Unfortunately, there are many things that divide the Jewish people. Food, prayer styles, politics. Pretty much the only thing we agree on is the comic genius of Mel Brooks. But you would think all Jews could come together to celebrate, after 2000 years of exile, the miraculous return to our homeland. Sadly, even this is hotly contested. But most perplexing of all, the group of Jews who most fervently protest the State of Israel are none other than the most religious of religious.
You would think the group of people who yearned for generations for return would be at the forefront of celebration. I will confess I do not know nor have I researched a thorough understanding of their perspective. But from a recent class taught by Rabbi Jawary, I’ve become aware of three prominent arguments. (By no means is this comprehensive, the conflict is much more complex and political, as most arguments usually are.)
If this is indeed the culmination of Jewish History how can the people leading it be non religious?
The State of Israel is by no means a religious country. The founders were not religious people and though it was founded to be a place for all Jews, the expectation was that the Orthodox side was withering and would soon be nothing more than a remnant of the past. Since Israel isn’t a religious state, we don’t have a 3rd Temple and we don’t have Moshiach (who is supposed to lead the return) whatever the secular State is, the ultra religious believe it can’t be the true State of Israel.
How can the state of Israel exist when there’s been no teshuvah?
It is understood in the 2nd Temple was lost because of sinas hinam, or baseless hatred. When Tisha b’Av comes around, we learn a Midrash in the Talmud that details a story known as Kamsa and Bar Komsa. Basically, a wealthy man throws a huge party and invites his friend Kamsa. But due to a mix up his hated enemy Bar Komsa gets the invitation instead. When Bar Komsa shows up thinking his enemy wants to make amends, the wealthy man embarrasses and has Bar Komsa thrown out. Bar Komsa vows revenge against the rabbis who were at the party that allowed him to be humiliated and goes to the Romans informing them of a revolt. The Rabbi say that’s what started the chain of events that lead to us losing the 2nd Temple. And until we learn how to rectify the elements of that conflict, by living with baseless love, we’ll continue in exile.
Obviously we do not live in a world of baseless Jewish love. So how can Israel possibly be a blessing when we’ve not learned our lesson?
Israel can’t be from God because the return to Israel is supposed to be MIRACULOUS
As I stated above, the return to Israel is supposed to be ushered in by the Moshiach, the 3rd Temple is going to fall out of the sky (so to speak), and it’ll be like we’re seeing things like splitting of the sea on a daily basis. But when you look at the history of Israel, you see wars, resolutions, recently we got word an embassy is gonna be moved to Jerusalem, not out right miracles the prophets wrote about. So Israel can’t be our real return.
OR IS IT?
So those are the prominent arguments. Now I’m going to walk them back one by one.
For me just the very fact that the Jews are back living in Israel after 2000 years is all the miracle I need. That in and of itself is INSANE. Let’s just take a closer look at that fact. In the 1800s when Theodore Herzl met with a German Keizer to discuss Zionism, the Keizer told him that in order for the Jews to ever have a state of Israel four things would have to happen.
The Turkish empire would have to collapse. The British empire would have to collapse. The Austro-Hungarian empire would have to collapse. And the Russian empire would have to collapse.
As all four empires either had claim or interest in the region. Jump forward half a century and the impossible has happened. Just to put that in perspective, that’d be like saying Disney, Google, Amazon, and Apple all went bankrupt.
During the Cold War, the United States and the U.S.S.R. only voted the same way on one issue, UN resolution 181, which gave Israel its official statehood. Every war Israel has had to fight since has been an out right miracle. By no means did Israel have a trained and developed army, but they managed to take on every surrounding nation and win. And those are just a few of many.
There is no doubt we are not where we need to be as a people in terms of unity and character. But does that for sure disqualify our presence in Israel from being a sign of Moshiach? A gemara in Sanhedrin quotes a verse from Tanach, ” If they are not worthy [the Moshiach] will come lowly, riding on a donkey. If they are worthy, he’ll come on the clouds of heaven.” Rabbi Ahron Soloveichik takes that to mean that if the Jews have done their teshuvah properly, loving each other as they should, Moshiach will come in a revealed miracle. But if they don’t, it will come by a natural and slow process. But he will come none the less. The modern State of Israel could be that natural process.
Lastly, after the religious have struggled for so long, how could the salvation of Israel come by the people who threw off the yoke of God? This Shabbos we’ll read the Haftara for parsha Metzora. The Haftara is a section from II Kings. At this time in Jewish history, the kingdom has split between Judah and Samaria. The Samaria has come under siege by the Arameans and their food supply has been cut off.
The story follows four metzoriam (people afflicted with tzaaras, a spiritual condition similar to leprosy, who have to be exiled for their sins). The four metzoriam are stuck between a rock and a hard place. They have no food, the city they’ve been exiled from has no food, and there is an army of Arameans ready to kill them. But they decide to take their chances with the Arameans. But just before their arrival God makes the Arameans think a giant army was approaching and so they flee leaving all their food and money. The meztoriam can’t believe their fortune. But they are left with a choice. They can continue on with their new found wealth or they can go back to the city that had exiled them and inform them of their salvation before the Arameans return. Luckily the metzoriam make the right choice and the city is saved.
The lesson is that just because someone has sinned or isn’t of the level you’d expect, salvation can come at anytime and from anyone. It is tragic, we as a people continue to be divided when we have so much to offer each other. Yes there are things that our fellow Jews do that annoy us, bother us, or they even do things we profoundly disagree with. But it’s when we divide ourselves to the point of an ‘us vs them’ mentality that we are blinded by outright miracles and our path to salvation.
So no matter who you are, I would hope you are able to be grateful for the historical anomaly that we as a people managed to survive for 2000 years, dispersed, oppressed, as a perpetual minority, until 70 years ago. What other people have had such a story to tell?
Happy Yom Ha’atzmaut