In our previous essay we explained that a large part of the Haredi world rejected the notion that Medinat Yisrael marked the beginning of Israel’s long-awaited Redemption because of the erroneous expectation that the Redemption would come all at once, complete from the start, led by Mashiach in a miraculous manner – and not as a gradually developing historical process played out via wars, international peace treaties, and the down-to-earth settlement of Eretz Yisrael by all segments of the Israelite nation, secular and religious alike.
Another basis for assuming that the State of Israel cannot be considered the beginning of Redemption is the belief that the Redemption depends on Teshuva. Since a great portion of the early pioneers were not religious, therefore, the Haredi world believed, there could be no Redemption. However, the question of Redemption and Teshuva was discussed in the Talmud (Sanhedrin 97b). The argument concludes with Rabbi Eliezer’s accepting Rabbi Yehoshua’s opinion that Israel’s Redemption is not dependent on Teshuva (see Yerushalmi, Ta’anit 1:1, and “Korban HaEda” commentary there, “Yad Rama” on Sanhedrin). When the Redemption comes “in its time” (see Sanhedrin 98a), “Not for your sake... but for My Holy Name’s sake” (Yechezkel 36:22), it comes even if we are unworthy.
Since our generation is experiencing a resurgence of Teshuva in this era of national revival, it is essential to elaborate on the concept of Teshuva and its relationship to the return of the Jewish People to Eretz Yisrael. A Teshuva that relates only to T’fillin, Kashrut, and Shabbat is incomplete because the Teshuva of each individual Jew is actually only a part of a much greater historical process of Teshuva. Judaism was meant to be not only a religion for individuals, but as the great Rabbi, the Ohr Samayach, reminds us in his commentary to the Torah, “G-d does not rest His Name on the individual.” He states that “The Torah was given to the Nation as a whole” and “can only be kept in its entirety by the whole nation” (Rabbi Meir Simcha of Dvinsk, “Meshech Chochmah,” Vayikra 18:4 and 23:21. Also Maharal of Prague, Gur Aryeh, on Bereshit 12:2, “G-d’s Kingdom is not received by each individual but rather by Klal Yisrael alone, for G-d does not rest His Name on the individual saying ‘I am your G-d,’ rather He rests His Name only on the Nation as a whole.”)
By his connection to the Klal (the all-encompassing national Israelite entity), the individual takes on an infinitely greater importance and significance. He is then linked to the blessing and Divine connection of the Klal – the Nation as a whole. Even his individual life and actions are imbued with the infinite significance of the entire Nation of which he is part. The converse is also true, that when a person separates himself from the Nation, he severs his link to eternity, as the Rambam teaches, “He who separates himself from the ‘Tzibur’ (the general community), even though he has no sins... has no part in the World to Come” (Rambam, Laws of Teshuva, 3:11).
The Divine Ideal of the Nation transcends the individual and is expressed through him. Therefore, keeping the Torah is not a private affair between the individual and G-d, but rather stems from his being a part of the National Conglomerate. This is why before the performance of mitzvot we say that we do so “in the name of all of Israel.” Our prayers are in the plural form, praying for the good of the nation, as the Vilna Gaon writes: “It is forbidden to pray for one’s private needs, rather for the perfection of all Am Yisrael,” (Shinot Eliyahu, Berachot 5:1. See Rav Chaim of Volozhin, “Nefesh HaChaim,” 2:11). Furthermore, at the beginning of many Siddurim, the words of the Ari HaKadosh are cited, that before every prayer one should accept upon himself the commandment of “Love thy neighbor as thyself,” to love all of Israel, and thus connect oneself to the Klal.
The oneness of Israel is the foundation upon which all Torah, Mitzvot, and yirat shamayim (fear of heaven) are built. Only when this unity was attained at Sinai were we able to receive the Torah. This is so because the Torah is the Divine Content and Ideal of the entire Nation, which is ultimately to revitalize all human culture, restore harmony to the world, and brings to fulfillment all of creation, as the Prophets of Israel proclaim.
Once we understand that the Torah is the “Constitution” of the NATION of Israel in the Land of Israel we can better appreciate the religious value of our own sovereign national statehood. This issue touches on the deep study of the lofty role of the Jewish people as a NATION. After living for 2,000 years without a state and our national institutions, we became to view Torah as guidance for the individual – Shabbat, Tefillin and kosher food.
This abnormal existence without our unique and holy Homeland became second nature and we began to believe that there is nothing more to Torah than ritual precepts. The truth is, however, that Judaism is not just a religion for individuals, but first and foremost we are to be, “A KINGDOM of Priests and a Holy NATION.” “This NATION have I created unto Me, they shall tell My praise” (Yishayahu 43:21).
Without going into the almost endless sources on this important topic, let it suffice to summarize: The Nation is the vehicle which receives and expresses G-d’s Name and Ideal in the world. Nationhood according to Torah sources is not a new, secular idea of Herzl, or simply a political aspiration.It is the major element in the fulfillment of the Divine Goal expressed in the Torah. And nationhood is defined as Jewish sovereignty in Eretz Yisrael. That is why the Prophet Yechezkel calls the Exile a desecration of G-d’s Name (Yechezkel, Ch. 36). The lack of Jewish statehood has far-reaching ramifications, and touches upon the highest spiritual foundations of Torah. Jewish independence in Eretz Yisrael ushers in the Messianic era, as our Sages said: “The only difference between this world and the days of the Mashiach is the (end of) subordination to other kingdoms” (Berachot 34b, and see the Rambam, Laws of Kings, 12:2).
An independent Jewish government is thus not just a political accomplishment or system to facilitate the improvement of the lives of its citizens, or a refuge against enemies, but the beginning of the Redemption, as the Rambam writes, clearly stating in the verses he cites that the return of Jews to Eretz Yisrael is itself the Messianic process and the first sign of Redemption.
Thus the existence of a Jewish State affects G-d’s Name which is revealed precisely through our Statehood in Israel. Bezrat Hashem, in our next essay we will explain this understanding in greater depth. In this manner we will hopefully learn to see the great spiritual value of Medinat Yisrael, even in its present largely secular format, to the rebuilding of the ideal Kingdom of Israel as described in the Torah, may it be soon.