Judaism: The Sadigura Rebbe and Yom Haatzmaut
This is the Shabbat Drasha (Sabbath sermon) of Rav Avihu Schwartz, Ram (Rabbi-Teacher) at the Beit El Yeshiva, delivered on the Sabbath preceding Yom Haatzmaut 2014, at the Nitzanit Synagogue in Beit El:
The Talmud tells of the love that our Rabbis had for Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel: “Rabbi Abba used to kiss the stones of Acco. Rabbi Chanina would remove rocks from the roads, so that no one would be damaged by them and thereby have a complaint against the Holy Land”(Ketuvot 112a).
There was a great Talmid Chacham( Torah scholar) in the last century, Rabbi Yissachar Tamar, who wrote the book Alei Tamar, a commentary on the Talmud Yerushalmi. Regarding the above Gemara, the Alei Tamar brings the following story about the hassidic Rebbe of Sadigur (Alei Tamar, p.69, on Tract. Sheviis , Chap.4 Halacha 7) :
“Every Yom Ha’Atzmaut, the Rebbe made his way to the Great Synagogue in Tel Aviv. There he would join the other congregants praying Hallel (Thanksgiving prayers, Psalms 113-118) with great joy. After the services, the Rebbe would join the dancing throngs outside in the streets, clasping hands and dancing with enthusiasm and happiness. It was always obvious that the Rebbi of Sadigur felt a special joy on Yom Haatzmaut.
One year, one of his hassidim got up the nerve to have a personal audience with the Rebbe and question him about his Yom Haatzmaut behavior. The answer he got tells us how many light-years ahead of his contemporaries, and some of ours, stood the Rebbi of Sadigur:
‘In March,1938, the Nazis (may their name and memory be blotted out) swallowed up Austria, and entered Vienna. Their first move was to accomplish the degradation of the Jews, and as the Rabbi of the Jewish community, they chose me, giving me a big broom and had me sweep the streets of Vienna. As I did that work, I prayed: ‘Ribbono Shel Olam (Master of the Universe), may it be Thy will that I merit to take a broom and sweep the streets of Eretz Yisrael’.
‘Obviously, it is not fitting for your Rebbe to be seen in the streets of Tel Aviv sweeping in front of everybody. So, on Yom Haatzmaut I get up at 3 am, take a big broom and with great שמחה (happiness) I sweep the streets of my neighborhood.
After sweeping in Vienna, the Nazis יש'וזכרם (may their name be blotted out) shoved a Nazi flag in my hands and made me climb to the top of a tall building and plant their swastika atop the roof. As I climbed, I turned to the Creator and said:
‘Ribbono Shel Olam, may I yet merit to wave the flag of Israel in a high spot in the Land of Israel’. And so I plant on my roof the flag of Israel on Yom Haatzmaut, with happiness and התלהבות (burning enthusiasm), thanking the Lord that He accepted my prayers’.
To this the Alei Tamar adds: “May those who love His Land hear this, understand the issues, and add to his wisdom”.
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At this point, I’d like to append the thoughts of Rav Matis Weinberg regarding the Omer, the dimensions of time and space, and the Holocaust:
“Time is our nemesis, place is our solace. Within time, we experience an infinity of deaths, each ephemeral moment lost forever….Space is much kinder to us than time, granting us visitation rights to return as we will. The consummate “Place” is the Mikdash (Temple), as the Bible says: ‘Abraham lifted his eyes and saw Hamakom, The Place, from afar ‘(Genesis 22:4). Within the profound permanence of Yerushalayim and its Temple we are comforted, and all mourning, from Beitar to Birkenau, is ultimately bound up in its loss.
"Such are the traditional words said to every mourner: המקום ינחם אתכם בתוך אבלי ציון וירושלים – May the Makom, the Place, comfort you among the others who mourn Zion and Jerusalem. Hamakom= another way of saying G-d”- Frameworks Vayikra, pages 185-186).
