This year’s Yom Ha’atzmaut commemorates the 71th anniversary of a marriage that has lasted more than 3,500 years. This may sound like a paradox, but it is the inescapable truth about the Land of Israel and the Jews. No marriage has lasted so long, been so deep in its commitment and so overwhelming in its love as the one between the Jews and their homeland.
Israel’s very existence is the manifestation of divine intervention in history to which it must attest. In Israel, history and revelation are one. Only in Israel do they coincide. While other nations exist as nations, the people of Israel exist as a reminder of God’s involvement in world history. Only through Israel is humanity directly touched by the divine.
However much money Israel may make from hosting Eurovision, it is absolutely wrong and shameful that Israel’s leadership will allow violation of Shabbat on this occasion. It is self-evident that this has nothing to do with pikuach nefesh. Israel should cancel the Eurovision Song Contest if its organizers are not prepared to find a solution so that Israel can keep its head high and show the world what it means to stand for one’s principles.
The founding of the State of Israel, then, is not the beginning of the marriage between the land and the Jewish people, but rather a reaffirmation of the marriage commitment that took place thousands of years ago between God and Abraham. The marriage was created to give birth to a wellspring of religious and moral teachings that will suffuse humankind with the knowledge that life is holy and that God awaits people’s response to His call in order to redeem His world.
Rabbi Yochanan taught us that Jews can survive without Israel, as long as there is Torah, the portable homeland of the Jewish people. But Jews will not survive solely because of the existence of Israel—however powerful it may be—if Israel does not incorporate a large percentage of Jewish traditional resources.
Radical change has taken place in the Jewish world after the Holocaust and the establishment of the State of Israel. We have been shown that it is impossible for all of us to stay outside of history. The Holocaust has taught us that we cannot survive without entering history. To argue that our yeshiva students are the ones who really defend us against our enemies, and that we do not need soldiers, is an escape from reality.
מאז תקומתה של מדינת ישראל, ניצבת בלב הוויכוח הציבורי השאלה האם יש לנהל את המדינה על פי ערכים יהודים או דמוקרטיים. שני הערכים נראים כבלתי מתפשרים. היהדות מייצגת השקפת עולם תיאוקרטית שבה א-לוהים ממוקם במרכז. הוא המוקד והסמכות המוחלטת. לעומת זאת, על פי השקפת העולם הדמוקרטית מי שעומד במרכז הוא העם.
A poem in praise of the holy city of Jerusalem, in the wake of the American announcement to designate Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
When contemplating the re-establishment of the State of Israel after nearly 2000 years of exile, no Jew should believe that the land is guaranteed to remain theirs forever. It could easily be taken away, as it has been in the past. If its inhabitants do not behave properly. If they hide behind the claim that they are observant or moral, while in fact they are fighting each other and disobeying the ethical dictates of God, the Book of Amos makes it clear that the State of Israel will not endure. Nor can we hide behind the abundance of Torah learning today to save us.
Several recent events—the Olympic Games and the proposal to work on the railway line construction on Shabbat—are excellent opportunities to start a conversation on the role of halacha in the Jewish State. The question is: what form should the conversation take? It should not, I believe, primarily take the form of a formal halachic argument.