Moving Commentary 7: Yom Haatzmaut

As Thursday evening gently prodded Yom Haatzmaut revelers to begin closing down, my day was just beginning. Radio stations in America were asking for local commentary, and in a few cases, I was elected. With some of them ten hours behind Yerushalayim, it was well past maariv when I began, and 1:40 AM when I concluded the last one. It was as if, as an American, I was keeping the mandatory “second day of the exile” – and that of a holiday that I had never really observed. That non-observance changed entirely at ground zero.

In the States, you could easily ignore Yom Haatzmaut, unless you were in a shul for the annual fight about whether to say tachanun, or Hallel with a beracha, or Hallel after davening without one. If you looked, you could find some community activity that marked the day, or cynically rebuff those who did with a “if Israel is so important to you, why are you celebrating here, rather than making your passion real and moving there?” In a school setting, there were the inevitable debates in front of the students about the role and place of the State of Israel, at least in a Modern Orthodox school. In the charedi schools that my kids attended, the day came and went without anyone knowing or caring.

It’s different here. One of the radio hosts remarked that she could hear the excitement in my voice. She was right – even though some of my neighbors were already turning lights out. You have to consciously choose not to be part of it to avoid the spirit of the day. Weeks before, the city begins dressing up for the event. Flags from lightpoles. Flags from windows and balconies. Flags fastened on to car windows. Small flags, clustered together. Flags running ten stories down the sides of buildings. Signs all over, advertising all kinds of cultural and entertainment events on Yom Haatzmaut, most of them free. Signs over the highways by major corporate interests that simply wished everyone a happy Yom Haatzmaut.

Then Yom HaZikaron comes the day before, with always meaningful and somber reflection about the sacrifice of the over 23000 IDF soldiers who gave their lives for the Jewish State. Its juxtaposition to Independence Day means that people have done some hard thinking about the fragility of Jewish survival. It also means that when the sun sets on Yom HaZikaron, people are ready for some emotional release.

And party they do. Israelis are tough and intense. They work hard, and they party hard. At least from what I saw (all over Yerushalayim, and similarly in other cities and places during Chol Hamoed), celebration was not an excuse for drunkenness or letting go of inhibitions. Rather, a sea of humanity descended upon every green patch of land. They came with coolers and grills, multiple generations together, and celebrated as families. These were not the family outings I am used to from Los Angeles, in which some sort of diversion and entertainment for each member was most important. Spending time outdoors with loved ones and some food was happiness enough! You didn’t know anyone else in the park; strangers were practically breathing down your hot dog, because the next family was literally inches away. No one seemed to mind. To the contrary, it was like attending a popular music concert. Some respond individually to the music, not connecting in any way with the ten thousand others who happen to be in the same place, also listening in the privacy of their own craniums. Others, however, feel the energy of the crowd, and connect with the larger entity.

And that was the case on Yom Haatzmaut, as it was during Chol HaMoed. The sense of commonality was palpable, even with strangers. Many languages were discernible in the gaggle, many skin colors, many head-coverings (or not). But it was clear that all were there doing the same thing, even if in different ways. During chol hamoed Pesach, they were expressing their love for being part of the Jewish People. On Yom Haatzmaut, they were celebrating 70 years of successful self-government and independence, something almost unimaginable in the preceding two millennia.

I tried to remember the time in my youth when Americans also experienced at least something like this, when people were not embarrassed by displays of patriotism.

I participated in two Yom Haatzmaut gatherings, one at Shapell’s/ Darke Noam, the other in the Old City, at the home of my talmid of many years ago, Reb Leib Rigler (of musical fame) and his wife Soro Yocheved Rigler (of publication fame). Back in Los Angeles, I was not very much of a participant in Yom Ha activities, other than occasionally being asked to give the right-wing approach in some sort of educational setting. (The thinking was that I was right-wing enough to state the case, without being so right-wing that I wouldn’t participate in a forum run by those to the left of me.) Chalk it up to the years in the yeshiva world, from which I had no desire to detach myself. Did moving to Israel, then, reverse my thinking?

