Daniel Raphael Silverstein
Rabbi, educator, meditation teacher and MC/poet.

The Meaning of This Yom Ha’Atzma’ut

For many of us who care deeply about Israel and the Jewish People, the past seven months have sometimes seemed like a terrible nightmare.

Several of the factors which underlie our sense of security have been severely undermined, which has given rise to a widespread experience of heightened vulnerability.

Many of the stabilizing stories that we previously told ourselves were punctured by the cruel events of October 7, and the subsequent war:

Our intelligence services are several steps ahead of our enemies;

Our security services are bound to respond rapidly and effectively to any danger we face;

Our government will perform their duties with a basic degree of care and competence that ensures our collective well-being;

Our most significant strategic ally understands our existential security concerns; and

The western world is fundamentally sympathetic to our struggle for our survival.

It’s important to note that these assumptions, which we relied upon before October 7, were fine while they lasted, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with them. In fact, it’s still in our best interest to strive to create a reality where they are as true as possible.

However – and this is a paradigm shift for our identities – now that they have been revealed as unreliable, our sense of security can longer be based upon them.

And so, this Yom Ha’Atzma’ut, what remains?

What does our independence mean this year?

To put it most starkly: How can we sleep at night, and raise our children here, without the above factors, that once seemed to assure our safety?

What I’ve witnessed since October 7, in myself and others around me, is a process both heart-wrenching and inspiring.

As the principles listed above have evaporated, the people who live and work around me have not collapsed or sought to emigrate. What I’ve experienced and observed is that when our internal mechanisms for creating a sense of safety no longer function effectively, we seek new ones, which are more reliable. In other words, we adapt, both as individuals and communities, to our new reality.

As they have fallen away, they have been replaced, in my own experience and that of people around me, with two qualities: Emunah and Tikvah.

Emunah is usually translated as ‘faith,’ but it is really something far more proactive and empowering. The root of ‘Emunah’ (אמנ) denotes the faithful dedication of a parent or artist, who attends to their child or masterpiece with loving constancy.

Emunah is something that we are responsible for crafting and nourishing, in ourselves and in every collective sphere we inhabit, with creativity, care and consistency. It is something we are called to invest in with every breath we take.

Emunah is sometimes confused for certainty, or perhaps more accurately, the pretense of certainty. In fact, it involves living with the profound truth of not-knowing, as the Ba’al Shem Tov and his students repeatedly emphasized. To engage with life as it actually is, they reminded us, requires us to courageously acknowledge the limits of our knowledge and our control.

The inner work of Emunah is also the work of exercising awareness and agency over our own thoughts, from which flow our words and actions. According to Rav Kook, Emunah necessitates refining our imaginations and creating the inner reality that enables us to heal the world around us.

To survive and manifest our best selves, to give our fullest gifts to the world, we need Emunah in ourselves, our potential, and in life itself. To mold a healthy society and a healthy planet, we need Emunah in our partners, and in the essential goodness of our shared endeavor.

Closely related to Emunah is Tikvah. Tikvah means ‘hope,’ and HaTikvah, ‘The Hope’ is the name of our national anthem. In Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones being resurrected, the bones themselves say, “Our hope is lost, we are doomed” (Ezekiel 37:11). HaTikvah’s author, Naftali Herz Imber, took that grim line from Ezekiel and turned it on its head: “Our hope is not yet lost” (עוֹד לֹא אָבְדָה תִּקְוָתֵנוּ).

When we consider the millennia of exile and oppression that this Tikvah helped us to overcome, we can appreciate its immense power.

The root of Tikvah (קוה) denotes stretching, straining, calling or invoking something. The word ‘kav’ (קו) means a measuring line and a ‘mikveh’ (מקוה) is a gathering of water.

In Kabbalah, ‘kav’ is the name given to the line or beam of life-force that makes life in our Universe possible. To hope is to yearn for, and to carry, the very possibility of existence itself. What greater exemplar of hope is there than our people’s story of expulsion, dispersion, persecution, and eventual return to our home?

Emunah and Tikvah might seem a little intangible, particularly in the modern Middle East. But when we consider our journey through history, we can glimpse their potency.

For me, at least, this is what remains on this Yom Ha’atzma’ut.

The old stories we depended upon have faded away.

Let us support ourselves, and help one another, to find new sources of strength and security, new depths of Emunah and new wells of Tikvah.

Our People lives – עם ישראל חי!

We are still here after thousands of years, and still shining with beauty and vitality.

May our new reality empower us to overcome the challenges we face, and to bring ever greater blessing to the entire world.

About the Author
Daniel Raphael Silverstein is a rabbi, educator, meditation teacher and MC/poet. He lives in Israel with his family, where he directs Applied Jewish Spirituality, an online portal which makes the transformative spiritual wisdom of our tradition accessible to all who seek it.
Related Topics
Related Posts