Parsha Kedoshim -one of the two Torah Parshat that will be read this Saturday in the Synagogue (or privately if you are not in Synagogue.)
In Chapter 20 of the book of Leviticus, verse 24, it states:
I promised you: You will inherit their land, since I will give it to you to possess, a land flowing with milk and honey. I am the LORD your God who set you apart from the peoples.”
This verse will be read from the Torah. What a coincidence we just had the Independence Day of the State yesterday Yom Ha’atzmaut 2020 in Israel began in the evening of Tuesday, 28 April, and ends in the evening of Wednesday, 29 April 2020.
Now in the year that the Independence day actually happened, 1948, the parsha of the week was Emor, the following Parsha, but as they say, it was close enough for government work.
Independence Day (Hebrew: יום העצמאות Yom Ha’atzmaut, lit. “Day of Independence”) is the national Day of Israel, commemorating the Israel Declaration of Independence in 1948. The day is marked by official and unofficial ceremonies and observances.
Because Israel declared independence on 14 May 1948, which corresponded with the Hebrew date of Iyar 5 in that year in that year, Yom Ha’atzmaut was originally celebrated on that date. However, to avoid Sabbath desecration, it may be commemorated one or two days before or after the 5th of Iyar if it falls too close to the Jewish Sabbath Yom Hazikaron, the Israeli Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism Remembrance Day is always scheduled for the day preceding Independence Day.
In the Hebrew calendar, days begin in the evening. The next occurrence of Yom Haatzmaut took place yesterday on 28–29 April 2020.
Now that should be the end of the story. The bible predicted our return, we returned, all the Jews should be here and we would have a sweet ending with the Moshiach.
Unfortunately, life isn’t that simple. We have a dispute among the Jews as to the religious significance of the State of Israel
Two basic attitudes towards the religious significance of the State of Israel are prevalent within the contemporary Orthodox community. The non-Orthodox community thinks about Israel from a secular viewpoint. It appreciates the miracles of the State but doesn’t justify it based on the Torah.
The “charedi” (ultra-Orthodox) position contends that we can grant no religious significance to the State, and some even view the State as a negative phenomenon. The second position is the “messianic” approach, which applies to the Jewish State all the words with which Rav Kook zt”l described the State well before its establishment: “The foundation of God’s Throne in the world, whose entire desire is that God shall be One and His Name shall be One.”
Rav Kook lived in extraordinary times and witnessed the striking phenomenon of the Jewish People’s national renewal in their ancestral homeland. This amazing turn of events was a complex reality that demanded a complex perspective. Rav Kook’s greatness lay in the fact that he did not settle on just one viewpoint regarding the return of the people to Zion; rather, he saw the entire process with all its inherent difficulties and complexities, both the rays of light and the dark shadows. And, indeed, there were plenty of dark shadows.
Throughout the unfolding process of the Return to Zion, a difficult and painful problem presented itself: those who brought about the process were not Torah observant. It would have been far simpler were the return to the land to have been accompanied by a return to the Torah. Unfortunately, though, this is not what happened. The major personalities of the Zionist movement abandoned, for the most part, the religious lifestyle, and thus the return to Israel involved a rebellion against Jewish tradition and a rejection of Torah and mitzvot.
Rav Kook’s struggle with this dilemma is well-known: he consistently defended the secularists who built the country, insisting that one cannot judge them superficially, according to their actions alone. One must rather probe the general spiritual processes underlying the entire historical development, and thereby arrive at a deeper understanding of the specific spiritual phenomena occurring in those who live during this period.
Indeed, observance of the general, national Torah is especially difficult, far more difficult than observing the Torah of the individual. For Torah and mitzvot come to purify mankind, and the process of purifying the entire people, as a society that requires national-governmental matters, is much more complicated than the purification of each individual as a specific person. For our obligation is not merely to be holy as individuals, but additionally and especially to be “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation”.
Pure spirituality returned to its previous level once it had been severed from active national existence. Rav Kook then allows us to share his uncertainty: how do we know when the process of recovery has been completed, when the time to renew our national existence in our land has arrived?
To whom has been revealed the divine secret, to know when the nation and the land have been totally purified from their contamination? … No one among us knows. Therefore, our eyes look to find the hidden secrets where they can be found – in the vision of the revealed time of redemption, of which our sages said: There is no time when redemption is more revealed [than when the Land of Israel is fruitful], as is stated, “But you, O mountains of Israel, shall yield your produce and bear your fruit for My people Israel, for their return is near.”
Rav Kook was convinced that the corrupt Western culture would collapse after the First World War. The end has finally arrived, he presumed, to the culture of falsehood that was based on trickery and corruption (Orot Ha-milchama, p.15):
Did Rav Kook ever imagine – was he capable of imagining – that World War I would not be the most horrible of wars? Did it ever occur to him that the culture of bloodshed would not crumble, but would rather continue to thrive? Rav Kook’s optimism is the optimism before Auschwitz and Hiroshima. As “dwarves on the shoulders of a giant,” we know that the culture of murderers has yet to be eliminated. The time has not yet arrived when a government can be conducted according to the principles of righteousness and honesty. The bloodshed has not spared us even now, in the aftermath of the Holocaust: to this very day, we find ourselves caught in a frightening web of military confrontation, and our enemies continue to wage a bloody battle against us.
Rav Kook’s optimistic vision predicted that as Jewish autonomy develops, so will its moral image. And specifically this development, as we saw earlier, affords the Jewish State its exalted stature and guarantees the correction of past misdeeds. Let us now take an honest look at the society before us today. Does contemporary Israeli society live up to Rav Kook’s vision? Can we say about the State of Israel that “theft, robbery, murder and the like are not even heard of?!” The violence, corruption and growing tensions among the various segments of society prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that we have not reached the ideal state of which Rav Kook dreamt long before the establishment of our State of Israel.
How can we not thank the Almighty for all the kindness that He has showered upon us? First and foremost, the State of Israel serves as a safe haven for eight million Jews today.. After the nightmare of the Holocaust, hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees wandered around the globe, finding a home and refuge only in Israel. The State has contributed an incalculable amount to the restoration of Jewish pride after the devastating chillul Hashem (desecration of God’s Name) caused by the Holocaust. Today, too, the State plays an enormous role in the Jewish identity of our brethren throughout the world. For so many of them, the emotional attachment to the State
Are we not obligated to thank the Almighty for His kindness towards us? Unquestionably! And not just on Yom Ha-atzma’ut; each day we must recite Hallel seven times for the wonders and miracles He has performed on our behalf: “I praise you seven times each day!”
Furthermore, our very existence in Israel comprises the fulfillment of the prophets’ visions:
There shall yet be old men and women in the squares of Jerusalem, each with staff in hand because of their great age. And the squares of the city shall be crowded with boys and girls playing in the squares. Zechariah 8:4-5
Regarding this vision, the prophet declares,
Just as it will seem impossible to the remnant of these people in those days, so shall it also seem impossible to Me, declares the Lord of Hosts. (8:6)
What is it that seems impossible in the eyes of God? What we see with our own eyes each day: elderly people in the streets of Jerusalem! (at least before the Corona when they are stuck inside!) The complete redemption has yet to unfold, and we have yet to be privileged to live in a state that represents “the foundation of the Divine Throne in the world.” But we have been privileged to witness the gathering of a large portion of the Jewish People to our homeland, and this phenomenon itself is to be considered the “atchalta de-ge’ula” (“beginning of the redemption”).
Certain characterizing features of the time of redemption have, indeed, appeared. We must sing praises to the Almighty for even this partial redemption, which still lacks the completion of the promise and hope in this time of Corona we deserve full redemption.