Two days from today, Israeli Jews will celebrate Israel’s Independence Day. On that day, in 1948, while still repelling the charge of six Arab armies and immediately following the departure of the forces of the British Mandate, the leadership of the Jewish settlement in Israel declared the establishment of the State of Israel. Since that fateful day, we have not been independent. Moreover, we have yet to learn the meaning of the word, in its true and deepest sense.
In order to be independent, we need to learn what independence means and what denies us independence. According to Webster’s Dictionary, being independent means that you are a) “not subject to control by others,” b) “not requiring or relying on something else,” c) “not requiring or relying on others (as for care or livelihood),” and other, less significant definitions.
These definitions leave the most important aspect of our freedom untouched. Worse yet, in today’s world, Webster’s definitions of independence are impossible to carry out; we are all dependent on each other, living in an interconnected and interdependent world.
We could try going to the woods to live there independently. Some people do it, but for their perceived freedom, they give up every bit of amenity that civilization grants us, but even then, they are not really free. Besides, is it worth relinquishing the comforts of civilization for the sake of declaring yourself free? Clearly, most people do not think it is worthwhile.
So what does it mean to be independent if we are forced to be dependent on every thing and every one, and have no choice in the matter? Being independent means redeeming ourselves from the sneakiest, yet most powerful enslavement: to our own egos.
Like it or not, we cannot resist our ego. If it tells us to do something, we will do it. If we decide to go against it, it will be our own ego pretending to go against itself, manipulating us into doing what it wants.
Therefore, independence means liberation from our ego. How can we achieve this? If we think of others rather than ourselves, we will have become liberated from our egos.
Think of a mother who loves her child. She does not think about what she needs unless she needs it in order to enable her to keep tending to her child. She is not free from her ego because in her perception, her child is a part of her. Nevertheless, if we were to feel like this toward people who are unrelated to us, and toward whom we have no ulterior motive, that would be liberation from our ego, and then we would see how difficult it is to truly be free.
The State of Israel, returning to our subject, will win its independence only when Israelis are an example of independence from the ego. The Jewish people became a nation when they rose above their egos and united “as one man with one heart” at the foot of Mt. Sinai 3,800 years ago. Immediately after, they were given the task to set an example for the rest of the world.
Until the establishment of the Israeli nation, there was no precedent of a large collective of individuals from vying tribes and nations uniting above their differences for the sake of forming a new nation whose supreme value is love of others. But the people of Israel achieved it and therefore became indebted to the world to lead it toward independence from the shackles of the ego.
I think it would be wise to contemplate this idea this coming Independence Day. If we regain our independence from the ego, we will regain our respect from the world and the acceptance of the nations. We cannot be freed from our obligation to humanity to set an example of liberation from the ego. As long as we display division and self-absorption, we will be regarded as pariahs. But if we are true to our vocation, we will love each other and the world will love us, because we will show the way for them to love each other.