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Jews Celebrating July 4th and their country’s Independence


Rabbi Ari Shvat

Tammuz 9, 5782
Should a Jew celebrate the Independence Day of the country where he lives, assuming it is not Israel?
Answer: In my opinion it's wrong to celebrate another country's Independence Day, for Judaism is not just a religion but also our nationality and country. As opposed to a non-believing Christion who is, by definition, no longer Christian, and a non-believing Muslim is no longer Muslim, contrarily a non-believing and non-observant Jew is still 100% Jewish, bc it's our nationality! Even if a Jew unfortunately doesn't live in Israel, he should totally identify with the Jewish nation/people and be proud and celebrate as his own: our national language (the Holy Language of Hebrew), our national land (the Holy Land of Israel), our national army (the IDF), and our national state (the State of Israel) and her independence. Just as I feel kinship with a Nobel Prize or Olympic medal winning Jew, and justly so- even though their achievements are not "religious", Rav Soloveichik said that similarly, I shouldn't go around wearing and being identified with a Scottish kilt or Arab kaffeyah (although he did celebrate Thanksgiving, but the difference of thanking for salvation from a negative danger of anti-Semitism, as opposed to identifying America as a positive ideal & happy celebration, is obvious). An American should celebrate the 4th of July, but a Jew (even if he lives in the US), should be as proud and loyal to his people as possible, and not spread out his loyalty with other nations. Jonathan Pollard taught us well that sometimes there's a problem of "dual loyalty", where he had to choose "am I more Jewish" or "more American", and Nazi Germany drove this point home even more, that exile is not Home. The Torah teaches, and we all know from experience that all exiles, yes even America, are temporary for Jews, and we must remember our real and eternal identity. These are the ABC's of Judaism from the very beginning of Sefer Breishit: we're the Eternal and Chosen People with the Eternal Chosen and Promised Land and should be proud of it! Our sages teach that Moshe was punished not to be buried in Israel, for, unlike Yosef, he identified to the daughters of Yitro as an Egyptian, unlike Yosef who presented himself to Potiphar as a Hebrew, from the Land of Israel. Even though Moshe was just telling the truth (for in fact, he never had been to Israel and really was from Egypt!), Rav Soloveichik explains that every Jew, regardless of his temporary location, must identify that his country is Israel (even though R. Soloveichik himself lived in America!)! Like a child who is sent away from the table, 2,000 years of exile was an unfortunate punishment, and we surely should not turn God's punishment into a celebration! Rav Ari Shvat
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