ISRAEL INDEPENDENCE DAY – HARAV DOV BEGON

The present crisis will quickly lead to a great movement of return to ourselves, our Torah, our roots, our Father in Heaven. Through this, we will merit to see not only the physical building of our country, but also the revealed benevolent soul of our nation which will shine on the entire world. As Rav Kook said, “The State of Israel is the foundation of God’s throne on earth.”

 

“In the Multitude is the King’s Glory”

by HaRav Dov Begon, Rosh Yeshiva of Machon Meir.

Ezekiel 36 describes the gradual process of Israel’s redemption. The first stage is the ingathering of the exiles, as it says, “I will take you from among the nations, and gather you out of all the countries, and will bring you into your own land” (verse 24). Our sages as well (Sanhedrin 98a), in their answer to the question about what is the sign of the end of exile, point to the ingathering of the exiles and the flowering of the Land:

“Rabbi Abba said: You have no greater sign of the revealed end of days than this, as it says, ‘But you, O mountains of Israel, shall shoot forth your branches and yield your fruit to My people Israel; for they are at hand to come’” (Ezekiel 36:8).

After the ingathering of the exiles and the flowering of the Land, as in our own day, will come a stage of national purification, and that, too, will come in stages: “I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean. From all your uncleanness and from all your idols will I cleanse you” (36:25). We shall be cleansed of all those influences of the exile that clung to us when we were amongst the nations, and which led to assimilation, weakness and divisiveness, controversy and groundless hatred. Israel in the exile is likened to a precious jewel that has been sullied in dirt and mud. In Eretz Yisrael we shall be purified by a return to our Torah and to Jewish tradition.

The next stage of spiritual improvement shall be: “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you. I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh” (verse 26). The new heart and spirit will replace our hearts of stone that have no sensitivity to our fellow man, and sometimes no feeling at all, with a feeling, sensitive heart, a good heart, that will have an influence on the lives of the individual, the family and the entire nation.

Regarding the third stage it says, “I will put My spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you shall keep My ordinances and do them” (verse 27). In other words, we will keep the Torah and its mitzvot, and we shall be the living fulfillment of God’s words:

You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and you shall be My people, and I will be your God. . . . I will cause the cities to be inhabited, and the waste places shall be built. The land that was desolate shall be tilled. . . . Then the nations that are left round about you shall know that I, the Lord have built the ruined places, and planted that which was desolate; I the Lord have spoken it, and I will do it (verses 36:28,33,36).

In those days, the Jewish People, settled in their land, shall experience enormous natural growth, as it says:

Thus says the Lord God: I will yet for this be inquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them. I will multiply them, the men, like a flock. . . . The waste cities shall be filled with flocks of men; and they shall know that I am the Lord (verse 37).

Today, as we set out to celebrate over seventy years to the State of Israel, we must ponder and observe with our own eyes the reality in which we live, through the vision of the prophets of Israel, and the vision of Ezekiel specifically. How fortunate we are to be at the height of the ingathering of the exiles – millions of Jews are already living in the Land, and, God willing, millions more will come home. The land is flowering and developing in gigantic strides, economically, in terms of infrastructure and the building of cities and towns. All of this is preparation for the next stage: investing spiritual content into our national home, which will come about gradually, giving us a “a new heart and a new spirit,” referring to the great repentance that will characterize the coming generations.

The first buds of this process are already discernable in our own generation, by way of the awakening of interest and respect for the Torah and for Jewish tradition. This thirst will increase as we advance upward on the path to complete redemption. The return to Torah and to faith will also bring about a change in the demographic situation in Israel. The Jewish People will increase, as we are witnessing today, especially in religious families. Those families cut off in the Holocaust will be privileged to see how they will increase remarkably. Indeed, families of survivors that have dozens of grandchildren and great-grandchildren are already not a rare sight in our streets.

Six-hundred-thousand Jews left Egypt and with six-hundred-thousand we established the State of Israel. Already we merit to have over six-million Jews in Israel. Soon this number will constitute a majority of the Jews living today, and “in the multitude of the people is the King’s glory” (Proverbs 14:28).

The more the Jews proliferate in Israel, the more it will be revealed for all to see that Hashem, the God of Israel, is King, and His Kingdom rules over all. By such means, “all the inhabitants of the earth will recognize and know that every knee will prostrate itself before You and every tongue will swear before You . . . All will undertake the yoke of Your Kingdom, and You shall reign over them forever and ever. . . . As it says, ‘The Lord shall be King over all the earth. On that day shall He be one and His name one’” (Aleinu).

“May Our Eyes See Your Return In Mercy  To Zion.”

In 1956, Rav Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook said:

“We must be very joyous on Independence Day. We must be joyous over the revelation of the Divine Presence, the return to Zion, and the rebirth of the Jewish People. All the rebuilding, rebirth and survival of the State of Israel is interwoven with great miracles that God has shown us. . . . Fifty years ago who could have imagined that the Turks, who ruled triumphantly over our land, would be entirely ousted? Ten years ago, would anyone have thought that mighty England would be forced to give up its rule over our country? Every tractor and tank and plane defending our country has divine holiness. Every aspect and every detail is a revelation of the divine, national content of the holiness of Israel. Even if many lack this awareness that it is Divine Providence which guides what is occurring, that is the reality. It is solid fact that will not go away, whether or not people recognize it. . . .

