Friday, May 02, 2014

The Religious Holiday Of Independence Day

Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed

Dedicated to the memory of R. Avraham ben-tziyon ben shabtai

1. A Day Of Thanksgiving
2. Independence - Sanctification Of G-D's Name
3. Do We See What They See?
4. Preparing For The Big Day

"This day that G-d wrought, we will rejoice and be happy with it." (from the Hallel prayer, Psalms 118, 24) The Medrash teaches that Rabbi Avin asked, "Are we to rejoice with 'G-d' or with the day He wrought? In Song of Songs, it is explained: 'We will rejoice and be happy with You' - with G-d and with Your salvation.'"
On this day, we are to rejoice with G-d Who has made this day for us. On this day, G-d broke the yoke of the nations from around our neck and removed the rule of the nations from His holy land. It was on this day that G-d tore down the 2,000-year-old partition separating the People of Israel from the Land of Israel. We returned to rule our Land, and our Holy land returned to us.
This is a day of Hallel (praise) and thanksgiving. We give praise to G-d for His wonders and for the great and Divine providence He showed us. Our victory over our enemies during the War of Independence in 1948 was close to being a clear miracle. It was a war of the few against the many, and the victory was clearly not totally natural. For this great goodness alone we thank G-d.

We rejoice and celebrate the 'salvation of the Holy Presence' itself - for G-d's Honor is intertwined with the honor of His people Israel, His elder sons. Israel is the nation that "recounts the praise of G-d in the world." When Israel is demeaned, it is as if the Honor of the Heavens is lowered; when Israel is at a peak, G-d's Honor is the same. This means that the day of Israel's Independence in 1948 was a day of Sanctification of G-d's Name! This revolutionary change in the status of Israel - becoming a free nation after close to 2,000 years as a persecuted people - is therefore a great and exalted Sanctification of G-d's Name.
The nations of the world recognized this and were stirred, as is written, "Then the nations will say, 'G-d has done great things for them.'" They know that nothing of this sort has ever happened before: that a small people, scattered and dispersed throughout the world for two millennia far from their homeland, without a home, without a center, should come to life again and return home! This is truly the vision of the "dry bones," a genuine wonder!

When a baby is born, those who hear of it from afar are awed by the birth itself, with barely an inkling of the tremendous labor pains that preceded it. So too, the nations of the world stand by and are amazed by Israel's resurrection - by its fast development, by its growth in all areas, by the massive amounts of new immigrants it successfully absorbs...

The amazement of the nations, however, is not always the lot of the Jews themselves. "He for whom a miracle occurs does not always recognize it," teach our Sages. We are the ones who are undergoing the difficult labor pains of the re-birth of the nation. We are the ones who feel the contractions that, as the birth nears, are coming more frequently and more painfully. We are the ones who find it most difficult to see the great progress that is being made. It is hard for us to see the reunion, one by one, of the bones that have been scattered far and wide. Joining the bones and the sinews and the flesh together is a hard and very painful operation. Nothing seems to relieve the hurt we feel, and it is very hard to see the great revolution that we are undergoing.

Before Independence Day, I generally take a couple of days off from my regular pursuits and begin intensive spiritual preparations for this day. Just as we must begin studying the laws of Passover 30 days before, and the High Priest begins preparations for Yom Kippur seven days earlier, so too Independence Day requires thorough spiritual preparations. During this difficult period we are now undergoing, which has a tendency to disrupt the normal pace of our lives, it is important that we step back and take a look with the glasses of faith at the complete picture, of where we came from and where G-d is taking us. For instance: From the beginning of the Oslo agreements in 1993 until now, the population of Yesha has more than doubled - from 100,000 to 205,000. And all this during this period of "freezing of settlement building"!

As Jews come home from all over the world, with different customs, traits, and outlooks, joining them together into a cohesive whole is very difficult. The efforts are sometimes exhausting and terribly frustrating. The fulfillment of the dream of the return to Zion appears sometimes to limp depressingly along. But the Doctor performing the operation is pleased, He sees the progress, He sees how the body is healing and becoming whole once again, and He is full of happiness. We therefore today also rise up above our not-always joyous daily routine and look from above with faith and great joy - and the blessing of Hallel and thanksgiving bursts forth from our throats, "This is the day that G-d wrought, we will rejoice and be happy with it."

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