Not really. (It is true that the anti-Zionism of my youth had steadily eroded over time, mostly because the arguments about the government and its schemes went, in my mind, from tenuous to unconvincing, to flat-out monstrously wrong. Like the statement recently of a major rosh yeshiva that Israel does not need an army, only a police force. Or that the IDF has no need for, and no interest in, charedi soldiers. Or that we owe nothing, c”v, to those in Tzahal who gave up their lives in defense of the country, because they created the problem, rather than solved it.) I remain agnostic about both sets of arguments (the defensible ones, not the monstrously wrong ones): the pros and cons of making even minor adjustments to the davening. Only one factor changed, which was sufficient for me to throw myself into the spirit of the day. It will take a few paragraphs to develop, although the bottom line is straightforward and uncomplicated.

At the first of the two celebrations I attended, the price that was exacted from the talmidim for eating at the barbeque and siyum mesechta was that they had to listen to the presentation about Yom Haatzmaut that the hanhalah asked me to give. I spoke about how everyone had the meaning of the new Jewish state wrong:

  • Ben-Gurion: for believing that the small charedi community would soon wither and disappear
  • Rav Amram Blau, leader at the time of Neturei Karta, for believing (as cited by his nephew, R. Yehudah Meshi-Zahav, “that within a few years there would be no remnant or refugee from the people of Israel… that the Zionists are the greatest haters of the Jewish people in the world that the Zionists are guilty of all the troubles of the people of Israel, including the terrible holocaust.” If this was their program, we must view them as an unqualified failure, because the Torah community grew unimaginably stronger in quantity and in quality.
  • Pope Pius X, for telling Herzl that “The Jews have not recognized our Lord, therefore we cannot recognize the Jewish people… The Jewish religion was the foundation of our own; but it was superseded by the teachings of our Savior, and we cannot concede it any further validity. The Jews, who ought to have been the first to acknowledge Jesus, have not done so to this day.” After the establishment of the State, the Church came around to the point of full recognition of its validity, as well as acknowledging that Jews were the “Elder brother,” as Pope John Paul II put it, of Catholics.
  • British Christian Zionists, who optimistically argued to a skeptical Europe that the barren wasteland in the Middle East, with the ingenuity of a Jewish people free to return to its homeland, could conceivably support as many as a few hundred thousand immigrants. Few believed them. Today, Israel’s population stands at 8.5 million. The 60,000 Jews who lived there at the end of World War I grew to 600,000 at the time of Israel’s independence, to six million today.
  • Some in the Torah community, who argued that nothing good could possibly emerge from the unbelievers who were the architects of the new State. Rav Aharon Soloveichik zt”l countered that (as recorded in the haftorah to Metzora) the salvation of the entire Jewish people occurred through the efforts of the four lepers, which included one of the very few people identified by the gemara by name as having no portion in the World To Come. The Rambam (Chanukah 3:1) speaks of the value of Jewish self-rule at the end of Bayis Sheni – even though many of the leaders of that Jewish State were large-scale evildoers. Rav Elya Meir Bloch zt”l, the Telzer Rosh Yeshiva and member of the Moetzes, wrote in 1954 that it was important to emphasize that Agudah’s struggle was with the Israeli government, but not against the very idea of the establishment of the State, which was certainly a positive development that was miraculously achieved. (He added that the rejection of Agudah’s position by many lay people was not because of Agudah’s principled position about many matters, but because of its refusal to give credit to the positive elements positions of those with whom Agudah disagreed about other matters.)

Why did so many get it so wrong? Maybe, I said, because geulah has to be initially shrouded and obscured. I drew on (and developed) the explanation of the Maharal as to why geulah occurs in fits and starts, and makes slow and partial progress before it is fully realized. Unimportant things, he says, can occur quickly, seemingly out of nowhere. Important things, profound things, must develop slowly. If they are revealed in an instant, they cannot be absorbed and processed. Therefore Creation did not start with an instant of light, but evening, as it were, preceded day; light grew slowly out of darkness. And so it was with the redemption from Egypt, where Moshe’s arrival gave hope to the people and initiated a process, only to meet failure in his first encounter with Paroh, and leading to a hiatus of some months in the further progress of geulah. So, too, it will be in the future.

If the resumption of Jewish national autonomy is as important as many are certain it is, and many more hope and pray it is, then it, too, will not be absorbed in an instant, but require a longer period of gestation. During that process, with much of its light obscured, everyone will get it wrong.