“True, the entire land has not yet been conquered – even Jerusalem, the sanctuary of our kingdom is not yet entirely in our hands [This was eleven years before the Six Day War]. In both quality and quantity, our rule over the Land must be completed and developed. Yet the State’s establishment constitutes the revelation of the Divine Kingdom, and we must be exceedingly joyful on Yom HaAtzma’ut over having merited to become an independent country. . . .” (Sichot HaRav Tzvi Yehuda Kook, on the 5th Israel Independence Day).

If some seventy-plus years ago, when the State of Israel was at the start of its path, we were required to rejoice over the kindness God performed for us in establishing a State, all the more so now when over six-million Jews live here. Israel is making enormous strides. It is becoming one of the strongest countries militarily and economically. We see clearly how the words, “May our eyes see [tirena] Your kingdom” [from the kedusha prayer] are being fulfilled – through our tangible nation state. The day is not far off when we will all merit the fulfillment of the entreaty, “May our eyes see [ve’techezena] Your return in mercy to Zion,” [from the Amida prayer] not just the restoration of the kingdom, but the restoration of the soul to the Temple sanctuary. We have merited tirena, referring to external vision. Now our eyes are raised to God in hopes of techezena, a more spiritual vision. (ibid, Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook).

From Political to Spiritual Independence

The political independence which we merited in 1948 was the preface to Israel’s developing a national character. As is known, there are two main stages in the rebirth of the Jewish People in their land, as alluded to in the blessings preceding the Shema prayer: (1) “Break the yoke from our necks and (2) make us go upright to our land.” The first stage consists of the physical rebirth of the nation. After two thousand years of exile, during which time we were compared to dry bones (Ezekiel 37), we are now privileged to live as a free people in our land. The second stage consists of the rebirth of the soul of the Jewish People – Israel’s reappearance as a unique spiritual entity, “a nation created by God to tell His praise” (Isaiah 43:21).

Just as the transition from exile to political independence involved enormous difficulties, struggles and wars until we merited a state of our own, so does the transition from political to spiritual independence naturally involve internal and external difficulties and struggles. With every transition that one undergoes, one must be very patient until matters ultimately become clarified. Whether the issue is the move from childhood to adulthood or from adulthood to old age, there is a clarification process fraught with hardships and crises.

Frequently we find ourselves in fierce election campaigns in which some of the parties and candidates for national leadership are struggling to attain the reins of power with the intent of influencing the spiritual fabric of the State of Israel. These struggles are a concrete expression of the transition process from political independence to clarification of the identity, common ground and purpose of the Jewish People as they ascend on the path towards salvation and complete redemption. We must struggle to advance, and at the same time, arm ourselves with patience and faith, until God’s promise is fulfilled: “You will be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation to Me” (Exodus 19:6).

The State of Israel, Foundation of God’s Throne on Earth

A hundred years ago, Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook, zt”l wrote about the difference between the State of Israel (which at the time was still just a vision) and the rest of the nations of the world:

“A normal country is like a large insurance company. It is not the source of its citizen’s supreme joy. Ideals, which are the crowning glory of mankind, hover above a country and do not touch it. Not so a country founded on ideals and inherently based on the loftiest message. Such countries truly constitute their citizen’s greatest joy. Therefore, the State of Israel is truly the most supreme on the scale of joy, and it constitutes the foundation of God’s throne on earth. Its entire purpose is that God should be one and His Name one, truly the greatest source of joy” (see Orot 160).

We conclude our daily prayers with the words, “The Lord shall be King over all the earth. On that day shall the Lord be One and His Name one” (Zechariah 14:9). In the future, people will be so happy that even in response to strict divine justice for which we presently recite, “Blessed is the Judge of Truth” (as we do today upon bad tidings of a death), they will recite, “Blessed is He who is good and benevolent”, which is presently recited only upon good tidings. (See Pesachim 50a). All this will come to pass when the State of Israel appears and is revealed in all its greatness and glory.

To many, Rav Kook’s vision of the State of Israel that will serve as a light to the nations, seems to be crumbling before our eyes, as we witness spiritual and moral deterioration occurring among some of our leaders who speak of plans to cut off portions of our homeland. On the birthday of our beloved country, while we rejoice over the millions of Jews who are being gathered in from the world over, and the enormous economic development – we ask ourselves, seeing the nadir to which we have fallen: Shall we ever emerge from the moral and spiritual crisis visiting our country?

Rav Kook taught with full certainty that all this is a descent for the sake of ascent:

“All those building up the nation will arrive at the depths of this truth, that our nation will be built and consolidated, and will be restored to its strength, to all the foundations of its life by way of its faith and its fear of God, its hallowed noble content spreading and becoming stronger and more developed. Then, with a voice full of valor and might they will proclaim with a loud cry, ‘Come, let us return to God!’” (Orot HaTeshuvah 15:11).

The present crisis will quickly lead to a great movement of return to ourselves, our Torah, our roots, our Father in Heaven. Through this, we will merit to see not only the physical building of our country, but also the revealed benevolent soul of our nation which will shine on the entire world. As Rav Kook said, “The State of Israel is the foundation of God’s throne on earth” and as the prophets of Israel said, “For out of Zion shall go forth the Torah, and the word of God from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:4).

Speedily in our day. Amen.

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