, we the Jewish people swear to remember devoting Yom Hazikaron to memorialize their eternal contribution.
All of this led up our Independence and we can never forget the historical sequence of events that preceded it. Our freedom and Independence is not merely a means to live, love and prosper. It is our long awaited destiny. One that cost blood, sweat and tears. One bound in promise, not only a Divine promise from the past but our promise owed, to make good on, now and in the future. One that comes with great responsibility and moral obligations.
We celebrate our freedom as we should, but freedom was never the end game. Freedom is just the beginning. It enables us to work and build a brighter future. So relax and enjoy Yom Haatzmaut because tomorrow we have work to do.