Shabbat Parshat Kedoshim 5779
Yom Ha’atzmaut – What Does it Mean?
Adapted from Rabbi Braun’s sermon in 5776
There are many reasons to celebrate Yom Haatzmaut – Israel’s Independence Day.
We celebrate once again seeing God’s hand in history. We have a place for Jews to live with the ability to control our own fate and an army do defend ourselves. We anticipate redemption.
This year I want to highlight another aspect, one which we don’t always associate with Yom Ha’atzmaut and one that has interesting applications for the value of living in Israel.
There is a fascinating book written by Rav Shaul yisraeli, who was the Rosh Yeshiva of Merkaz Harav entitled Zeh Hayom Asah Hashem – “this is the day that God did for me”. The book contains his derashot from Yom hazikaron, Yom Ha’atzmaut and Yom Yerushalayim. The earlier derashot from the late 1940’s obviously focus on the miracle of the state and its challenges etc.
This year I was reading his derashot from the 1980’s which shared a fascinating theme and perspective.
I am going to break them down and reorganize them but the ideas are his.
There are two types of freedom or independence: there is spiritual independence and there is a physical independence.
Spiritual independence we achieved with the Exodus and at Sinai. That was one Yom Ha’aztmzut that is eternal. We refer to that every night in the blessing after Shema when we say – “and brought out his people Israel from their midst into everlasting freedom.”
In subsequent exiles and calamities despite the devastation the Jew always had an internal spiritual freedom which was the secret to our survival.
What then is the value of the physical independence – of the Yom Ha’atzmaut of 1948?
Rav Yisraeli writes: “what characterizes this day is the Sefirah of Tiferet” the Kabbalstic realm of glory.
Before this “our esteem and honor amongst the nations was poor. The wisdom of the misken, (poor loser) is degraded, and the Shechinah is in exile as well. For with the descent of the crown of Israel, as if you could say such a thing, the divine presence is seen as rolling in the dirt with us. Tefillin are called pe’er – our glory and in the Tefililn that God wears it is written, who is like you Israel, one nation upon the earth.”
He means that we serve as God’s people and representatives in the world and our status reflects upon God.
When we are rolling in the dirt, subject to death and destruction, wounds and degradation, so is God.
“What is the value of our independence and glory, our tiferet?
It is to redeem the Divine Presence from the dirt. “
Part of the celebration is that we get to redeem God. Our tiferet is God’s tiferet.
How is our glory expressed? I know you are thinking Talmud study and shuls etc. but here the examples might shock you.
“Commerce continues to develop; many of the devices that strike fear into the heart of the enemy are conceived of and built in Israel. (that was before Iron Dome) We have an army that can meet the enemy at the gate!”
By the 1980s Israel was a country without the same existential angst that it had in the 1940’s and Rav Yisraeli found real meaning in the development of industry and the military. They are an integral part of the Jewish nation, and the building of the Jewish nation in all of its facets has religious significance – it continues to redeem God’s presence as we continue to reflect God in this world.
That of course he points out is a double edged sword; it is both a privilege and a responsibility to represent God in the world.
The country not only has to be built but built to represent God in this world.
That is quite the challenge but it is one that we have been quite successful at meeting in the aggregate.
It is unfortunate that the world fails to see it but it is something that we should feel very proud of and I believe reflects very well upon God.
Look at how we respond to international disasters. Look at the medical technology that we have given the world, the water technology… These are of real value in reflecting a society built upon God’s values, indeed for Rav Yisraeli they help to redeem God!
This past Wednesday I had the privilege to meet with Dr. Avraham Negosa, a member of the Knesset. He presented to the rabbis of Monmouth and Middlesex counties.
He was born in Ethiopia and worked as a shepherd. He made Aliyah, received a college education, masters and doctorate, helped to bring the Ethiopian Jewish community to Israel and continue to fight for them. He is currently a member of the Knesset. He spoke of Israel as a place of equal opportunity and education and the fight to rescue persecuted people.
Those are Godly values, our values and we should be proud! That is how we redeem God, that is a very powerful idea!