From Anopheles to Annapolis

"What do you mean there is no kedushah?"

Rabbi Dr. Aryeh Hirsch,

Aryeh Hirsch
Aryeh Hirsch

In 1967, on Erev Yom HaAtzmaut (the day before Israeli Independence Day), a rabbi asked Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook: "Why don't we say Tachanun during the Minchah (afternoon) prayers on Erev Yom HaAtzmaut? I
This holiness is expressed in a new spirit that has entered this nation since its return to Eretz Yisrael.
understand that we don't say Tachanun on the day before a holiday or Rosh Chodesh (New Month); these days are holy days and their holiness (kedushah) rubs off onto the end of the previous day. But Yom HaAtzmaut is a day of praise and thanks (hallel v'hodaah), not a holy day. So why is tachanun not said the day before at Minchah?"

Rabbi Kook answered: "What do you mean there is no kedushah to Yom HaAtzmaut? We believe in the holiness of the Word of G-d that is shown by the Nation of Israel in this revealed redemption (ketz ha'meguleh) of 'and you, mountains of Israel, you will shoot forth your branches and bear your fruit for My people Israel, when they are about to come... and I will multiply men upon you.... And the cities will be inhabited and the ruins built up.' (Ezekiel 36, 8-10) There is holiness in our nation's having merited to fulfill this Mitzvah d'Oreita (Torah commandment) of the Ramban to return to this Land, to settle it and conquer it, to go to war for it. Can there be any doubt that there is holiness in this day?" (Rabbi Yaakov Levanon, in Ki Ayin b'Ayin Yir'u, page 165)

This holiness is expressed in a new spirit that has entered this nation since its return to Eretz Yisrael (Rabbi Oded Volanski, ibid., pages 150-153). In place of the Diaspora spirit - limiting and of a personal or, at best, community scope - a new national soul of strength and optimism took root in the Land of nearness to the Almighty. With each twist of history, with each triumph and each stumbling, Am Yisrael has gained in strength and character, as old ideas fell by the wayside, and new, deeper, holier foundations, fitting for the redeemed nation of Israel, arose.

"This new soul is full of resolve, strength and self-sacrifice. It is willing to enter any danger and to persevere until victory, for the sake of building nation and land.... The mitzvah of settling (yishuv) Eretz Yisrael is based on the principle that the life of the nation takes precedence over that of the individual. This principle lies at the root of those souls of the last three generations, souls who tackled all adversity with self-sacrifice and dedication, whether it be to drain the malarial swamps in the early 20th century, or in the killing fields of war." (page 168).

Throughout the history of this ketz ha'meguleh, we have been busy draining swamps. In the First, Second and Third Aliyot the Providential Hand of the Almighty set us against the malarial marshes ruled by the Anopheles mosquito - and we emerged victorious. The cemeteries of Petach Tikva,Hadera, the Valleys of Yizrael and the Yarden, Emek Chefer, etc. are all filled with the dreamers and builders who sacrificed themselves in those marshy battlefields. And of late, the Lord has put before us the challenge of a different type of swamp, that of Oslo and Annapolis (I encourage the reader to check out the Hebrew spellings of Anopheles and Annapolis - they are identical). This is a insect of a unique species, with a deadly sting of its own. The fever it causes, Peace Fever, is as deadly as malaria, and has added many victims, good Jews, to its grisly roster. We are obligated to battle this modern swamp, to jump into its polluted waters and carve a dry path through it, until we turn it too into the Garden of God.

Of course, our enemies give us no respite. Western Christian opposition (with the wonderful exception of Bible-believers by the tens of millions) is deeply rooted in "Christian opposition to Netzach Yisrael" - the "eternity of Israel" and the view that this state is the first flowering of our redemption, as per the ancient Word of God. The Catholic Church, despite some important pro-Jewish measures, still philosophically and politically cannot tolerate our success. Thus, the Pope's Vatican was the first government on Earth to recognize Adolf Hitler, may his name be blotted out from the memory of civilization; and Pope John Paul II, supposedly a beacon of morality, was the first to give legitimacy to that terrorist murderer Yasser Arafat in the 1980s.

