On Israel Independence Day, just two weeks before the Six-Day War, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda Hakohen Kook stood up in the study hall of the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva and gave an unforgettable speech. Several weeks later, after all of the miraculous events which brought Jerusalem and the Biblical lands of Judea and Samaria back into our hands, students remembered with wonder all of the prophetic words which the Rabbi had spoken.
This blog is excerpted from the book, “Torah Eretz Yisrael,” which I had the honor of writing, editing, and publishing with the esteemed Rabbi David Samson, based on the teachings of HaRav Tzvi Yehuda Kook. Recently, the book was reprinted for the seventh time and can be purchased online. Certainly, it is one of the most important Jewish books of our time in setting forth Rabbi Kook’s profound Torah understandings as they relate to our time of Redemption.
Rabbi Kook began his speech to the crowded assembly by recalling the night in November, nineteen years before, when the United Nations voted to partition the Palestine of the British Mandate into a truncated Jewish State. The gentile nations of the world were negotiating in New York on the allocation of Palestine between the Arabs and the Jews. Radios all over Israel were tuned to the broadcast. Suddenly, Rav Kook, said, the announcement came….
The announcement is cheered all over the country!
The Rosh Yeshiva paused in his speech. His emotion filled the hall. That night nineteen years before, when the announcement had come over the radio, a spontaneous joy had swept over the country. Men, women, and children rushed out of their homes to dance in the streets. Yet HaRav Tzvi Yehuda had a different reaction. As he recounted the UN decision, his voice echoed with pain:
“The connection to the Holy Temple,” he began. “The connection to the Kedusha, and to the life, and to the soul….”
He couldn’t finish the sentence that spoke of the dividing of Jerusalem. The memory overwhelmed him. He wept as he stood before the students and guests of the Yeshiva, who had come to celebrate Israel Independence Day. The connection to Jerusalem, and to our Holy Land, our life and our soul, had been severed by the decision in New York to partition our Land. Eretz Yisrael, the eternal inheritance of our Forefathers, had been cut into pieces. Portions of the country had been placed into foreign hands. In that hour, when the multitudes were celebrating on the streets of the country, Rav Tzvi Yehuda sat alone in his father’s old room in Jerusalem. Even nineteen years later, the pain of the memory was etched on his face.
“I couldn’t leave the house,” he said. “How heartbroken I was. I couldn’t go out to join the festive celebration on Jaffe Street. I couldn’t take part in the rejoicing.”
“I sat alone. Distressed. It weighed so heavily on me. In those first hours, I couldn’t come to terms with what had happened. The word of Hashem had come to pass – ‘They have divided My Land!’ (Joel, 4:2). With all of my effort and strength, with all of my soul and my spirit and willpower, it was impossible for me to go outside.”
“How could it be that I didn’t go out?” he rhetorically asked.
“THEY DIVIDED MY LAND!” he shouted. The forcefully, he cried out, “WHERE IS OUR HEVRON?! DO WE FORGET THIS?! AND WHERE IS OUR SHECHEM?! DO WE FORGET ABOUT THIS?! AND WHERE IS OUR JERICHO?! DO WE FORGET THIS TOO?! AND WHERE IS OUR OTHER-SIDE OF THE JORDAN?! WHERE IS EACH BLOCK OF OUR EARTH?! EACH PART AND PARCEL OF HASHEM’S LAND?!”
“IS IT IN OUR HANDS TO RELINQUISH ANY MILLIMETER OF THIS?!” he shouted, and answered, “G-D FORBID!”
Everyone in the Yeshiva was silent. People had gathered to celebrate our Independence, but Rav Tzvi Yehuda wanted everyone to know and to feel that our triumph was still incomplete.
“And so I couldn’t go out to the street,” Rav Kook continued. “I couldn’t in this situation, when I was so utterly wounded, when I was so cut to pieces. THEY DIVIDED MY LAND!”
“THEY DIVIDED THE LAND OF HASHEM! Because of political considerations!”
“I couldn’t go out and dance and be merry, the way we dance and are joyous today. That was the way it was that night, during those hours.”
The Rosh Yeshiva’s anguish over the partitioning of Eretz Yisrael was shared by Rabbi Yaacov Moshe Harlop, a student and close friend of Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook, Rav Tzvi Yehuda’s father. The day after the UN announcement, he came to visit HaRav Tzvi Yehuda in Rabbi’s Kook’s old house on Jaffa Street. They sat in the same room which Rabbi Kook had used as his study, and huddled together, shattered over what had occurred. Then, finding encouragement in each other, they quoted the verse of Hallel, “This is the L-rd’s doing; it is wondrous in our eyes.” Only then, Rav Tzvi Yehuda told the crowd, did he find the strength to go out to the nation.