I then asked the students if they thought Herzl got it wrong. No, not about Zionism. About a little known comment that Herzl made to Rabbi Dr. Asher Cohn, Rav (Orthodox) of Basel, at the 1st Zionist Congress. “Returning to Jewishness comes before returning to the land of the Jews,” he said.

The students did not strenuously object to that. I did! I invoked the Meshech Chochmah (Devarim 30:2). The Torah speaks of a return to Hashem as a certainty, not a contingency, says R. Meir Simchah, because:

וזה והשבות אל לבבך כי אהבת ישראל חקוק בלבבו ושומע את אשר חרות על לבבו מהר סיני ויזכר מחשבתו ואז ושבת עד ד’ אלודיך, כי אחרי אשר ישוב אל עמו בטח ישוב אל אלודיו

The one who is far from Torah observance who still has the love of his people in his heart will recall what is engraved there from the moment of Divine revelation. Through that, he will certainly return to his G-d.

Ironically, Herzl was wrong at the moment that he sounded most traditional. While we must work relentlessly to bring people back to their Torah legacy, there is a Plan B. When people stay connected to the Peoplehood of Israel, they have an open road ahead to a full return. Returning to Jewishness, at least in the form of halachic observance, should be the first step – but it needn’t be. Empirically, we note that Jews generally cannot sustain their Jewishness in the Diaspora for more than two or three generations without Torah and mitzvos, in Israel they still do. There may be multiple explanations for this. But we should not rule out what the Meshech Chochmah might explain: that the commitment of millions of non-Orthodox Jews in Israel to the People and to the Land – a fierce commitment that has them stay and proudly send their children to IDF units from which they might not return – bespeaks a subliminal connection to our founding and transformative moment at Sinai.

To return, at long last, to the question. Have I changed? Not really. I haven’t taken the time to revisit all the arguments of the past. I did, however, uncover a new one that was powerful enough to demand that I participate in the celebration, regardless of all other arguments. As witness to the

spirit of this remarkable people, having felt the passion of a people for its Land and knowing what that means, I could not remain an observer from the sidelines. I felt that to do so would make me a poresh min ha-tzibbur, one who removes himself from the community.

I cautioned the talmidim not to be poresh from the tzibbur that disagrees. That tzibbur is responsible for a huge quantity of Torah, and directs its extraordinary passion to its study. Like most things in life, the tough part is coming up with a sense of balance.

May we soon see the day when Moshiach instructs us all on how to get it all right.

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28 Responses

  1. Shades of Gray says:

    Below is a link to a Hakirah article, “When Unity Reigned: Yom Ha’atzmaut 1954”, discussing Rav Bloch zt’l and Yom Haatzmaut.

    Another Hakirah resource on approaches to this topic is the handout, linked below, from the late Dr. Shlomo Sprecher z’l(I think it was from a speech in Congregation Bais Moshe Shmiel in Flatbush on the 5th day of Iyur, 5774, expressing hakaras hatov to HKB”H for the State of Israel):

    • Shades of Gray says:

      I found Dr. Sprecher’s speech, linked below.

      The article notes that “This was perhaps the first time a major gathering took place in a ḥareidi shul in Flatbush to mark an event commemorating the establishment of the State of Israel. There was much excitement among the overflowing crowd; all seats were taken and latecomers were clustered around the entrance”

  2. After reading Rav Menachem Mendel’s “Hatekufah HaGedolah” one is forced to concede two points
    1) Treating Yom Ha’atzma’ut as “just another day” when nothing significant happened is a mark of incredible ingratitude to the Creator
    2) No one is more wrong than the one who thinks that all his Torah learning gives him an inkling of what’s in the Creator’s mind and what His plan is.

    • David F says:

      I concede nothing of the sort.
      That something very significant happened with the creation of the state of Israel is undeniable regardless of where you stand on Yom Haatzmaut. Whether Yom Haatzmaut itself – a creation of the State of Israel designed to commemorate the significant events that transpired – has any value, that is open to debate. IOW – we all recognize the significance of the creation of a Jewish state, but we don’t necessarily accept the means chosen by the state to mark the occasion.
      Regarding whether Torah learning affords us an inkling into G-d’s mind – it may or may not – but there’s certainly room for believing that it may. I can think of many things that are “more wrong” than such a belief.

