YOM HA-ATZMAUT AND THE FIFTH OF IYAR
by HaRav Shlomo Aviner
Periods of great suffering are followed by periods of great wonders. And as is known, the quality of goodness is greater than the quality of punishment. The prophet Michah (7:15) says, “As the days of your coming out of the Land of Egypt, I will show him wonders” (Micah 7:15). The Netziv (Rav Naftali Zvi Yehudah Berlin – Rosh Yeshiva of the famed Volozhin Yeshiva) explains that the incredible suffering experienced during the slavery in Egypt was followed by great miracles during the Exodus. In our generation, we have seen greater suffering than in Egypt, and we will therefore certainly see greater miracles. We have already seen so many miracles with our own eyes.
Before the declaration of the State of Israel, the Americans warned us against declaring independence. How, they asked, will 600,000 Jews stand against a million and a half Arabs who were armed with English weaponry, and were aided by the armies of seven Arabs countries? The Americans also informed us from the outset that they would not recognize the State of Israel. The American Consul departed from our Land saying: I cannot watch the liquidation of the Jewish settlement. Even the Zionists of America were steadfast in their opposition to the declaration of the State. The leaders of the Jewish settlement too feared a great “slaughter of the Jews,” and were in doubt. Some of them reasoned that it was forbidden to endanger the entire settlement. In the end, the decision fell to the People’s Administration (Minhelet Ha-Am, which preceded the Government of Israel). The vote was decided by a razor-thin margin: six to four. Soon thereafter, a chain of miracles began.
Approximately one million Arabs fled of their own volition from the Land of Israel, leaving room for a million Jews who soon arrived. In his article “The Revival of the Land and its Wonders,” Moshe Prager examined the wonder of the flight of the Arabs at the time of the establishment of the State in light of the verse: “I will make the Land desolate” (Vayikra 26:32). There is no logical explanation for this strange phenomenon. Have you ever in your life seen that he who was rooted in his land for hundreds of years would suddenly uproot himself from the source of his land, lifting up his feet and fleeing in any direction that the wind would blow? Nearly half of the Arab population abandoned everything and fled in abandon, like chaff driven away by the wind (quoted in Rav Menachem Kasher in the book “Ha-Tekufah Ha-Gedolah,” p. 40). Take for example, the Arabs in Tzefat and its vicinity: they had many weapons and had prepared to slaughter the Jewish citizens of the city. The Jews did not know where to flee. They sent a delegation to the Arabs to speak to their hearts and to offer them great amounts of money to alter their evils plans, but it was of no use. So what happened? There was a small post of the Haganah in Tzefat whose only hope was the “Davidka” – an improvised cannon. They didn’t even know if it would succeed in shooting or would just explode in place. With the kindness of Hashem, the cannon shell came out with a powerful thunder and hit the enemy position. At that very moment a huge gap appeared in the sky and a torrential downpour began (a rare occurrence in the month of Iyar, which falls in Spring). When people arrived in Tzefat, they could not find a living soul, just as in the famous story in the Tanach about the four men stricken with the spiritual disease of tzara’at (see Melachim 2 chap. 7). In the end, the secret was revealed: everyone had fled. The few who remained in the hospital explained what had happened: the leaders of the Arabs believed that the Jews had an atomic bomb, and the frightful sound of the “Davidka” together with the uncommon rainstorm was seen as a sign that they had dropped it.
There are those who ask why Yom Ha-Atzmaut was established on the 5th of Iyar in particular, since no miracle occurred on that day. The Jewish State was declared, and with it a life-threatening situation began (Chanukah and Purim were established on the day after the “war” ended). Our Rabbi, Rav Tzvi Yehudah Ha-Cohain Kook, explains that the courage to declare the State is the miracle of miracles, the soul and root of all of the miracles and wonders (Le-Netivot Yisrael vol. 1, p. 179). The Talmud discusses a shepherd who abandoned his flock, leaving it prey to either a wolf or a lion who came and tore it to pieces. The Rabbis established that the shepherd’s responsibility for the slaughter depends on whether or not he would have been able to save the animals. If he would not have been able to overcome the attacking animal, he is exempt from all payment. The Talmud asks: Why is this so? Perhaps it would have happened as for David: “Your servant slew both the lion and the bear” (Shmuel 1 17:36)? Perhaps a minor miracle would have occurred (Baba Metzia 106a)? The Tosafot describe the miracle: “A spirit of courage and the knowledge to wage war” (Tosafot ibid.). So too in the matter of the declaration of the State: “The awakening, the exerting of effort, the philosophizing and the strengthening for the drive to rescue and revive,” is a miracle from the Heavens, “with a supreme and inner stimulus of power.” The fact that the Nation of Israel was filled with the spirit to fight and the knowledge to wage war is the foundation of all miracles (Le-Netivot Yisrael ibid.). From this act flowed all of the miracles which led to the establishment and strengthening of the State of Israel.
We are fortunate to have witnessed all of these miracles and to witness Hashem’s miracles every day. In His great kindness, Hashem will show us more wonders in the future.