Many have pointed to the political and military miracles involved in the establishment of the State of Israel. We must ask why God specifically chose this time to perform these miracles for our nation.
An analogy from the time of the prophet Haggai is instructive. Haggai prophesied in the year 520 BCE, a very difficult time for our nation. Nineteen years earlier the Persian emperor Cyrus had permitted the Jews to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple. But relatively few Jews had taken advantage of Cyrus’ offer, and those who returned struggled with a poor economy while remaining under Persian rule. Moreover, opposition from the local non-Jewish residents had quickly halted the construction of the Temple after the Jews had erected an altar.
After an absence of prophecy since 570 BCE, Haggai emerged with a simple but encouraging message from God: “Ani itekhem” — “I am with you.” The Jewish people were in desperate need of hearing this message sixty-six years after the destruction of the Temple with its accompanying suffering and exile. The widely-anticipated glorious return to Israel was deeply disappointing. Many Jews might have erroneously concluded that God had abandoned us. Along came Haggai with a message from God to counter such a terrible consideration. Perish that negative thought, teaches Haggai! God’s commitment to the Jewish People is eternal! Haggai’s message was supported and authenticated by the fulfillment of his prophecy with the completion of the building of the Second Temple in 516 BCE, against great odds.
Similarly, the years immediately following World War II were a particularly dismal time for the Jewish people. A third of the Jewish people had been brutally murdered by the Nazis and their many accomplices, and hundreds of thousands of Jews languished in displaced persons camps with no country willing to admit them. The doors of Palestine were almost completely sealed to Jewish immigration by its British rulers.
Many Jews at the time identified with the feelings of their ancestors after their return from exile, fearing that God had forsaken his people. Missionaries actively reached out to Jews arguing that the Holocaust and its aftermath proved that God no longer regarded the Jews as His special people. Many Jews, sadly, fell prey to this toxic outreach. It could be argued that God made the political and military miracles of 1947-1948 to clarify to the Jewish People, “Ani itekhem” — He is still very much with us.
Israel’s establishment points to conclusion that God remains involved in the world. Let us follow in the footsteps of King Solomon, who in the Song of Songs declares in reference to God, “Behold, He stands behind our wall, He looks in at the windows, He peers through the lattice.” Each day in our morning prayers we recite the exhortation “sihu bekhol nifle’otav” — “speak (i.e. identify) all of His miracles.” Study Benny Morris’ magisterial work “1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War” and note the details of how the United Nations voted to establish a Jewish State against all odds. Read about how the ragtag Israeli army managed to withstand the first few weeks of the War of Independence with little ammunition and relatively few soldiers on three different military fronts. Let us heed the Psalmist’s call and point out God’s intimate involvement with the world each and every day, but especially this coming week on Yom HaAtzma’ut, Israel’s Day of Independence.
Rabbi Jachter teaches Judaic studies at Torah Academy of Bergen County, serves as rabbi of Congregation Shaarei Orah, the Sephardic Congregation of Teaneck, and administers Gittin/Jewish Divorces recognized by the Israeli rabbinate, throughout the tristate region.