  3. Raymond says:

    Why should we be Zionists? This to me is a softball question that I should be able to hit out of the ballpark. I may not succeed, but I am sure motivated to try.

    Probably the worst time in the entire history of our Jewish people happened just a few generations ago. There are people alive to this day who can testify to that. It was called the Holocaust. Jews living in Europe at the time had a two out of three chance of being murdered by the nazis or other antisemites. Contrast this with the wars in the Modern Jewish State of Israel. The highest percentage of casualties in any of the many wars imposed on it by its savage neighbors, was in the War of Independence in 1948, when 1% of its population was killed. That is far too many, and yet 1% is a vast improvement over the 67% of Jews murdered in the Holocaust. The point being, that after countless centuries of endless antisemitism, our Jewish people had had enough of such abuse, and have returned to our real home, where we have the means to defend our lives. We no longer have to play the role of a pushover or scapegoat. And even though Israel is now the most hated country on Earth, and even though there continues to be terrorist attacks against our fellow Jews, with each case seemingly more heartbreaking than the previous one, nevertheless, we are in far better position to defend our Jewish lives now that we are in control of our own country. Closely related to that is the fact that any Jew living anywhere in the world, now has a place he or she can run to, namely Israel, if their situation calls for it, thanks to the Law of Return. No longer do we Jews have to be subjected to the whims of some foreign culture who acts like they are doing us a favor if they temporarily decide to not kill us.

    To my mind at least, that in and of itself completely justifies the existence of our Modern Jewish State of Israel. And yet there are other reasons to be supportive of our Modern Jewish State. Going in the opposite direction now from mere physical survival, I now turn to more religious matters, specifically, Torah learning. My understanding is that more Jews are currently studying the Torah in Israel now, than at any time in our entire Jewish history. That is not something to quickly dismiss. And we have Israel’s military to thank for that, for without their military making it relatively safe for the vast majority of Jews to live and thrive in Israel, the prevalence of so many yeshivot could not exist.

    And that leads me to discussing something that is in a kind of gray area between the purely physical and the spiritual, and that is, the importance of simply feeling Jewish. Let me see if I can explain this adequately. If I am not mistaken, only about 10-20% of the world’s Jews are actually religious in practice. This is partly due to a lack of adequate Jewish education, but it may also be a consequence of most Jews not having the self-discipline and absolute commitment is takes to be a fully religious Jew. Yes, I have heard so many times what sacrifices that religious Jews have made to stay religious, but realistically speaking, most Jews are not heroes. Most of us are just kind of ordinary, and yet we still want to feel Jewish. And some people feel Jewish if they eat a falafel at a falafel stand, or attend a Carlebach concert, or sing HaTikvah at some local Israel festival. Does this satisfy the Code of Jewish Law? Of course not, but is it a crime to want to feel Jewish even if one does not follow all the rules? Now, before anybody here thinks that I am advocating non-Orthodox forms of Judaism, nothing can be further from the truth, simply because I am not talking about any ideological movements here. Rather, I am talking about individual Jews trying their best to make it through this life as Jews. And I bring it up here, because that is what Israel itself means to a whole lot of Jews. Some Jews may not have what it takes to be Shomer Shabbat, yet they are the first ones at pro-Israel rallies, and their politics often revolve around which candidate is the most supportive of Israel. The existence of Israel, in short, makes so many of us Jews proud, not only because of Israel’s military strength or even necessarily its level of Torah learning, as much as its sheer humanity, the fact that it fights its wars with such restraint that, if anything, they can rightfully be accused of being too humane. And, little tiny Israel is often among the first helping to rescue troubled people from around the world. I am the first one to acknowledge that Israel is not perfect, but just as a parent loves their children with or without their imperfections, so do millions of Jews love our little Jewish State of Israel.

    How do I know so much about such a mentality? Well, because I am one such person. Israel means everything to me, so much so, that I basically divide the world into two kinds of people: those who are decent enough to be pro-Israel, and those disgusting enough to hate our beautiful country. And even if the entire world wants us destroyed, The Nation of Israel shall live!

