Israel’s Independence Day 2015 – The Responsibility of Independence

The Talmud teaches (Sanhedrin 21b), “And (the king) writes himself a Torah scroll so as not to seek credit (for one written by others).” This text wants to teach us that the leader has to know the Torah himself without hitching a ride with others who take responsibility.

I think that every one of us have to ask ourselves the question “Why am I here in Israel?” at every opportunity – and not to allow others to proscribe the meaning of our existence here. The Bible reminds us over and over the conditions for living in the land: carrying out G-d’s rules and commandments which includes prescriptions for social and environmental responsibility (mitzvot between people and concerning the land) and a spiritual life (mitzvot between humans and G-d).

When the Temple was destroyed, the State of Israel and the people’s responsibility as citizens became once again a dream, a hope, and perhaps a fantasy.

And then along came Theodore Herzl who called to the Jews of Europe in 1896 in his book “The Jewish State”, writing:
“….Here it is, fellow Jews! Neither fable nor deception! Every man may test its reality for himself, for every man will carry over with him a portion of the Promised Land — one in his head, another in his arms, another in his acquired possessions.
…Prayers will be offered up for the success of our work in the synagogues…Therefore I believe that a wondrous generation of Jews will spring into existence. The Maccabees will rise again…”

There were around 600,000 Jews in Israel in 1948, a similar number to that which was said to have left Egypt more than 3000 years earlier. These Jews – with the help of Jews abroad – fought and won the independence. And there have arrived over two and a half million Jewish immigrants since then. But today, most Israelis are native to the land having been born and grown up in Israel. When a baby is born (especially a boy), the countdown begins to his army service, the ultimate assuming of responsibility.

But it doesn’t end with army service. Every one of us has to take responsibility everyday. I am still inspired today by Herzl’s vision –
–To be proud that we are a part of the Jewish people with a common history and common values
–To dedicate ourselves to each other, to our heritage, and to the future of our people in this land and in the world, everyone with his/her own talent and energy.

I feel that I have a special mission in this land and in the world. To be an advocate for the preservation of life. To seek out meaning in everything. To always act for the sake of peace — in my heart, in my family, on the streets and highways, behind closed doors and in public. “We did not come to this world for argument and strife” prayed Rabbi Nachman of Breslav. Our responsibility is to build a society whose strength lies in its ability to keep the peace – as it is written in Proverbs (20:3), “Honor goes to the man who keeps away from strife.”

What is true victory? According to the prophet Zecharia, “Not by might and not by power but by My spirit.”

True victory is not achieved by weapon or through force.

And that is how we will achieve the dream of Herzl and so many like him.

As he summarizes in his book:
“The time has come – We shall live at last as free men on our own soil, and die peacefully in our own homes. The world will be freed by our liberty, enriched by our wealth, magnified by our greatness. And whatever we attempt there to accomplish for our own welfare, will react powerfully and beneficially for the good of humanity.”


One Response to “Israel’s Independence Day 2015 – The Responsibility of Independence”

  1. benjaminsperberblog Says:

    If history allows us hindsight, it is the heartache of Yom HaShoah that makes Herzl’s words such a moment that could have changed everything. Jews were not prepared to leave all they knew and go to “Palestine” to struggle. In Ari Shavit’s book, My Promised Land, we are given extraordinary insight into the first pioneers, those who changed the land and became a force with which the other residents would have to reckon. But it was a hard life and not a life that would include scholars and intellectuals. Those and the scientists and the mathematicians and the artists stayed in the lands that would become their executioners. Israel did not welcome all, but transformed into a place that redefined Judaism. I have been there and have seen the great work of the Sabra and the immigrant. She, Eretz Yisrael, is still the hope of the Jews. In spite of the struggles of the Mizrahi and the Sfardi, there has been a homogenization to create the new Sabra. I have seen the gifts that the “new” Israeli rabbis have brought to the spirit of the once secular majority.

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