“That first night, I didn’t go out to dance in the streets, because I felt that I, like the Land of Israel, had been cut into pieces and wounded in my heart. But afterward, with faith in Hashem, I knew that we would overcome the difficulties. I began to go out each year to dance on Yom Haatzmaut – out of recognition of Hashem’s Providence, which is active in all of the events of our time.”
Today, dear blog readers, we can learn from Rav Tzvi Yehuda what our orientation should be toward Israel Independence Day, in light of the disturbing events of our times. Yes, we have problems in Israel, and setbacks, and painful losses, and cause for tears – but we must remember that everything that transpires in our cherished Holy Land is the workings of Hashem, “This is the L-rd’s doing; it is wondrous in our eyes.” Our principle feeling should be joy in our statehood and thanks to the Almighty for bringing it to pass after an exile of 2000 years.
As HaRav Tzvi Yehuda said:
“Our joy on this day is the joy of a mitzvah. We have merited to sanctify Hashem’s Name in the Land. We have merited to fulfill the Torah commandment of dwelling in Eretz Yisrael, as taught by the Ramban, through his own example of aliyah to live in Israel, and through his halachic ruling that dwelling in Israel is a positive commandment of the Torah – that this Land be in our hands, in a national sense, and not in the hands of any other nation.”
“It is true that there are shortcomings, and matters which have to be changed. We don’t hide our eyes from the things which need to be improved. This is not to be questioned. Rather, we expect that as the years pass, the problems will be solved.”
Rav Kook reminded his students of one of the Rambam’s principles of faith regarding the Mashiach: “Even though his coming is delayed, even with all this, I will wait for him.”
“We have faith,” Rav Tzvi Yehuda said, “even with all of the problems that his coming involves. “For there is no doubt that the problems will all be healed in the perpetual process of perfecting the souls of our nation.”
“The intrinsic value of the State of Israel is not dependent on the number of Orthodox Jews who live here. Of course, our aspiration is that all of our people will embrace the Torah and its mitzvoth. However, the Statehood of Israel is holy, whatever religious level it has. Anyone who refuses to recognize that State of Israel does not recognize the return of the Divine Presence to Zion.”
Only a child expects his desires to be fulfilled at once. Rav Kook emphasized that the Redemption of the Jewish Nation was a gigantic, world historic undertaking of unparalled dimensions, which unfolds “Little by little, like the dawning of the sun” (Jerusalem Talmud, Berachot, 1:1).
The Dawning of Redemption
“Patience,” he said, “is not surrender. True patience, the patience of holiness, is bind to the call for perfection. There is no contradiction between the drive for perfection, in all of its force, with patience which understands that perfection is achieved in gradual stages, from year to passing year.”
The Talmud asserts that the Land of Israel is acquired through suffering (Berachot 20A). Difficulties, wars, advances and setbacks are all a part of G-d’s plan. Our Sages compare the Redemption of Israel to a gazelle bounding over a mountainside. Sometimes the gazelle leaps into sight, and other times it seems to vanish, until it suddenly leaps into view once again.
Like a tzvi appearing and disappearing over the mountains.
“The setbacks we face are temporary,” Rav Tzvi Yehuda assured. “All steps backwards are transitory and passing. Just as there are stages in everything, there are stages of conquering the Land of Israel. Advances sometimes come in hidden stages. But these are only temporary delays. One shouldn’t be juvenile. One must look at the global upheaval involved in bringing us back to our Land and recognize the Divine unfolding of, ‘When the L-rd brought the exiles to Zion’ (Tehillim, 126:1). Because of its staggering scale, the process naturally undergoes difficulties and problems. The greater a thing is, the more complicated it is. The unfolding of our Redemption is a historical event of colossal proportions. Anything which stands in the way of our inexorable march to fulfillment is merely a brief delay of, ‘His anger is only a moment’ (Tehillim, 30:6). All of the disturbances are trivialities which have no lasting substance in this sweeping historical process. It is true that there are occasionally difficult and trying situations, but we shall overcome. The actions of the gentiles, or of the superficially thinking Jews, which oppose this Divine historic plan, carry no weight whatsoever. These become null and void in the light of the Torah and Hashem’s Providence over His people.”
So don’t worry, my good friends. Be happy!
Happy Yom Haazmaut!