By Shmuel Sackett
As Yom Kippur approaches, we all concentrate on our personal lives. We have personal Teshuva to do and many personal requests that we would like fulfilled. We will be begging Hashem to help people we love with shidduchim, parnossa, refuah (both physical and emotional), shalom bayis, fertility and success in all areas of life. We will be dovenning with all our hearts for Hashem to help us overcome our temptations, desires and yes: addictions – from all those modern gadgets that steal our time, energy and very life!
While these are all very important things to doven for on Yom Kippur (and every day during the year as well!) allow me to ask you to add something equally as important. This subject is vital but, for some mysterious reason, is not spoken about nearly enough and has almost fallen off our collective radar screen. I want each and every one of you to doven for the State of Israel.
Sounds weird, right? When is the last time you heard a request like that? As stated above, we are all used to dovenning for sick people (who doesn't have their own list of cholim?). We doven for poor people and fellow Yidden stuck in various forms of mud. But when is the last time someone asked us to doven for Medinat Yisrael? Is there some kind of war headed that way? Are the Jews in Eretz Yisrael in dire need of assistance? What's going on?
My answer will shock you, but I like to "talk straight" so here goes. Baruch Hashem things in Israel are fine. Yes, we have our share of enemies around us (always had and always will) but they seem more interested in fighting themselves right now, so I am not worried. The reason I want you to doven for the State of Israel is because of what it will do for YOU – the Jew in the Diaspora, not for ME – the Jew in Israel. Allow me to explain.
Jewish life in America is moving more and more to the "right". Your Yeshivas are becoming stricter by the day and new "chumras" are being added all the time. I actually love all these things and am happy that our people are becoming more serious in observance and dedicated to Torah – except for one MAJOR point. Diaspora Jewry is falling into the trap of "The Shtetle" and Heaven forbid what will happen. Yes, I realize that the beautiful homes in Kew Gardens Hills, Teaneck, Hillcrest, Lawrence, Forest Hills and Woodmere don't look like ones in Polish shtetls and the shopping on Main St, Central Ave and Cedar Lane is far better than what our grandparents experienced in Warsaw but the idea is the same: Jews living – not as a NATION – but as COMMUNITIES.
For 2,000 years we were scattered around the four corners of the world. We were individual Jews running from place to place like scared little mice. Finally, after many years of living as individuals, we succeeded in forming Jewish communities. We built yeshivas, shuls, mikvas, eruvs and chesed committees. What could have been better than that? I will be the first to admit that these communities held our people together and helped us grow! From these communities came great Rabbonim, wonderful seforim and minhagim that we keep to this very day. Throughout our history, the anti-Semite tried to destroy our communities – and in many cases he succeeded – but as a whole, we stayed strong and kept building and growing.
All this changed in 1948. Yes, 1948 – just 65 years ago – when Hashem gave us the greatest gift of the last 2,000 years… the State of Israel! What Hashem did for us on that day was something our people hadn't seen or experienced since the days of the second Temple: He gave us back the concept of the Jewish NATION. "Am Yisrael" returned from the dead – a real "Techiyat Ha'Meytim" on the NATIONAL LEVEL!!!
Do you realize what has happened in these last 65 years? Our holy tongue has been revived, our inheritance has been claimed, our Land has been settled and today – 5774 – for the first time in 2,000 years; the majority of the world's Halachic Jews are living in Israel!! These facts cannot be ignored and we must give thanks and praise to the Creator of the world for allowing this to happen! Yes, the modern State of Israel has its share of problems and we will work hard to repair every one of them and to overcome our challenges, but we need to focus on the positive not the negative. We are back! The Jews have returned and that means "The Shtetle" is over. No more millions of individual Jews running around or thousands of Jewish communities dotting the globe. We are one people, living in one Land as the one Jewish Nation!
This is why you must pray for the State of Israel on Yom Kippur, even if your shul does not. You need to connect to the Jewish nation. You need to understand that there's a lot more to Jewish life than just shaking a lulav or eating Kosher. By dovenning for the State of Israel you will make it a part of you – an inseparable part of your body and soul… and the best day to do that is Yom Kippur. Why? Because on Yom Kippur we all start a fresh and clean page and I am suggesting that you start a new chapter as well! This new chapter will change your life because it will turn you from a communal Jew into a national Jew.
A national Jew is one who does everything a communal Jew does, and a lot more! He/she helps decide on the leadership of the nation, assists in defending the nation, pays taxes to help build the nation, improves the economy of the nation, debates against those who speak against the nation and settles the nation with lots and lots of Jewish babies! Think about it for a second; who really cares if our community/shtetl in America grows and prospers? Sure it is nice to see a Jewish neighborhood grow and the number of kosher pizza shops (and sushi bars) multiply tremendously, but at the end of the day – does it really matter? I grew up in Middle Village, Queens where we once had a thriving Jewish community complete with shuls, butcher shops and bakeries. That Jewish community died out so my parents moved to KGH. I didn't shed one tear for Middle Village, nor will I for KGH when the inevitable happens in the future. Jews in the diaspora simply move around from place to place. What was yesterday's big Jewish community is today's museum and tourist attraction.
You need to understand that all this is different in Israel. New kosher pizza shops in Ashdod are much different than new kosher pizza shops in Queens because Ashdod is where Jews live as a nation, not simply "The Queens Jewish Community". In essence, this is the meaning of how we end the Yom Kippur dovenning with those four powerful words: Next Year In Jerusalem. To me, those words are a prayer to Hashem which really mean the following: Our Father and King; please welcome us back to the palace. We have corrected our mistakes and can no longer live outside as princes disguised as commoners. We have found other princes and together we built a society that is modeled after the palace but we long and yearn for the real one. We can no longer fool ourselves and have come to the conclusion that our homes are a mere façade of what they should be. Please show us mercy and bring us home so that we can live a life of truth – a life as authentic princes in the palace of the king – as the one and only Jewish NATION! Next Year In Jerusalem!