08 May 2019 Yom Haatzmaut 5779
Yom Ha’atzmaut (observed) 4 Iyar 5779, corresponding to May 9, 2019: 71 years since the establishment of Medinat Yisrael, our new country in our old land.
Towards the end of this week’s parsha, Parhas Kedoshim, the pasuk tells us: וָאֹמַר לָכֶם אַתֶּם תִּירְשׁוּ אֶת-אַדְמָתָם, וַאֲנִי אֶתְּנֶנָּה לָכֶם לָרֶשֶׁת אֹתָהּ, אֶרֶץ זָבַת חָלָב וּדְבָשׁ – And I said to you: You shall possess their land, and I shall give it to you to possess it a land flowing with milk and honey; I am Hashem your G-d, Who has distinguished you from the peoples (Vayikra 20:24).
Eretz Yisrael is… A land flowing with milk and honey – אֶרֶץ זָבַת חָלָב וּדְבָשׁ; a land that G-d continuously seeks out, the eyes of Hashem are on the land from the beginning of the year to the end of the year (Devarim 11:12); a land of promise and hope – and Elokim פָּקֹד יִפְקֹד אֶתְכֶם, וְהֶעֱלָה אֶתְכֶם מִן-הָאָרֶץ הַזֹּאת, אֶל-הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּע לְאַבְרָהָם לְיִצְחָק וּלְיַעֲקֹב – will surely redeem you, and He will take you out from this land (of Egypt) to the land that He swore to Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov (Bereishis 50:24); אֶרֶץ חִטָּה וּשְׂעֹרָה, וְגֶפֶן וּתְאֵנָה וְרִמּוֹן; אֶרֶץ-זֵית שֶׁמֶן, וּדְבָשׁ – a land of wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and the honey of dates (Devarim 8:8); a land where there, and only there, we will become a great nation: וְאֶעֶשְׂךָ, לְגוֹי גָּדוֹל, וַאֲבָרֶכְךָ, וַאֲגַדְּלָה שְׁמֶךָ; וֶהְיֵה, בְּרָכָה – and I will make you (Avraham) into a great nation (there), and I will bless you and make your name great, and you will be for a blessing (Bereishis 12:2);
A loyal, faithful, beloved land that will never yield to another nation, people or religion, for even when we are cursed, we find blessing through the land, וְנָתַתִּי אֶת-עָרֵיכֶם חָרְבָּה, וַהֲשִׁמּוֹתִי אֶת-מִקְדְּשֵׁיכֶם; וְלֹא אָרִיחַ, בְּרֵיחַ נִיחֹחֲכֶם – And I will lay your cities waste, and make your holy places desolate, and I will not partake (accept) your pleasant fragrances (of the Temple service), וַהֲשִׁמֹּתִ֥י אֲנִ֖י אֶת־הָאָ֑רֶץ וְשָֽׁמְמ֤וּ עָלֶ֙יהָ֙ אֹֽיְבֵיכֶ֔ם הַיֹּשְׁבִ֖ים בָּֽהּ – And I will bring the land into desolation, so that it will become desolate of your enemies who live in it (Vayikra 26:31-32).
In this painful foreshadowing of churban (destruction), found in the terrible klalos (curses) of Bechukosai, we have promise and hope.
Rashi (26:32) explains: והשמתי אני את הארץ. זוֹ מִדָּה טוֹבָה לְיִשְׂרָאֵל, שֶׁלֹּא יִמְצְאוּ הָאוֹיְבִים נַחַת רוּחַ בְּאַרְצָם, שֶׁתְּהֵא שׁוֹמֵמָה מִיּוֹשְׁבֶיהָ – this is a measure of goodness for Israel, for the enemies who dwell in the land of Israel after our exile will not find pleasure and contentment in the land, for she will remain desolate and bereft of her inhabitants (Am Yisrael) and will not yield herself to the enemy.
In these difficult times, when the residents of the southern Israeli communities find themselves under threat, attack and faced with R”L terrible loss of life; as we commemorate Yom Ha’Zikaron once again and remember the staggering losses – each Jewish life a world (Sanhedrin 37a) – and the price we pay to have a Jewish homeland; as the ugly head of anti-semitism, ‘anti-Israelism’ and anti-Zionism has raised its brutal head the world over, let us remember that G-d reassures us that our enemies will never, ever, succeed in our land – try as they might.
R’ Soloveitchik zt’l teaches, “The Land of Israel cannot be built by just any people or group. Only the Jewish people possess the capacity to transform it into a settled Land and to make the desolate waste bloom. This divine promise became a miraculous fact in the history of the Land of Israel during various periods. We must not forget, even for a moment, that the Land of Israel drew the nations of the world – Christians and Muslim alike – like a magnet. The medieval Crusades were undertaken for the purpose of conquering the Land of Israel and colonizing it with a Christian population. All of the efforts of the Crusaders were in vain, and they did not take root in the land. Even the Muslims, who were already in the land, did not succeed in colonizing it properly.
“Those who exile the Jewish people and replace them as residents of Eretz Yisrael will reside in a desolate land. They will starve because the Land will not give of itself to them. Our enemies drove our ancestors out of Jerusalem. They set fire to it and destroyed the Beis HaMikdash. But they never colonized or populated it. Mt. Zion was desolate for a very long time, and despite many attempts, not a single nation, not one other people, ever succeeded in establishing a state in E”Y. Many peoples were eager and ready to colonize it. It is a land considered holy by Muslims and Christians. It was occupied by many powers – by Rome, later by Byzantium, by the Muslims, by the Crusaders, and then by the Muslims again. It changed hands so many times, but no one developed E”Y agriculturally, industrially, or scientifically.
“In the 18th and the beginning of the 19th centuries, entire continents and huge stretches of land like Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa were colonized and settled by the British. They took desert country, jungle, and converted it into blossoming gardens. They brought civilization to pagans. Yet the same British could not colonize E”Y. It is a special land, an eretz chemdah. With the exception of a small colony here and there, no one was able to colonize it on a grand scale. E”Y remained a desolate land.
“Contrast this to the flourishing of the yishuv (settlement) in E”Y. It is a very young yishuv, in existence only since the turn of the 20th century. And yet see what its members have accomplished! Apparently there is a sense of loyalty on the part of the land that she will never betray her people, she will not give herself up to strangers or to conquerors. She will save herself only for the people to whom E”Y belongs” (Chumash Masores Ha’Rav, Vayikra, p.229-231; See also Fate & Destiny, p.37-38).
On the occasion of the establishment of Medinat Yisrael, waiting until Motzei Shabbat, May 15 (1948) to broadcast his address, Menachem Begin declared:
“This event has occurred after 70 generations of dispersion and unending wandering of an unarmed people and after a period of almost total destruction of the Jew as Jew. Thus, although our suffering is not yet over, it is our right and our obligation to proffer thanks to the Rock of Israel, and His Redeemer, for all the miracles that have been done this day, as in those times. We therefore can say with full heart and soul on this first day of our liberation from the British occupier: Blessed is He Who has sustained us and enabled us to have reached this time” (Menachem Begin: The Battle for Israel’s Soul, by D. Gordis, p.77).
שַׁאֲלוּ, שְׁלוֹם יְרוּשָׁלִָם; יִשְׁלָיוּ, אֹהֲבָיִךְ – Pray for the peace of Jerusalem; may those who love you enjoy tranquility (Tehillim 122:6).
בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום,