the weekly Torah reading by the faculty of
Dr. Yeroham Shimshovitz
How awesome and sublime a holiday is Yom ha-Atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, for us! Yet we must clarify the quality of this day for ourselves. Why do we call it the “beginning of the blossoming of our Redemption”? We must examine the full significance of this concept, which, regrettably, is becoming a dead metaphor.
The Sages said in the Passover Haggadah that in every generation we must view ourselves as if we ourselves have come out of Egypt. Thank G-d, in our era we can see ourselves as coming out of the great straights of Exile.
The establishment of the State of Israel appears to be the beginning of our final Redemption, just as the exodus from Egypt was the beginning of our first Redemption. As Sefat Emet says, each generation has its own exodus from Egypt. The question is whether or not it is successfully implemented and given expression. I quote from Sefat Emet:
The three festivals can be compared to the Written Law, and juxtaposed to them are three other holidays that can be compared to the Oral Law. Hanukkah illuminates the festival of Tabernacles, and Purim relates to the Feast of Weeks. And we hope that from Passover the words of Scripture will come to pass, “I will show him wondrous deeds, as in the days when You sallied forth from the land of Egypt” (Micah 7:15).
Thank G-d we have been blessed with the words of Sefat Emet coming to pass, and we now have a holiday which goes with Passover – Israel Independence Day. Before our ancestors came out of Egypt, they experienced the plague of darkness, which for the Israelites was the holocaust of that generation, for four-fifths of our people died in a single blow. To our great sorrow, also in our generation, the generation of Redemption, since we lacked merit we underwent a holocaust before the establishment of the State. (Note that in Egypt, all those who did not wish to leave their land of exile died.)
Even after the exodus from Egypt, there were ups and downs in the process of Redemption along our ancestors’ way to the Land of Israel. The Israelites were attacked by Amalek, they committed the sin of the golden calf, had other failings and experienced other trials and tribulations. Also in our time, since the establishment of the State and the beginning of the process of Redemption, there have been ups and downs, and trials as well. In both instances the reason for the periods of decline has been one and the same: failure to acknowledge the greatness of the era. Had we recognized the fact that we were at the beginning of the process of redemption of the Jewish people, perhaps we would have had less suffering.
Now, this Redemption is not like others that occurred in the past, such as Hanukkah and Purim, which were not the final redemption. In our time there is no more clearly revealed approach of Redemption than this, with the land of Israel receiving its children who are returning to it, and the land giving them its fruits.
Hence, in other times of redemption that were set as celebrations it was not appropriate to institute recitation of Hallel on the eve of the holiday, as was done for Yom ha- Atzmaut. We hope that this Redemption will be even greater than the exodus from Egypt, as the Sages answered Ben Zoma, saying that when the last Redemption comes it will be from bondage primarily to other rulers and the exodus from Egypt will pale in comparison. Just as we make a benediction over the recitation of Hallel on the eve of Passover, so too perhaps it is fitting that we also make a benediction over our recitation of Hallel on the eve of Yom ha-Atzmaut. Sefat Emet says that reciting Hallel does more than acknowledging a miracle that has occurred, for in recognizing the magnitude of the miracle and praising and thanking the Lord for it, we continue to make the light of the miracle shine throughout the world and give it more of a hold in reality.
Unfortunately there are some extremely G-d-fearing Jews who do not see the hand of G-d at work, having an impact on reality in our times. In the confession recited on the Day of Atonement we mention “sins that we have committed through lack of conviction” [from Authorized Daily Prayerbook, Hertz], which could be interpreted as meaning that this doubt and skepticism prevents some of the observant Jews amongst us from viewing the establishment of the State of Israel and Jewish rule as the beginning of the blossoming of our Redemption. Hence, the gemara requires that there be a sign indicating revelation of approaching Redemption, since the era will not be one in which “everyone is righteous,” and hence one could fall into the mistake of wondering whether this is truly our Redemption. Therefore, the gemara says that when we see the hills of Israel yielding their fruit to the people of Israel who have come from afar, then we shall know that Redemption is indeed at hand, even if we do not perceive it. It should be noted that it does not say that first all of the Jews will return to their land, and then the land will yield its fruit; rather, it suffices for the time to come when, due to a national awakening, the land begins giving its fruit to its children who are returning to it.
We all hope that Yom ha-Atzmaut truly marks the onset of the process of our ultimate Redemption, after which there will be no more exile, a Redemption that reveals a general righting of reality in the world. All that was suddenly and hastily revealed as a free gift, in the Passover of Egypt, must be merited again, bit by bit, so that we may hold forever what we have been so fortunate as to have been given, and thus may we attain Redemption of the entire world, speedily in our day, Amen.