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Iyar 5768

Thank God We Have A State - What Next?


Written by the rabbi



Yom Haatzmaut - Israel Independence Day. The synagogue is full of congregants. I focus on the prayer, "May it be Gods will that just as we have merited the beginning of the redemption, so may we merit hearing the shofar blast of our righteous Messiah." I think to myself: Thank God we have a state, but this is just the beginning. How shall we proceed from here to the complete redemption?

Give Thanks for What We Have, Push On to the Next Stage
Rabbi Uri Cohen
The tone of this question demonstrates, on the one hand, a measure of disparagement regarding the value of the state. On the other hand, it reflects a sense that the establishment of the state can already be regarded as the "Third Temple," the end of the redemption. The question that naturally follows from such a point of view is: If this is the redemption, what was the purpose of our enduring such a long and trying exile?

Because there are two sides to the question, there are two sides to the answer:

a) We must not disparage the state, for the state possesses intrinsic value already in its present state. For the nations of the world, a people is a collection of individuals gathered together for the sake of shared interests that the individual has difficulty attaining on his own. The state is just a means to achieving various needs.

However, the Jewish people are completely different in that they constitute "a single soul made up of different bodies" (The Kuzari). Therefore, their foundations lie in their communal nature and only when they exist as a community do we see them in their basic, original form.

It follows, then, that our state, which is the expression of our communal nature, is not a mere "instrument." The State of Israel is the "foundation of Gods earthly throne" (Orot Yisrael 6), the greatest sanctification of God's name since the onset of our exile (Ezekiel 36:26). Indeed, Rambam rules that Channukah was established as a festival because of the return of our sovereignty for two hundred years.

However, because we have free will, and we may choose to fulfill the commandments that apply to us as individuals, or not to fulfill them, so may we choose to fulfill or not to fulfill national commandments (such as conquest, settlement, construction of the Holy Temple, etc.). This, though, has no bearing upon the essential value of the state or the commandments.

b) The question, "Is this the state for which we endured so many generations of painful exile?" is likewise unjustified. We must understand that even when we left Egypt and attained freedom, we did so in stages. First our bondage ended, then we went out from Egypt. It was a long time before our redemption was consummated through Davids Kingdom and the construction of the Holy Temple, some four hundred years later.

This idea also receives expression in the structure of our Amidah prayer, which was formulated by our sages to represent the order of the redemption (Megillah 17). First we request freedom, then the ingathering of exiles, and only at the end of the process does the Divine Presence return to Zion with the resumption of the sacred Temple services. (We received these vital concepts from our giant mentors, Rabbi A.I. Kook and his son, Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah, and they should be reviewed whenever such questions arise.)

Bearing the above considerations in mind, there is no room for such a question. The state, the establishment of which we have had the good fortune of living to see, must constantly exhilarate us. At the same time, we must continue to hope and act towards its continuation and improvement, until it reaches perfection.

The Vilna Gaon explains that the redemption can come suddenly ("achishena"), even if it began gradually (bitah). If, due to our unworthiness, we have not yet merited this, we can perform more commandments and thus hasten future stages of the redemption, until its consummation with the return of our Holy Temple. May this come speedily in our day, Amen.

Understand What We Are Doing Here

Rabbi Daniel Shilo
First, we must apprehend the value of the state. Once we have done this we can answer the question "What next?"

The State of Israel is the most effective means available for fulfilling the commandment of settling the land of Israel, which is equal to all of the other commandments in the Torah together (Tosefta, Avodah Zara 4:3). Before the establishment of the state it was impossible to bring Jews to the Land of Israel and to settle the land.

The above explanation, however, relates to only a single small aspect of the lands nature. According to such a perspective, the state, as important as it is, has the status of a hammer used to build the Sukkah, or an oven in which matzos are baked. They have no sanctity whatsoever, and no blessing is pronounced over them (except once, when they are bought).

Therefore, it is important to read the words of the illustrious Rabbi Yehoshua of Kutna (Yeshuot Malko, Yoreh Deah 66): "The essence of the commandment is to inherit and to settle, like a person who does [as he pleases] on his own [property], to conquer the Land of Israel through inheritance."

