Independence Day Thoughts, Part II
Part Two: A compendium of inspiration for Israel’s upcoming 63rd Independence Day
For part I, click here.
The late Chief Rabbi Avraham Shapira, Dean of Yeshivat Merkaz HaRav Kook:
Israeli independence has two aspects. First, that we are able once again to fulfill the positive Torah commandment of living in and settling the Land, making Aliyah, and conquest, in accordance with Nachmanides, who added that when Moses told Joshua, ‘Ascend and inherit,’ he meant it for all generations, not just for that period… and this has returned to us all at once, after 2,000 years. The second thing is the very fact of the end of the Galut (Exile), that catastrophic period in which the Nation of Israel was missing its wholeness; the Torah is not complete in the Diaspora, and G-d rescinded His creation of the Galut. We pray every day before Kriat Shma for several things that all belong together: Torah, the breaking of the yoke of Exile from off our necks, and our upright return to our Land. They all belong together…
Rabbi Chaim Druckman, head of the Yeshivot Bnei Akiva and Dean of Yeshivat Ohr Etzion:
What does the Psalmist mean by, "When G-d effects the return to Zion, we were like dreamers..."? There are several explanations, but I would like to offer another one, one that I have learned from my life experience:
Consider a teacher standing in front of his class, and he sees a student dreaming – not sleeping, but thinking about something else… The student is totally detached from the lesson. If you ask him afterwards what happened in the class, he won’t know, because he was dreaming.
We, today, are like that student. After 2,000 terrible years of Exile and suffering and pogroms and rivers of blood, we merited to have G-d return us to Zion! – but we were dreaming, like that student. We were stuck in our problems, in our complexes, in our issues, detached from the greatness of what was going on, not noticing what Hashem gave us, not realizing what G-d has done for us... It is very important not only to say this, but to truly think about it. Independence Day is our chance to rise up above our daydreaming.
Rabbi Avraham Wasserman, Yeshivat Ramat Gan:
Of late, some among us have had difficulties rejoicing at the level we used to on this day. The members of the religious-Zionist public specifically are well aware of all the difficulties and pain [having directly to do with the institutions of the State of Israel].
But if we look deeply at the Hallel prayer [recited on this day], we see that it is not only a joyful prayer, but has its share of ‘tearful pleas’ as well. There is Hodu, ‘Give thanks to G-d, for He is good,’ 118,1, and Zeh hayom, 'This is the day… we will rejoice in it’ (118,24) - but there is also Min hameitzar, 'When in straits I called to G-d,' 118,5. In Psalm 116, we have ‘How can I repay G-d for all His goodness? – just two verses after ‘I am greatly afflicted’ … and Ana Hashem ’'Save us O G-d,' 118,25. In short, Hallel has lots of joy, but also much pain, prayer, and pleas…
It could be that this is the very solution. Even on great holidays, we must know that there is much left to improve. This is even more true on Independence Day. We have a country that is still developing, that is full of challenges, failures, victories, and defeats. Hallel is very appropriate for this. It describes the situation as it is: We sometimes feel that we are in straits, and sometimes we are joyful. This is the complex reality in which we live. At various times we will identify with one aspect, and at times with another…
But despite all, we must take at least this one day a year to realize the great goodness that G-d has bestowed upon us…