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The Most Important Day of the Year?

What is the most important day in the Jewish calendar?  In a recent survey of dental hygienists from Des Moines, four out of five chose Yom Kippur, which is a fine choice, but I want to introduce an alternate unsung contender.

People who struggle with faith often wonder where to find God or ask that God send us a sign of His existence.  I believe strongly that God does send us such signs, though He leaves room for skepticism in keeping with the fundamental principle that we have free choice in this world.  In recent years, we have experienced incredible miracles, events that are almost impossible to explain through regular experience, and yet many of us remain unconvinced.   Just in the last number of weeks we witnessed a great miracle as the Iranian attack against Israel was almost completely foiled which many have downplayed but when we look at all the factors involved, could this be anything but miraculous?  As we celebrate Jerusalem Day and we go back 57 years, is it possible to doubt the miraculous nature of the Six Day War?

To describe all the supernatural events during those six days would fill many pages, but briefly, Israel was surrounded by its Arab enemies who threatened to throw the Jews into the sea (yes, the river to the sea chant has a rather ignoble past).  A great fear enveloped Israel as officials quietly prepared cemeteries and thousands of body bags for the expected massacre of Jews by the bloodthirsty Arab armies egged on by their leaders to destroy the Jewish state.  And yet, as the world looked on preparing its eulogy for Israel, 188 Israeli planes in a masterful stroke dubbed Operation Moked, flew under the radar and pre-emptively wiped out the Egyptian Air Force in the course of a few minutes while the Egyptians were at breakfast, giving Israel mastery of the air and basically winning the war in the first few hours of June 5, 1967.

Prime Minister Eshkol then sent a message to Jordan, the occupier of Judea and Samaria, pleading for Jordan to stay out of the war but King Hussein, acting upon the ridiculous boasts of Egypt that they were on the road to annihilate Israel, ignored Israel’s pleas.  In the course of two days, Israel, forced to defend herself from Jordan, was able to capture not only all of Judea and Samaria, but the Old City of Jerusalem, punctuated by the golden words of Motta Gur, “Har habayit b’yadeinu, har habayit b’yadeinu” (the Temple Mount is in our hands, the Temple Mount is in our hands), historic words that echo throughout Jewish history.  Add to this the capture of the Sinai, the Golan Heights, and yes, Gaza, more than tripling the size of Israel, and many people expected the Messiah to emerge in Jerusalem by Shavuot, just a few days later.

Of course, like the Purim story, one can easily ascribe these astonishing victories to military intelligence, superior hardware, coincidence etc. etc. but for those of us who are looking for God’s signs in the world, beyond God calling all of us, it’s hard to think of a clearer indication that God is the Guardian of Israel who has our collective back.  With the events of the last few months, peaceful and messianic times may seem further away than ever, and it is very easy to again feel the gloom and doom of May 1967.   The message of Jerusalem Day is thus especially crucial now as we see an absolutely inverted mortal code governing most of the world, with people siding with terrorists and using Orwellian language to attack Israel and the Jewish people.  If we feel like we are losing faith, let us both study and celebrate the events that happened 57 years ago.

For this reason, I contend that, especially this year, Jerusalem Day may be the most important day of the Jewish calendar, as it reminds us, regardless of the skeptics and scoffers, that God plays a direct role in our world.  Unlike the ancient miracles of Passover or Chanukah, these are contemporary miracles with empirical evidence through audio, video and first-hand reporting.  As Rabbi Norman Lamm reports in his book “Foundation of Faith” regarding the 1948 War of Independence, a non-religious Marxist turns to his friend and exclaims, “I still don’t believe in God, but I am certain that He performs miracles”. We don’t know how, why and when God directly intervenes with these public miracles (as opposed to the constant “ordinary” miracles that sustain our world) but we can all gain strength today by celebrating the great miracles of our return to Jerusalem amidst the knowledge that if we merit it, God will continue to perform miracles for us.  We look forward to the release of the hostages immediately and a world in which Jews can live peacefully without the need for public miracles.

About the Author
Maury Kelman is a rabbi and attorney, chairman of Kedma, rabbi of Congregation Agudath Achim and also oversees Route 613, a halakhic conversion program.
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