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Itzchak Evan-Shayish
Dedicated to sharing Rav Kook's lights with the world.

Rav Kook In Honor Of Yom Ha’Atzmaut: The State of Israel And Nationalism

מדינתנו, מדינת ישראל, יסוד כסא ד’ בעולם, שכל חפצה הוא שיהיה ד’ אחד ושמו אחד

“Our state, the State of Israel is the foundation of God’s throne in the world. Her whole desire is that God will be one and God’s Name one.”  (Rav Kook, Notebook 1:186)

The sweep of history.

Frightening…extraordinary.

Last week, the State of Israel marked-יום הזיכרון לשואה ולגבורה-Holocaust and Heroism Memorial Day.

We remembered, we listened to the ever fewer survivors. 

Some wept.

On Tuesday night/Wednesday, the State of Israel marks –יום הזיכרון לחללי מערכות ישראל ולנפגעי פעולות האיבה-Memorial Day for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terrorism.

We remember and honor the more than 24,068  soldiers and over 3,000 civilians that have fallen in the ongoing battle for Israel’s survival. Many mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters cry. It is the saddest day of the Israeli year.

Most associate it with the fallen of the Israel Defense Forces since 1948 but the actual counting is for all who fell since January 1 1873 when Aharon Hershler Z’L  was killed by a gang of Arabs in ‘Mishkenot Sha’ananim-Peaceful Habitations’  after he tried to stop them from attacking this first new settlement in the rebuilding of Israel. (1)

And then we reach a day of huge celebration.

The fifth of Iyar-the day in 1948 that the modern State of Israel was declared. This occurred on Friday, May 14-eight hours before the end of the British Mandate of Palestine, which was due to finish on May 15 1948.

The operative paragraph of the Declaration of the Establishment of -מדינת ישראל- the State of Israel of 14 May 1948 says:

By virtue of our natural and historic right and on the strength of the resolution of the United Nations General Assembly, we hereby declare the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz Israel, to be known as מדינת ישראל– the State of Israel.”

The new state was quickly recognized by the Soviet Union, the United States de facto, and many other countries, but not by the surrounding Arab states, who immediately marched with their troops into the area of the former British Mandate.  The rest is modern Jewish history or ‘our story’- often referred to as ‘the Arab-Israeli conflict’.

How did we get the name מדינת ישראל-Medinat Israel-The State of Israel? In the days leading up to Iyar 5/May 14 1948, a committee was debating the name of the country about to be announced. ‘Zion’, ‘Yehuda’, ‘Eretz Israel-The Land of Israel’ were all considered and rejected. At the last moment, Ben Gurion decided to call it: 

מדינת  ישראל-Medinat Israel.

It was however not the first time this phrase was used in the 20th century. Rabbi Avraham Itzchak HaCohen Kook ZT’L is known by his acronym רב הראי”ה. It literally means ‘the rabbi of vision’. Quite appropriate-not only was he ahead of his time, he is also ahead of our time.

This world is currently divided into nation-states. For the most part, they are in military or economic competition with each other. The current Russian assault on Ukraine is symptomatic of a great sickness in the world. Pockets of cooperation that exist are based primarily on mutual self interest. 

Nationalism is not human kind at its best. 

In entry 186 of Notebook Aleph (written around 1919), Rav Kook wrote:

אין המדינה האושר היותר עליון של האדם. זה ניתן להאמר במדינה רגילה, שאינה עולה לערך יותר גדול מחברת אחריות גדולה, שנשארו המון האידיאות, שהם עטרת החיים של האנושיות, מרחפים ממעל לה, ואינם נוגעים בה

The nation is not the highest level of happiness for humankind. This can certainly be said about most regular countries whose value is not more than a large mutual insurance pact.  Ideals, which are the crown of human life, are irrelevant and beyond their purview.