  4. lacosta says:

    chanting the haftara of acharon shel pesach [recited by some in israel on yom haatzmaut ], one is struck by the out-of-order way jewish history has developed [assuming this is near the End ]. there, clearly the Scion of Jesse will rule as messiah , lions and lambs united , and then the refugees from the Diaspora will be gathered in by him — to live in harmony without dissention between Yehuda and Ephraim. things haven’t developed geopolitally as Isaiah foretold: Jews are neither safe in the world , nor can get along with each other.
    But then I recall the haftara of the first day of sukkot , where Zecharia foresaw a Day of Light and Darkness with admixture —and isn’t that how we can characterize the last 70 years— not all good , not all bad …
    Hanistarot Lashem elokeinu….

  5. mk says:

    Could we imagine in today’s world a prominent Chareidi Rosh Yeshiva davening not only in a Mizrahi oriented shule but in an actual official Mizrachi shule?
    Well I personally davened daily in such a shule and included in the minyan was none other than Rav Pam ZTL!
    I also remember attending a bris there and the sandek was none other than Rav Hutner ZTL!

    • dr. bill says:

      i have three examples i quote repeatedly. two involve leaders of the eidah hachareida. rav sonnefeld ztl ‘s psak wrt a death on shabbat respected the minhag of the chevra kadishs despite the niftar and his observed chumrot. rav weiss ztl in the 4th chelek of minchas yitchak talks about rav tukatzinsky ztl, who supported the heter mechirah and argued with eidah leaders, respectfully, praising his insights. it does not happen anymore.

      the other story involves rav isser zalman meltzer ztl who vomited after watching the brisker rav ztl and rav zevin ztl argue violently with each other. you couldn’t walk in the streets today if that were the response the lack of civility received.

    • Shades of Gray says:

      “included in the minyan was none other than Rav Pam ZTL!”

      Which shul was this?

      Artscroll’s “Lieutenant Birnbaum” and “Rav Pam” biography mention that when Rav Pam lived in East New York, he was the unofficial rav of the Young Israel of New Lots for a number of years(in later years when Bais Hatalmud opened in East New York, R. Pam davened there on Shabbos mornings). According to a Yated article about Lieutenant Birnbaum by Jonathan Rosenblum, “Prior to World War II, the Young Israel of New Lots won an award as the leading Zeirei[Agudah] chapter, despite its institutional affiliation with the Young Israel movement.”

      • MK says:

        The shule was Hapoel Hiamizrachi of East Flatbush. Rav Pam davened Mincha and Maariv there daily, not on Shabbos. At this time he lived in East Flatbush.
        Once again, it is important for people to know that Gedolim of the stature of Rav Pam and Rav Hutner did not hesitate to participate in a Hapoel Hamizrachi shule.
        Young Israel of New Lots was heavily influenced by Rav Hutner as well as people like Rav Pam. It had all the advantages of a Young Israel (youth having a more active role etc)
        with e “Yeshivish touch”. Rav Aharon Shechter, current Rosh Yeshiva of Chaim Berlin ,grew up in that Young Israel.

      • Shades of Gray says:

        Thank you for the Hapoel Hiamizrachi information which I imagine many people do not know(for that matter, it may not be widely known that at Torah Vodaas, Rav Pam taught “mathematics, utilizing his degree from City College”, according to an article quoted in the Wikipedia entry for R. Pam).

        Re. Young Israel of New Lots, there is also a Bais HaTalmud/Mir Shanghai connection; see the Lieutenant Birnbaum article, linked below. Jonathan Rosenblum writes in this article,

        “The match between the group of earnest, temismidik young Americans and the few Torah giants who survived the European inferno is another important part of American Jewish history”

      • bo says:

        IIRC, the “Lieutenant Birnbaum” book relates that Young Israel once took a vote if they should align politically. Virtually every branch voted to affiliate with Mizrachi, except for the New Lots branch which affiliated with Zeirei Agudath Israel, itself not the actual party. So Irving Bunim took the podium and said that since it’s not unanimous, YI will remain unaffiliated – as it remains till today.

        So with/despite the influence of RP & RH who davened at Mizrahi, the membership wasn’t sympathetic enough to Mizrahi such that it ended up blocking YI’s official association with it.