Rabbi Soloveitchik likewise writes (Chamesh Derashot, pg. 88), regarding the words of Ramban on the commandment to settle the Land of Israel: "The Ramban has already formulated the truth for us, that national sovereignty in the Land of Israel is based upon inheritance and settlement - that we have been commanded to inherit the land, and not to leave it in the hands of some other nation, or desolate. It is impossible to interpret Rambans words in some other manner." The state, then, is not just some vessel or expedient. Rather, it is an integral part of the commandment to settle the Land of Israel. It is not just a "hammer," it is the Sukkah itself.

This brings us to the question: What next? Today, in the eyes of many, the justification for the State of Israel is the fact that it serves as a safe haven for a persecuted people. According to this perspective, the State of Israel is no more than the largest refugee camp in the world. And so long as this is the entire purpose of Israel, it will not succeed in being this either. Not to long ago a senior IDF officer said that Arafat sought, through his murderous attacks, to destabilize the fundamental principal that the State of Israel is meant to fulfill the role of "safe haven" for the Jewish people. He attempted to show that we would never be safe here.

We know, however, that regarding our return to the Land of Israel, the Almighty has stated, via his prophet, "And I shall bring them to My holy mountain" - not to my safe haven. In the final chapters of his "Hilkhot Teshuva," Rambam teaches us that a person my repent not only of undesirable deeds and negative character traits, but even from deficient viewpoints.

Ezekiel the Prophet said, "The ruined cities will become filled with sheep of men, and they will know that I am Lord." First "sheep of men," and then "they will know that I am Lord." The words of the prophets are not just a tiding of things to come, but a charge to be carried out to completion. Fortunate are those who work with God in this regard as well.

Setting Clear Objectives
Rabbi Yehuda Kroizer
From the very birth of the Jewish people, a fundamental bond was forged between the nation, the Torah, and the Land. Abraham, the father of our nation, was commanded, "Go forth from your land...to the land that I will show you." This teaches us that there is no Nation of Israel without the Land of Israel.

Similarly, the land itself depends upon the fulfillment of the Torah, for the sages explain that the Torahs commandments are only truly fulfilled in the Land of Israel; the only reason we observe the Torahs commandments outside the Land of Israel is so that we not forget them (Sifri, Ekev 42).

The secular Zionist movement strengthened the bond between the nation and the Land, but impaired the bond shared by the nation and the land with the Torah. It did this in its attempt to create a state free of any connection to the Torah and its commandments.

Throughout the states existence, we, the religious community, have concealed our demands to create a bond between the state and Jewish law, and "therefore this calamity has befallen us." The time has come to demand and put our efforts into establishing a Jewish, Torah state in the Land of Israel, underpinned by the following principles:

The boarders of the land will be those promised to the Patriarch Abraham in the Covenant Between the Halves - "From the Egyptian River to the great river, the Euphrates."

Any non-Jew living in the Land of Israel will be given two options: a) to leave the Land (to this end a special emigration agency will be created); b) to take upon himself the Seven Noachide Laws before a Torah court and by so doing to become a "sojourning proselyte" (ger toshav). Such proselytes will be permitted to remain in the Land of Israel. They will be granted residential and employment rights, but will not enjoy political, governmental rights.

At the head of the state will stand the king, and at the head of the justice system - the Sanhedrin. The laws of the state will be the laws of the Torah, and the duty of the police will be to enforce them.

The state will be responsible for building the Holy Temple, and by so doing to reestablish the divine worship in its entirety, to return the Jewish people to their proper place as a "light unto the nations," as it is written, "And many peoples shall go and say: Come, let us go up to the mountain of God...for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of God from Jerusalem" (Isaiah 2:3).

The redemption of Israel will not fall from the sky; its realization depends upon us. We must believe that we have the power to bring about such a change. It is important to remember that it will be a long and difficult road, and while "we are not required to complete the work," we are nonetheless not permitted to neglect it for even a moment. Even those matters that are not presently attainable should be clearly defined as goals.

May God bless our efforts and may we merit the speedy redemption of Israel, Amen.


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