Rabbi Zalman Melamed
Rabbi Zalman Melamedscreenshot

The Jewish People is experiencing an age of unbelievable miracles. Do we see them? Do they fill us with joy? Are we grateful enough to the Almighty for all He has granted us? Or do current problems - the internal conflicts exacerbated by media hyperbole and the increasing threats to Israel's security, distract us from a clear-eyed vision of everything we have merited in the 75 years since the State of Israel was established – and during all the years since the vision of returning to Zion began to bear fruit?

If you, dear reader, find a way to join the Yom HaAtzma'ut eve celebrations at the Beit El Yeshiva or Merkaz HaRav Yeshiva (and other Religious Zionist Torah institutions), you will never have to ask those questions again. The shining eyes of young and old, hundreds of voices raised in prayer and song, the rabbanim dancing in an inner circle surrounded by hundreds of joyful students of Torah while bands play and Israeli flags wave from the yeshiva rooftops – all this happiness is contagious.

But seeing is not the same as understanding. You would do well to ask, what is the source of this unfettered joy? What gives these faces the radiance you cannot help noticing? It is certainly the fact that there is a Jewish State after 2000 years - although they are well aware of all its faults - but the underlying reason those faces are bright year after year is the spiritual ideology and philosophical underpinnings that the establishment of that state involves.

The shining faces belong to Religious Zionists who know that the credo of Religious Zionism is expressed, not defined, by keeping the mitzvot of Eretz Yisrael, joining all the institutions of the Jewish state and settling the Land. They know that first and foremost, Religious Zionism is an ethos, its range all the facets of Am Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael, as revealed through the study of what HaRav Avraham Kook called the Torah of Eretz Yisrael. This is the basis of true commitment to Jewish sovereignty, to defining the role of the entity that is Klal Yisrael in its Land.

And at last, English speakers can begin to delve into the foundations of Religious Zionism through the newly translated book "This is the Day-Lazman Hazeh" consisting of Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed Shlita's yearly lectures about the meaning and sanctity of Yom HaAtzma'ut. Recorded, transcribed and published by his devoted talmidim in Hebrew in 5759 and again in 5774, it is only now that the incisive, clear words of HaRav Melamed, devoted and close talmid of HaRav Tzvi Yehuda Kook [1] and proficient in the writings of his father Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook, can clarify Torah-true Zionism to those whose mother tongue is English. This most readable book will enlighten those in the haredi sector in Israel and the Diaspora who wish to understand a Torah world they observe but have not experienced, as well as those in the Anglo Religious Zionist sector who live their lives expressing its beliefs but have not been exposed to its philosophic underpinnings.

Hagaon HaRav Zalman Baruch Melamed Shlit"a, one of the most prominent and veteran Religious Zionist rabbis in Israel, is the founder and head of the Beit El Yeshiva Center and its institutions. He was the youngest to be asked by Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook zt"l to be a maggid shiur (Talmud lecturer) at Merkaz HaRav Yeshiva and the first whose entire education took place in Religious Zionist institutions. His leadership qualities, despite a gentle and warm demeanor, were recognized by Rav Tzvi Yehuda, who asked him to found Beit El, the flourishing community built around a thriving yeshiva and where pioneering Arutz Sheva and BeSheva were created under his and his wife Rabbanit Shulamit's fearless initiative and astute guidance.

The talks, the high point of the yeshiva's Yom HaAtzma'ut celebrations, shed light on many different topics, including the central but not well known fascinating historical background to the rebuilding of the Jewish state, from the aliya of the Vilna Gaon's students to Rav Shmuel Mohliver's visit to the land in the 1890s and its results. More recent events, such as Rav Tzvi Yehuda's reaction to the UN partition, his famous prophetic words on Yom HaAtzma'ut 1967, dancing (after Rav Tzvi Yehuda explained how to dance!) all the way to the President's house on Yom HaAtzma'ut, and, on Simchat Torah, dancing to the Chief Rabbis' homes, come to life in HaRav Melamed's inspirational words.

During these yearly talks, HaRav Melamed defines what he terms "the two thanksgivings of Yom Ha'Atzma'ut," and why this is the day on which we must rejoice in "our great salvation," appreciating the inherent holiness of the Land. He explains how our Land's long subjugation to other nations was a Desecration of G-d's Name, talks about the anticipation of Redemption, the meaning of kim'a kim'a (Redemption step by step), nationalism that Sanctifies the Name of G-d and many other foundational aspects of Torah-based Zionism - such as what the Israeli flag symbolizes, how to relate to the secular citizens of Israel and to those opposed to the state's establishment, achieving unity without blurring differences.

And HaRav Melamed addresses questions that have not needed to be addressed for 2000 years, but arise as we build up our Land, face the challenges of Jewish independence, and, sadly, understand the Sages' declaration that Eretz Yisrael is earned through suffering. In this vein, for example, he discusses societal laws, the peace treaty with Egypt, Expulsion from Gush Katif, optional war vs. war that is a mitzvah, the reason there can be no forgiveness for terrorist murderers, and also a meaningful message for IDF and Terror Victims Memorial Day.

Rabbi Harel Kohen and Yehuda Avichai Weinberg (whose idea it was to translate the work) acted as editorial directors and Rabbi Hillel Fendel, formerly of Arutz Sheva, translated from the Hebrew, while Meavnei Hamakom publishers in partnership with World Mizrachi under the leadership of Executive Charimain Rabbi Doron Perez.

Full disclosure: I was asked to edit, correct the syntax and proofread the manuscript – and could not put down the chapters as I received them. The words found their way to my heart while enriching my understanding of the way of life I have chosen to live in our wonderful land.

Note: The book can be purchased at Yeshivat Beit El (call 055-6695243) The supply is limited as it is being launched by World Mizrachi for its Orthodox Israel Congress.


[1] For a taste of the book's treasures, read HaRav Melamed's rendering of a thought of Harav Tzvi Yehudah Kook that is particularly relevant in this time of increased antisemitism: We are required to stand up to the opposition of many countries and peoples, he writes, and withstand the weaknesses we brought with us from the long Exile. The Sages compare our situation to that of a sheep attacked by 70 wolves. But that does not mean that we are objects of pity. Pity, instead, the poor wolves who cannot deal with one solitary sheep! Never forget, however, that being able to stand up to all those wolves is a great miracle for which we must constantly be grateful to Hashem.