  6. I think we can be sophisticated enough to on the one hand be very “pro-Israel” from a pragmatic point of view going forward, but have great misgivings about celebrating the success of the secular Zionist movement in founding a Jewish state in their image.
    For a genuinely religious person, religion is the most important thing in one’s life. As the Rambam explains Chazal’s aphorism that a convert is like a newborn, religion is more important than even the strongest bonds of family. For a Jew whose religion is the most important thing in one’s life, seeing a movement that has succeeded in perpetuating the cycle of secularization of millions of Jews– for three generations now– by using the vehicle of Jewish government and Jewish statehood should induce profound sadness–not joy.
    The fact that said government tolerates and begrudgingly supports public religious observance, education and institutions should be acknowledged, but it does not seriously mitigate the overwhelming secularizing influence that the State of Israel has wielded and continues to wield over millions of its Jewish citizens. The mainstream public education system is secular. The military is secular. The Government is secular. . This is how the State of Israel continues to secularize the vast majority of its citizens and I find it very hard to celebrate that.
    Now of course people will say “What’s the alternative? How can a Jewish state with millions of citizens not be fundamentally secular? What, you want to only provide religious schooling for the public, only allow rabbis to make the military and political decisions for the nation? That’s a theocracy! We’d be rightly shunned by the modern western world and be lumped together with Islamic fundamentalist countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia!”
    To them I respond: For a genuinely religious person, religion is the most important thing in one’s life; not approval from the modern western world. The fact that there is a secular state run by Jews presiding over millions of secular Jewish citizens is a painful historical tragedy– despite the fact that it provides a safe place for Jews to live and live an authentic Jewish life.
    If one’s religion is truly the most important thing in life, how can one argue that Jewish autonomy was worth the price tag of creating millions of secular Jews in perpetuity? And even if you can understand how it was worth it, (of course, as with all historic Jewish tragedies, we have faith that G-d must have had his reasons) how can you celebrate it?

    • Raymond says:

      I have attended countless Torah lectures in my lifetime. One in particular dealt with the phenomenon of cults. An honest question can be asked concerning them, and that is, how does one tell the difference between a cult and a legitimate religion or other ideological movement to follow? To put it bluntly, what justifies us not calling Judaism itself a cult? Well, said whoever the Rabbi was who was giving that talk on the subject, there are basically two signs. One is, how does the movement react to questions? Are they open to them, or do they react to them with some measure of hostility? and the other sign is, do they encourage family life, or show disdain for it? Well, in reading your words, how we must accept your doctrine that religion triumphs all, that it is beyond question, and that it even supercedes our family, well, if that is truly what Judaism is all about, then you can count me out. I would want no part of it. and the truth is, that over the years, I have encountered some Rabbis who indeed have been truly hostile to my questions. However, the best of the Rabbis I have encountered, have fortunately not been that way at all. In fact, I hope he does not mind me praising him here, but I feel compelled to make the observation here that over the years, nobody has handled my questions better than our own Rabbi Adlerstein. And in him having such respect for me, I am motivated to have respect for him right back. And as for the centrality of family life in Judaism, I remember coming across an explanation for why the Holy of Holies in our Holy Temple is designed the way it is: namely because it mimics our tables right in our homes, thus indicating to us how really, it is our homes that is the true center of religious life, not our shuls or even yeshivot. One cannot get more family oriented than that. In fact, also in some Torah lecture I have heard (sorry for not remembering who the exact Rabbi was, but I guarantee he was mainstream Orthodox or even Chareidi Orthodox) went as far as to say that if a Ba’al Teshuva is still a teenager living at home, and there is a conflict between their new religious lifestyle and the parents’ wishes, that the teenager must forego that aspect of their religious observance until they go live on their own, out of respect for their parents. Again, that tells me of the central importance of family life in Judaism.

      Now, as for the imperfect condition of the Jewish State of Israel, of course I have to agree with that fact in itself, as it is simply an actual reality. Call me naive, but I am still shocked that virtually all of their Prime Ministers did not think twice about eating blatantly non-kosher food in public. I am appalled by the fact that Israel allows gay parades right in our holiest of cities. I think that Israel is an utter fool for allowing any non-Jew to serve in its Knesset, let alone members of the very religion that wishes to exterminate us. It just seems to me that one of the requirements of serving in the Knesset should be that one is an Orthodox Jew. Some may call that extreme, but to me, that is just common sense.

