Seeing the throngs in Gan Sacher and all around the country coming together for festive meals on Yom Ha’atzmaut is incredible! The joy, the unity, the stories, the everything has always stimulated feelings of connection to the vision behind our state and love for our homeland.
Years ago, I remember hearing in Yeshiva that (perhaps) unintentionally deep religious gatherings such as these can eventually determine deeply rooted customs for future generations. Especially for the generations completing the ingathering of the exiles and returning to Zion, rekindling our love for our people, our homeland and our tradition becomes paramount. To me it feels like a primordial call to move forward; a hearkening to an ancient monument at once both deeply rooted within and branching out before us. Yom Ha’atzmaut is the oldest new holiday we have.
Within the parameters of this dichotomy I want to mention David Shaltiel. In the War of Independence Shaltiel was the Haganah district commander of Jerusalem. He was fundamental in a vast number of ways to the success of our independence and after the war went on to found the Border Police Corp, used until today. In many ways our country is modernised and founded with such a view in mind. But the people are an ancient culture. And the inspiration that Shaltiel gives me has just as much to do with the great feats he performed for us but also his eye on our tradition. In the course of the Independence War the mission to push back Jordanian forces and unite Jerusalem had been attempted. Although it failed at the time, Shaltiel had prepared something incredible in my eyes. He famously had a sheep set aside so that in the event the mission objective was achieved he could bring the sheep as a Korban on the Temple Mount. Although not a fully observant Jew, Shaltiel heard the primordial call. He united the new with the old. As Herzl put it: Altneuland – the old-new land.
Today, as the masses of people go out and enjoy the land and effect a connection I too wish to unite the old and new in Vision. “If we will it, it is no dream.” The opportunity awaits to not only eat together and connect in that way but to deeper a level; to build another story to our monument. A new Mizbeach can be built. It can be small and it can be in an area of the Temple Mount that bothers nobody and requires no destruction of any building on the Temple Mount. The stones for it have been prepared, it only need be assembled. In my wish to unite the old with the new, I would wish to bring even today (Bli Neder) a Korban on this Mizbeach. And this comes from a deep desire to connect, as we do today. Doing this would transform and elevate my experience of celebrating the return of my people to their homeland and national purpose.
I’m thinking it be a Mincha offering – a vegetarian sacrifice of flour, oil and frankincense. After all, would this not be symbolic of the first Chief Rabbi of pre-state Israel, Rabbi A. I. Kook, who stated that in the future all sacrifices would be vegetarian and was himself a vegetarian.
And in the celebrations of our national rebirth this year I remember our national charge to be a nation that performs justice, spreads truth and does acts of lovingkindness to all peoples.