The Fast of Gedalia, which falls the day after Rosh Hashanah, is a fast over the destruction of the first State of Israel. That’s right. After the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, The King of Babylon appointed Gedalia Ben Achikam to govern over the remnant of Jews still in the Land of Israel. When Gedalia was murdered, the Jewish government in Israel was terminated, and the remaining Jews were exiled from the Land. As the Rambam states, we are fasting and mourning over the loss of Jewish sovereignty over Eretz Yisrael.
As everyone knows, sovereignty over a land means political statehood. At that time, Gedalia was the leader of the State of Israel. Our Sages decreed that the Fast of Gedalia be held for all generations to come, in order to teach the transcendental importance of the Jewish sovereignty over Eretz Yisreal.
Ironically, many of the Jews who are fasting today are against the State of Israel, and make a pastime of condemning its shortcomings – yet they are fasting because of its very destruction. We don’t fast today over the destruction of the Temple – we have Tisha B’Av for that. We fast over the cessation of the first Jewish commonwealth in Israel, which was the first State of Israel. Without the State of Israel, the Jewish People and Judaism are in exile, and G-d’s honor is scorned and belittled in the world.
The truth is that many Jews don’t appreciate the State of Israel because they were never taught that Jewish sovereignty over the Land of Israel is a fundamental principal of the Torah. In fact, it is the goal of the Torah, because it is through Jewish sovereignty over the Land of Israel that the honor of G-d is manifest in the world, as the Psalm says: “Then it was said amongst the nations – the L-rd has done great things for them” (Tehillim, 126:3). In out time, the ingathering of the exiles, with the revival of the Jewish State, is the greatest sanctification of G-d that there is.
This should be obvious to everyone. Without Jewish sovereignty over the Land of Israel, the Torah is chopped up into little pieces, with a lot of big chunks missing. Without Jewish sovereignty over the Land of Israel, the Torah is merely a compilation of personal mitzvot, like keeping the Shabbat, eating kosher food, and putting on tefillin. If this was all the Torah was about, we could have kept it in Egypt, or in the wilderness. But G-d wanted us to keep the Torah in the Land of Israel, precisely because the Torah is the national constitution of the Jewish Nation, not just a list of individual commandments. And to have our own Divinely-ordained government, justice system, army, economy, and society according to G-d’s laws, we need our own Holy Land. Our control over the Land of Israel is the underlying basis of all of the Torah. Without it, we are scattered and disgraced. In order to sanctify G-d’s Name in the world, and to bring the Jewish People honor as G-d’s chosen nation, Jewish sovereignty over the Land of Israel is a must. Its re-establishment in our time, via the State of Israel, is a supreme step forward in returning us, and the world, to G-d.