      However, just because Israel is not perfect, does not mean that we should abandon it, or regret that it was ever created in the first place. As I pointed out above, Israel, however imperfectly, provides a relatively safe haven for Jewish lives. Do you want to go back to the days when we Jews were subject to the whims of the non-Jews, when we could never feel secure, never know whether we were coming or going, never truly feel at home? I know I don’t. I thank G-d every day that we have Israel back in our hands. Even secular Jews realize this on some level. Recall in the Six Day War how the very first thing that the secular Israeli army said upon capturing the Old City was, “Our Holy Temple is back in our Jewish hands.” How can chills not run up and down your spine as you once again read those words? Doesn’t that awaken any Jewish pride in you whatsoever?

      Now, I can understand why religious Jews might be upset that secular Jews have control over Israel. And yet, do religious Jews really have that right to object to that, when they refused to do enough about it to enable us to have Israel back in our hands in the first place? Yes, I know that as far back as the 18th century, that a few students of both the Vilna Gaon as well as a few students of the Ba’al Shem tov, started moving back to Israel. And yet it was the secular Jews who seized control of Israel. They deserve credit for that. Also, consider this idea. In our own individual development as human beings, we first have to get our physical needs met, before our parents can even think of teaching us about our more spiritual selves. Perhaps in a similar way, first we have to get Jews physically into Israel. Once that happens, then one can work on our more spiritual selves. So perhaps instead of standing around finding fault with secular Jews in Israel, that one’s time would be better spent finding ways to reach out to them in a way that they would find following the Torah to be something pleasant and beneficial for them. But to simply reject them and treat them like inferiors, accomplishes nothing useful.

    • rkz says:

      Actually, it was not the founding of the state that caused the tragic process of turning away from the Torah. In fact, looking at the last 70 years, the state of Israel is a success story wrt to Torah observance (despite all the many problems, past and present)
      Furthermore, on Yom HaAtzmaut we do not celebrate the government, but the very fact of Jewish malchut in Eretz yisrael.

    • Dyan says:

      A religious person can be religious without wanting Israel to be a theocracy like Saudi Arabia, where a woman can be beaten with impunity with the slightest accusation and where there is no such thing as justice.

    • Ben Bradley says:

      ‘seeing a movement that has succeeded in perpetuating the cycle of secularization of millions of Jews– for three generations now– by using the vehicle of Jewish government and Jewish statehood should induce profound sadness–not joy.’
      That is simply not the reality of the situation. There has been no perpetuating cycle of secularisation and it’s odd that you think there is. The idea that the governemt acts as a vehicle for secularisation is a trope of the nuttier end of the extremist spectrum. The religious sector has grown hugely through both natural growth and baalei teshuva. It’s the old style secularists who are slowly becoming a entry in the history books. These days a majority of the popluation consider themselves at least ‘masorati’ , which while not great from the Torah perspective is certainly not secular. The demand for hechsered food is booming. Sephardi youth is slowly bouncing back to Torah from the trauma of the early decades of the state.
      If you believe in hashgascha pratis then you certainly believe in hashgacha clalis, and how could national independence be anything else? Regardless of the kelim which brought it about.
      If the yad Hashem makes you sad, perhaps religion isn’t as important to you as you thought.

  7. Steve Brizel says:

    A secular Jewish state that ” tolerates and begrudgingly supports public religious observance, education and institutions” is far better than the alternative either in pre war Europe or the fools paradise and Ptemkin like villages that all too often are a fair description of the strongest Orthodox communities ( MO and Charedi) that we all too often we forget that is the case in the US. The issues confronting Israel ( and Orthodoxy across the board ) today can best be described as pre war dreams at best. These facts and the rise from the Phoenix of Torah learning since 1948 require hakaras hatov. We sometimes need to remember that the 4 Metzoraaim and Rachav helped secure the land of Israel and that Esther HaMalkah lived with Achashverush until she died but gave birth to successors who permitted the return to the Land of Israel-the latter of which we celebrate quite happily with Tefilos, and a seudah. Like it or not, R Rimon and other Talmidei Chachamim have written sefarim that show how one can be a Ben Torah in the army-regardless of its secularizing tendencies, which one can avoid via the hesder or charedi nachal tracks.

