Beit Midrash

  • Shabbat and Holidays
  • Yom Haatzmaut
To dedicate this lesson



Rabbi Berel Wein

These post -Pesach weeks have been marked by special commemorative days meant to preserve some vestige of important Jewish memory to later generations. Thus Holocaust Rembrance Day, Memorial Day for the Fallen Israeli Soldiers and Israel Independence Day are all meant to somehow convey an identity with the Jewish people and its history to new generations that have not experienced the actual events that these days represent and commemorate. Unfortunately the Day of Remembrance for Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terror needs no memory recall for it is a continuing reality in present Israeli life. However the alienation of a large section of world Jewry from its faith, practices and traditions has created a dangerous state of amnesia amongst this group. There are already Jews who are Holocaust forgetters, even doubters, who wish the whole subject of the Holocaust to be forgotten and ignored. Enough, already! is their cry. This will lead eventually to Jewish Holocaust denial in the name of solidarity with the more radically "progressives" of the Western and Moslem world. As far as Israel Independence Day is concerned there are large sections of the Jewish world that pay it no heed out of theological, political and deep psychological motives. The Jews of the far Left call the creation of Israel a "mistake," and many of the Jews of the Charedi religious right consider it to be a false messiah. The Jews who are in foreign governments seemingly always act against the interests of Israel when in power and later write books about why their peacemaking efforts bore no substantial fruit. There are therefore many Jews and certainly many more non-Jews who would simply wish to erase the past century of Jewish and world history ands start all over again as though none of it ever really happened. Unfortunately, from this point of view, such a policy is wholly unrealistic and illusory.

In the real world that we inhabit, the fate of the Jewish people as a whole is inextricably bound to the well being of the Jewish state of Israel. Over one third of the world’s Jews live here and to a great extent it provides the teachers, scholars, political and social leaders for the entire Jewish world. Thus attachment and loyalty to the existence of the state of Israel would seem to be a self understood requirement in the societies of all types of Jews. Sadly this is not present even here in the state of Israel itself. Reading some of Israel’s newspapers, listening to portions of the radio or viewing television programming would convince an alien visitor from Mars that Israel is the chief villain of the world and responsible for all of the problems that face humankind currently. The entire concept of Jewish loyalty has become foreign to large sections of Jewish society. It is not taught in many Jewish schools here and abroad, it is absent from the programming of Jewish organizations operating on many college campuses, and it is absent in the spirit of many nominally Jewish households. In fact loyalty is viewed as being anachronistic, passé and not in the spirit of current civilized society.

A long time ago when I was a student at an American public elementary school the students were taught to remember the famous American motto: "My country, right or wrong, my country!" Well, that certainly is no longer the motto taught in American schools today. The motto today reads somewhat as follows: "My country, if it conforms to my firmly held prejudicial beliefs and does not deviate from them even slightly, then my country1" When Yehoshua bin Nun entered the land of Israel with the Jewish people millennia ago, the Tanach records for us that he encountered a stranger (who later turned out to be an angel sent by Heaven). Unaware of his identity or his intentions Yehoshua asked him only one question: "Are you with us or are you with our enemies?" Apparently there is no middle ground allowed in answering this question. It poses the harsh reality of Jewish life and does not allow for the illusions of a utopian, even-handed, collateral-damage free, moralistically perfect but unobtainable world to interfere with the stark and truthful answer that is required to this question. Loyalty to our Torah and its commandments, to our fellow Jews the world over, to our land and state are the guarantees of our survival and continued accomplishments. It may be old-fashioned to espouse loyalty in today’s weird world but loyalty to the concept of loyalty itself is a necessary component of Jewish life.
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