מה שאין כן מדינה שהיא ביסודה אידיאלית, שחקוק בהווייתה תוכן האידיאלי היותר עליון, שהוא באמת האושר היותר גדול של היחיד. מדינה זו היא באמת היותר עליונה בסולם האושר

This is not the case with a nation whose foundation is idealistic. A nation in which the highest content is embedded into its very being. This type of nation offers the highest happiness for the individual and it is the highest level in the ladder of satisfaction.

ומדינה זו היא מדינתנו, מדינת ישראל

And this nation is our nation, the State of Israel.

Let us remember that this was written around 1910 and is perhaps the first use of the name מדינת ישראל -MEDINAT ISRAEL in history.

What is special about Medinat Israel? He continues:

יסוד כסא ד’ בעולם, שכל חפצה הוא שיהיה ד’ אחד ושמו אחד, שזהו באמת האושר היותר עליון.

It is the foundation of G-d’s Throne in the world, and all its desire is that HaShem will be one and His Name one-this is truly the highest happiness.

The reason for Israel’s existence is to reflect the Divine Oneness in the world. While most nations are devoted to their material existence and survival, Israel’s raison d’etre is linked to helping humankind realize its highest ideals.

To bring this potential into actuality is an extraordinary challenge. Rav Kook explains this as the ongoing task that began with Abraham and continues to this very day:

“Abraham heard the vast realm of the divine calling to existence: Be illuminated; calling to every living being: Fill yourself with happiness, greatness, loftiness, peace, good strength, love and delight…

The people of Israel took this aspiration as the basis of its national existence, as conditioned by its historic destiny…

Our strong commitment to assure the continuity of Judaism with its ideas and patterns of behavior, together with its corporate self on its own land, stems from the widespread recognition that we still have a long distance to travel in order to complete what we began.

We began to say something of immense importance among ourselves and to the world, but we have not yet completed it. We are in the midst of our discourse, and we do not wish-we are unable-to stop…” (Erech HaTechiya-Significance of the Revival,-Boktzer translation, p. 283/284)

The State of Israel is about to celebrate its 74th year of independence. It is in an ongoing process of learning, trial and error, accomplishment and discovery. It is by many parameters becoming one of the most successful countries in the world. It is ranked as the 11th happiest country in the world-out of 150. The number of simchas-celebrations per capita is probably the highest in the world. It is certainly a place of great idealism and many people and organizations are devoted to bettering life, locally and globally, in all sorts of ways.

When was the second time the phrase “מדינת ישראל -MEDINAT ISRAEL” was used?

In 1921, Rav Kook wrote a manifesto “דגל ירושלים-The Flag of Jerusalem” calling on all to join the idealistic spiritual work of rebuilding and revivifying the Land of Israel. Towards its conclusion he invites:

באו ונרים את דגלה של מדינת ישראל כארץ ישראל במלא מובנה….

“Let us raise the flag of the State of Israel in the Land of Israel in its full meaning…” 

-במהרה בימינו- Immediately in our days.

 יום העצמאות שמח -Happiest Israel Independence Day

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1)The first ‘counted’ fallen of the ongoing war is Aharon Hershler, Z’L, who on January 1, 1873 was killed by a gang of Arabs in Mishkenot Sha’ananim after he tried to stop them from attacking this first settlement. http://goo.gl/sg8zn6

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Prepared by Rabbi Itzchak Evan-Shayish, haorot@gmail.com ,www.haorot.com  

About the Author
Rabbi Itzchak Evan-Shayish (Marmorstein) is a passionate student of the teachings of Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook (1865- 1935) He is doing pioneering work in bringing Rav Kook to the public through classes, writings and creative musical and dramatic presentations in Israel and all over the world. He is the gabbai and educator at Beit HaRav Kook Synagogue in Jerusalem. He is the chairman of Ohr LeRayah, a Jerusalem based organization dedicated to sharing the universal teachings of Rav Kook with the whole world. (www.haorot.com). He is a musmach of Rabbi Zalman Nechemia Goldberg, Z"L , Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach Z’L and Rabbi Zalman Schacter-Shalomi Z'L.
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