Rav Schwartz continued his sermon quoting a letter by Rav Yaakov Moshe Charlap, one of Rav Kook’s leading students. The letter was written three days before the declaration of the State of Israel in 1948:
“We are obviously on the threshold of seeing great events, כימי צאתך ממצרים אראנו נפלאות, as in the days that you left Egypt, I the Lord will show wonders”(Micah 7;15). This is a miracle and a wonderment, unfolding in a natural way- miraculous even if things do not materialize so quickly. And we have yet much to endure ; FOR THE (Kabbalistic) KLIPAH OF ISHMAEL(Arab enemy) has yet to be broken…
Yet, this is an אתחלתא , a beginning, and the hope is that the Lord pour out of His Spirit so that all mankind will recognize the actions of He of Pure Intentions. At least, may those (Jews) who purport to follow him in total faith admit that the Lord has remembered and redeemed his nation(פקד את עמו, Exodus 4;31). For the push from below does push Heaven, and we wish that the eyes of the blind be opened in true faith to follow all that the Mover of History has been doing from the beginning tiil this auspicious moment”.
Thus ended the Shabbos drasha. Elsewhere, Rav Schwartz brings a story that sheds light on the above letter of Rav Charlap,and the thoughts of Rav M. Weinberg; it is a strong lesson for us today( Derech HaTorah HaGoelet, pages 159-161). The story occurred 18 years before the declaration of Independence of the State of Israel. It was now the summer of 1930, just one year after the Mufti perpetrated the pogrom in Hevron, killing 69 innocent Jews, and wiping out the entire Jewish community.
In the “goodness” of his heart, the Mufti proposed a deal: I’ll kill no more Jews, if the Jews will give up all claims of ownership of the Western Wall. The British were all for the deal, as it “guaranteed” quiet and one less headache. They quickly got Ben Gurion and the Jewish Agency to agree to the plan. However, the British demanded that the plan must have the signature of the Chief Rabbi of Palestine, Rav Avraham Yitchak HaKohen Kook.
Thus, Dr. Yehudah Magnes and a delegation of British showed up at the door of Rav Kook in the outlying Jerusalem suburb of Kiryat Moshe. The Rav’s son, Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook, describes the scene:
“What threats, blackmail and pressures did they use! Surrounding my father with their murderous threats, all IN ORDER TO GET SOME SORT OF הסכם, AGREEMENT (sound familiar?), they demanded surrender(ויתור על כתל בית חיינו) of the Kotel of our House, the Source of our very Life, of the Wall of the Protection (Magen) of our Nation and G-d (note: IT is our protection, and not vice versa).
But the Rock (צור) was unmovable. The others thundered that THIS WILL GUARANTEE PEACE TO THE YISHUV (Jewish Palestinians as they were called at the time),protecting the lives of many, many souls in Israel-but the High Priest (Rav Kook), who was wont to battle selflessly (with mesirut nefesh) to save even one Jewish soul, declared his opinion as supreme commander, assuming absolute responsibility:
"It is not in the weakness of the spirit of surrender ( לא ברפיון רוח ותרני) of our Holy Makom will we achieve the security of our Peace, and safeguarding of our lives. That is not the way that our enemies will be shamed and retreat. It is not in our hands to retreat and forfeit our position of Divine ownership over our Place (Mekomeinu).Rather, OUR PEACE AND SECURITY come from our maintaining (החזקת) our fortress, and from it is the foundation of the continuation of our survival, and עז עליתנו , the strength of our progress”.
Rav Schwartz: What Rav Kook said in 1930 about the Kotel, is true regarding כל מקום קדשנו, all of our holy Makom (Land), in its entirety. As we applaud the words of Prime Minister Netanyahu, who took his remarks on Holocaust Memorial Day from the words of our Prophets (although it is too bad he didn’t once mention the name of G-d), let us celebrate Israel Independence Day with a renewed consciousness of the foundation of our being, independence, and security: HaMakom.