יום שלישי, אפריל 20, 2010

Yom Ha'atzmaut Emunah

Emunah that God would redeem us used to be easier.

If one were to ask a Jew in Hungary or Iran 300 years ago if they believe in God’s redemption they’d say yes. If you were to ask them how they will be redeemed they would say that God will redeem them and the details are unknown. There might be some eagles and wings involved.

The Zionists messed it all up for us. It is now a lot messier a topic and a harder question to answer. Today only the truly anti-Zionist Jew can give the answer his great-great-grandfather gave. For him, the world is in the same state and as such we wait for the redemption as we always have. The challenge is presented to those who view the events of 1948 as game-changing.

An Israeli family we know sent us an email invitation to their Yom Ha’atzmaut barbecue. In the body of the email they wrote that they were pleased to invite us and that dinner was called for 5pm. There was also an attached document which I assumed was a repeat of the email text in a nicer font along with a picture or two.

Opening the attached document opened my eyes both to them as individuals and showed me a different type of emunah.

Most unusually, the invitation opened with recognition of a challenge. They wrote that it is not so clear that we should be celebrating Yom Ha’atzmaut anymore. Many people are unimpressed by the current situation in Israel. We've given it our best shot and the government we have is no better than the others out in the world and more corrupt than many. We have no clear plan to build God’s temple or to establish a Torah-based society. The great hopes of those who said Shechiyanu in 1948 have not been fulfilled and it doesn’t look like we are on a path to do so.

Despite our efforts to give the day spiritual significance and a religious nature, Yom Ha’atzmaut is little more than a day off from work, in a first-world, western society, where the celebrants happen to be Jews. Nu. Is this really a reason to have a religious holiday? This was the challenge posed by their invitation.

The response was a very honest and very religious one. Emunah – faith. The tradition passed down to us says that the exile of Edom is the last exile. If we see the events of 1948 as removing Jews from the exile of Edom by granting us self determination, then our faith in our tradition allows us to grant religious significance to those events. We will not return to wandering the earth, subject to the whims of other nations. This is the beginning of God’s redemption.

But as I wrote at the beginning of this letter, it is a different and perhaps more challenging type of emunah than that of eagles and wings. While in the past emunah in the redemption was in spite of the world beating us up, celebrating Yom Ha’atzmaut today requires an emunah in redemption in spite of our own flaws.

I can understand those who disagree with the above position that 1948 was the end of the exile of Edom. In that case, today should be a lovely day for a picnic and they can continue to have faith that God will redeem us from exile at some point in the future. But for those who point to the current problems of the state of Israel and say that the Zionist enterprise has failed or that Yom Ha’atzmaut no longer has religious significance... Well, they may just be lacking a bit in their emunah.

So I called up my friend and thanked him for his letter and I bless us all with emunah to celebrate despite the flaws.

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