Muslim anti-Semitism has always been pervasive and occasionally bloody. Of note, we recently read in the weekly Torah portion that the kite is a non-kosher bird (Leviticus 11:14; the da'ah). The Aznayim L'Torah notes that the kite is alternatively called the ra'ah (from the root "to see") in Deutoronomy 14:13. He cites the Gemara (Chulin 63) that the kite is called "ra'ah because it can fly in Babylonia and see carrion (neveilah) in Eretz Yisrael." Neveilah is not kosher and ritually impure, and there is something wrong with a bird who sees only neveilah in the Holy Land. The Aznayim L'Torah says that the Divine Will is not satisfied with Gentiles who see from the outside only faults within Zion, and with Jews who similarly criticize from the Diaspora and don't come to join and help in this wondrous rebuilding that we celebrate on Yom HaAtzmaut.

Rabbi Volanski cites a story in the Gemara, Rosh Hashanah 25a, to illustrate this new (yet old) holy, constructive soul of Am Yisrael. The Romans had decreed that Jews were not to declare the new month. This made it impossible to openly use the constructive power of Kedushat Yisrael (the holiness of Israel) to hallow time itself. Therefore, Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi, a direct descendant of King David, sent Rabbi Chiya to the small town of Ein Tav (literally, "good eye", as opposed to the eye of the kite) to secretly "consecrate" the new moon. After doing so, Rabbi Chiya sent a message: the "siman tov" that we repeat to this day when we gather monthly to symbolically bless the moon - David Melech Yisrael chai v'kayam - "David, King of Israel, is alive and well."

"This reaffirms the fact of the Netzach b'Yesod, the Eternity of the Foundation of the sovereignty of Yisrael, from the times of David and Solomon in Jerusalem until the end of time. This good sign, this Kingdom of David has now returned and reawakened in our generation of wonders, and thus we celebrate today."

This is the very King David whose Psalm 107 we read on the night of Yom Ha'Atamaut. Rabbi Levanon again:

"King David was not allowed by the Almighty to build the holy Temple, which He knew was destined to be destroyed. But David did merit to prophecy about the
The Divine Will is not satisfied with Gentiles who see from the outside only faults within Zion, and with Jews who similarly criticize from the Diaspora and don't come to join.
process of the redemption and the ingathering of the exiles. When Israel will 'be gathered from the lands - from East and from West, from North and from the Sea. They wandered in the wilderness, hungry, thirsty... from their woes He rescued them.... He gathered them to their desired territory (verse 30)... turns a desert into a pool of water (verse 35)... and they established a city, sowed fields, planted vineyards and yielded a fruitful harvest. He blessed them and they multiplied greatly.'

"However, in verse 39, history takes a downturn: 'They became diminished and stooped, from lingering trouble and agony.' But David HaMelech looks at this loss of direction in the process of Geulah and declares: 'Look, Oh ye upright ones and rejoice as the mouth of evil will be shut. Let the wise ones take note of these things, and may they comprehend the kindnesses of the Lord.' Rabbi Kook explains this to be a comprehension of a Torah subject: just as one who dons tefillin (phylacteries) has deep faith that he does G-d's command, that these are the tefillin that G-d commanded us to put on, and that they were written and manufactured according to Divine specifications by people who maintained holy, Divine thoughts throughout the manufacture, and that the way of wearing tefillin that his father shows him is the way G-d commanded - so with this mitzvah of declaring a state and independence, to unite with one new, holy soul and to settle and to make war and to build. We believe not merely that the Almighty helped us in 1948 as He helps us now. But despite all doubts and doubters ('Maybe there is no mitzvah in state-building? Maybe we shouldn't incite the goyim? Maybe we should wait for prophets and Urim v'Tumim?'), we also believe that 'He chose us from among the nations and gave us His Torah' and 'this Nation he created for Himself' (Isaiah 43:21), so that in establishing sovereignty as one nation and one owner settling publicly to rule in Eretz Yisrael, we are fulfilling G-d's word as He commanded. And this is why we celebrate this holy Yom Ha'Atzamaut, the first-flowering of our redemption."