A Message For Yom Haatzmaut 5767

Yom Haatzmaut has always been a controversial holiday given the religious and political significance of the State. For some, the State of Israel is a harbinger of a messianic age, while others are theologically opposed to a Jewish presence in Israel. Then of course there are secularists who minimize the religious aspect of Israel and emphasize the importance of Israel purely as a political entity.

But regardless of how one views the State of Israel, most will acknowledge (and often complain) about how Israel functions. Religiously, Israel is be too oppressive for some and too accommodating for others. Israel’s public policy has also been debated at length, with similar dissatisfaction from leftists and rightists.

I have not conducted a formal study on the qualitative strength of Zionism today, but I would suspect that as the government and rabbinate continue to make controversial decisions that it would erode some of the Zionistic passion and support. On the other hand, Aliyah continues to grow at a steady pace and most Jews across denominations still support Israel in some way. I suggest that this is because the relationship with Israel does not follow usual patterns of logic but rather the commitment of emotion.
One of my favorite verses in Tanach is the insightful Mishlei 10:12sin’ah t’oreir m’danim, v’al kol p’sha’im t’chase ahava” – hatred awakens strife, but love covers all offenses. This astute observation is repeatedly validated in most interpersonal relationships. Someone who hates another will consistently focus on negative characteristics (real or imagined). This can range from denying positive aspects to actively stirring up trouble and picking fights. In contrast, even the most obviously explicit shortcomings are blissfully overlooked when love is involved.

In this past week’s Torah reading of Tazria/Metzora we find an example of this principle demonstrated in the halakha. Vayikra 14:33-57 describes the process by which a kohein declares a house to be infected with tzara’at and the method of repurification. The first step in the process is one of exposure; before the kohein conducts his examination, he removes the entire contents of the house (14:36). Presumably this would be a practical instruction to facilitate a more thorough examination. Considering that the consequence of a diagnosis of infection is the house must be dismantled (14:45), we should expect the kohein’s examination to be as comprehensive as possible.

However despite the literal airing of one’s laundry in public, the kohein’s inspection also literally leaves a stone unturned. Specifically, when the kohein enters the house, he needs to open the door. While the door is open the kohein obviously cannot check the obstructed area behind the door. Yet according to B. Hullin 10b the kohein only closes the door when he leaves, bypassing that hidden area. In other words, despite the practical and potentially spiritual consequences, the Torah instructs that there be some area left unchecked.

I suggest that this detail is crucial for the understanding of tzara’at. B. Arachin 16a lists some of the sins which tzara’at of the house, which include stinginess and lashon hara – bad speech. Perhaps the public removal of ones property and the meticulous examination of the violator’s house parallels the personal judgments he imposed on others. However, by leaving part of the house coved (kisuyi) and outside of scope his examination, the kohein is also demonstrating to the offender that this examination is not done of hatred or revenge, but rather out of ahava – love.

I heard a speaker this past Shabbat who in extolling the greatness of Israel emphasized the triad of Eretz Yisrael – the land of Israel, Am Yisrael – the nation of Israel, and Torat Yisrael. Recent events have shown that this model is not only insufficient, but also wildly inaccurate. The “nation” of Israel is fractured both politically and religiously that the unity implied by “Am” is tenuous at best. Torat Yisrael is repeatedly abused due to rampant (and illiterate) fundamentalism on the left and right. Even the Land itself is unstable given the unsettling policies of the Israeli government.

The problems with the State of Israel are beyond the scope of this essay. What is relevant is that despite all the valid criticisms and difficulties of Israel, people are still making aliyah and strengthening their connection with Eretz Yisrael. Such a commitment would not be possible with a purely rational perspective, but would require some degree of cognitive dissonance – the ability to intentionally overlook the adversities out of the love for Israel and her people.

In other words, Eretz Yisrael, Am Yisrael, and Torat Yisrael can only survive and succeed if they are first predicated and dependent on Ahavat Yisrael.

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One Response

  1. Shana
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