If ever there was any doubt about who we are and what our place is in the world, that doubt should have been erased on a Friday afternoon in Tel Aviv 64 years ago, when David Ben-Gurion stood before a packed room and declared that it was “the natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate, like all other nations, in their own sovereign State.”
As he stood there, Ben-Gurion, as always, was mindful of both Jewish history and world history. He knew that what he was about to do had never been done by any other expelled people. He knew how impossible it was for this to be happening. And yet, there he was, saying the words Jews only dreamed about hearing for nearly 2,000 years.
KEEPING THE FAITH
One religious perspectIve on issues of the day “Accordingly,” Ben-Gurion continued, “we, the members of the People’s Council, representatives of the Jewish community of Eretz Yisrael and of the Zionist movement…hereby declare the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz Yisrael, to be known as M’dinat Yisrael [the State of Israel].”
For those who kept faith, even through the horrors of the Shoah, the re-establishment of the Jewish state was as natural as Ben-Gurion claimed it to be. The Torah makes clear time and again that we and the land are eternally intertwined. Without it, we cannot exist. As for the land, it needs us as much as we need it.
That is history’s message. Regardless of who controlled the land during those 1,800 years of our separation from it, the land remained fallow, not fruitful. Only when we began to return to the land did the land begin to return to itself. Swamps became orange groves. Barren deserts became lush gardens.
We are the People Israel; it is the Land Israel. Neither of us is complete without the other.
What other nation has ever returned from the grave? What other people has ever returned to its home – not just once, but twice, both times in fulfillment of prophecies and both times in defiance of history? What other people has withstood a virtually non-stop campaign of extermination lasting millennia, only to stand up each time, dust the mud off of its clothes, and get on with its life?
We are Israel, God’s ahm segula, His treasured nation. He said that was forever. He kept His word.
“…[It] shall come, that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come, and see My glory…,” said Isaiah in God’s Name (see 66:18-20). “And they shall bring all your brothers for an offering to the Lord from all nations upon horses, and in chariots, and in litters, and upon mules, and upon fleet camels, to My holy mountain Jerusalem, says the Lord….”
“All nations and tongues” were indeed “gathered” in the fledgling United Nations on Nov. 29, 1947, and by majority vote they sanctioned the resurrection of the Jewish state in the homeland of the Jewish people.
God kept His word. We must keep ours.
We do not, however, because we reject God’s hand in history, just as we reject the notion that we are God’s special treasure, His mamlekhet kohanim v’goi kadosh – His kingdom of priests and holy nation, the people who stood before Sinai and declared, “Na’aseh v’nishmah,” we will do and we will listen.
God kept His word. When do we begin to keep ours?
What does the Flag of Israel represent to you? To me, it represents proof positive that the Torah is true and represents the legitimate word of God. This is what the Torah will say in the reading tomorrow (Leviticus 26):
“If you walk in My statutes, and keep My commandments, and do them…, I will turn myself to you, and make you fruitful, and multiply you, and establish My covenant with you….
“But if you will not listen to Me…, [I] will bring a sword upon you…and you shall be delivered into the hand of the enemy….And you shall eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters shall you eat….
“And upon those who are left alive of you I will send a faintness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies; and the sound of a shaken leaf shall chase them; and…you shall have no power to stand before your enemies. And you shall perish among the nations, and the land of your enemies shall eat you up….
“Then will I remember My covenant with Jacob, and also My covenant with Isaac, and also My covenant with Abraham will I remember; and I will remember the land….I will for their sakes remember the covenant of their ancestors…; I am the Lord.”
This is even more graphically conveyed in Deuteronomy 28:49 ff: “The Lord shall bring a nation against you from afar, from the end of the earth, which will swoop down like the vulture; a nation… of fierce countenance, that will not respect the person of the old, nor show favor to the young….[You] shall be left few in number….And your life shall hang in doubt before you; and you shall fear day and night, and shall have no assurance of your life….
“And it shall come to pass, when all these things have come upon you…, then the Lord your God will reverse your captivity, and have compassion upon you, and will return and gather you from all the nations, where the Lord your God has scattered you…, and the Lord your God will bring you into the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it.”
Such are God’s words as recorded by Moses.
Can anyone doubt that every single one of these words, the blessings and the curses and the promise of redemption, have been fulfilled to the letter?
If these words, spoken 3,500 years ago, are true – and the blue-and-white flag of Israel tells me they are true in every particular – then all of the other words in the Torah are true, words about keeping kosher and loving your neighbor, about keeping Shabbat and protecting the disadvantaged, about wearing tzitzit and meeting our responsibilities to each other, to the world and to God.
Israel’s flag tells me that God has kept His word to us and is still keeping His word to us. We need to start keeping our words to Him, words we should recommit ourselves to this Shavuot:
“Na’aseh v’nishmah, we will do and we will hear.”