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The Jewish(?) State of Israel

Rabbi Jonathan Blass5 Cheshvan 5764
515
Question
Thank you for your answer to my question about Aliyah and its problems. You say that we came Home. We felt that was what we were doing before we made Aliyah, but I’m not sure I feel like that now... We thought we were coming home because Israel is supposed to a Jewish State. In what way is it a Jewish State? Because the overwhelming number of residents are Jewish? Then Boro Park is also a Jewish State. Can we really say that this is a State of Jewish values? First of all what does that mean? Moreover, who decides? the Knesset? the Supreme Court? How can a secular decision be made as to what is "Jewish"? I don’t agree that the dispute about religion stems from the fact that the religion also belongs to the non-religious. Most of the non-religious people I know would like to eliminate religion entirely from the country. Basically, what I am saying is that after 50 + years, for religious Jews, there is great disappointment in the State of Israel. You may not feel it because you live and travel in religious circles. But in general, with regard to the 80% of the country that is not religious, Israel is not a great spiritual success. (...I think that what has made me think more deeply about all of this is the fact that our son in hesder just went in to the army... we are so frustrated by the illogical policies of the government and the army... we don’t understand why we are sending our boys to defend a country whose policies we don’t support...)
Answer
The State of Israel is a Jewish State by virtue of it being where G-d has gathered His People in fulfillment of Biblical prophecy and where Jewish national expression is reasserting itself. I agree with you totally that some of the phenomena accompanying the present process of redemption are painful and malodorous. Rav Yosef in Masechet Sanhedrin alluded to these when he asked to witness the redemption even if he were required to sit in the shadow of the dung of the Mashiach's donkey. The donkey- a symbol of materialism; The dung- a reference to the waste products of that materialism. Did you expect that a nation that has undergone 2,000 years of persecution and exile would return home without bearing the scars and suffering the maladies that accumulated over those years? Chazal did not have any such expectation. The cleansing and purification of Israel takes place not in the Exile, but here in Israel (Ezekiel 36 25). The kind of limited Jewish experience you remember nostalgically from the Galus is not the destiny of the Jewish People as taught by the prophets and by Chazal. It is a punishment. Shifting gear from the stunted demi-life we lived in the graveyard of our Exile (Ezekiel 37 12) to a vibrant national existence that expresses the full Jewish connection to G-d is not a simple transformation. There are pitfalls along the way. But we are expected to be not mere observers but active participants. When we see things that are wrong- we do what we can to change them. We are often frustrated. Along with our pride, we worry when our sons are defending Israel as soldiers of the IDF. We are all terribly upset when soldiers lose their lives. We are infuriated, if like last week, they are killed as a result of stupid mistakes. Some tasks are beyond us as individuals. But with full faith in the Ribono Shel Olam who brought us out of Exile, we do what we can. Israel is where the Jewish redemption is happening. The author of that redemption is not Ben Gurion or Jabotinsky but the G-d of Israel. Who are we to say that G-d isn't doing it right? If we have criticisms of the situation- and who does not?- we act to make things better. Sometimes, we even succeed. May you be blessed mishamayim with a parnassa tova. May your son serve his G-d and his people proudly and return home safely. And may your efforts on behalf of the Jewish People- including your aliyah- bear tangible fruit that you can enjoy, inspiring a return of that confidence that motivated you in the past and, G-d willing, will continue to do so in the future.
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