  8. Alex says:

    “the fact that [the State of Israel]provides a safe place for Jews to live and live an authentic Jewish life”

    In a post-Holocaust, post-pogrom, post-Crusades, post-Almohads world that is all you need to recognize and be thankful for. Aside from the ability for a “truly religious” person to fulfill the mitzvah of yishuv Eretz Yisrael and the additional mitzvos ha’teluyos ba’aretz. Free will has been granted to humanity, which means that some will choose not to be religious. Our challenge as religious people is to give hakares hatov, be mekadeish sheim shamayim, and be an ohr lagoyim.

  9. Mark says:

    I would think that being poreish from the tzibbur whose representative celebration is an absolutely maddening display of the idolatry of kochi v’otzem yadi, is quite laudable.

    Rav Shlomo Wolbe (Alei Shur, Volume 1, page 287):

    “It is well-known that in the Torah there is no absolute value other than Hashem and serving Him… The Land itself is only a tool and means for serving Hashem, and this Holy Land as well, with all of its qualities and importance, is not an inherent value, like the “homeland” by the nations of the world. The value of the framework of the Yishuv and its institutions, too, is measured, only and solely, by the degree to which they bring the Nation of Hashem closer to Torah, Mitzvos and Emunah.”

    Celebrating the anniversary of the establishment of a State founded upon uprooting these values (with no small degree of success in some cases) is no cause for celebration; any subsequent benefits, important as they may be, are ancillary. A fool might celebrate the anniversary of the death of his parent who left him a large sum of money with which he could dedicate his life to Torah study, but the halachah would demand that he fast on that anniversary, with a reticent (not ebullient) Hatov V’Hameitiv recited at the time.

    • bo says:

      Speaking of R Wolbe, a small booklet of his letters published soon after his passing tells his complaint to his correspondent who asked about Hakaras Hatov to ones country. R Wolbe answers, isn’t a country obligated to do all the things you mentioned, for its citizens? You are only trying to get (Zionism) in through the back door….

    • Raymond says:

      How sad it is that there still remain Jews who do not appreciate the open miracle of we Jews having our Jewish land back in our control. I just hope that such a lack of true character exists only in a very tiny percentage of Orthodox Jews, perhaps some extreme fringe like Neturei Karta and nothing more than that. Meanwhile, millions of us Jews will continue to thank G-d for our Jewish State of Israel as we realize how it brings blessings both to us Jews as well as the world in general, in so many ways.

  10. Reuven Ungar says:

    Mr. Kornreich: “For a genuinely religious person, religion is the most important thing in one’s life; not approval from the modern western world”.
    Yes- religion is the most important thing in one’s life. For that precise reason we thank Hashem for enabling us to fulfill each and every mitzvah that He commands us. The commentary of Rav Zvi Yehuda Kook ztl on the Ramban’s words in Sefer HaMitzvot (addition #4) is quite compelling that the full performance of Yishuv Ha’Aretz is by exercising national control in The Land.
    Hashem’s way are just; it us up to us how to perform them, as the gemara references this verse in regards to observance of Mitzvot.
    Mark: “I would think that being poreish from the tzibbur whose representative celebration is an absolutely maddening display of the idolatry of kochi v’otzem yadi, is quite laudable.”
    Rav Soloveitchik ztl writes of “ger” and “toshav”. On certain matters we are together- toshav. On others we are apart- ger.
    As the journalist Mr. Yedidya Meir shared in his column in the BaSheva newspaper recently, a reader- virtually- adjusted the text of a sign. Instead of “Having what to be proud of after 70 years” , rather “Having what to be grateful for after 70 years”.
    It’s our choice, challenge and responsibility to avoid what we can not correct, to correct what needs correction and to strengthen the wonderful things that are happening. Be’ezrat Hashem.
    80 years ago Anti-Semites by and large did not meet there demise via motorcyle in Malaysia. Nor did a Jewish leader call out an Anti-Semitic regime displaying their plans obtained – Thank G-d!- via secret organs of the state.
    On the spiritual sphere- which is the most important sphere as mentioned- there is more Limud Torah now- in many levels- since…?

  11. Mark says:

    The debate is not whether there is room for thankfulness but whether one is to celebrate the anniversary of the State’s establishment. The idea that no celebration equals no gratitude is astoundingly shallow and monochromatic.

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