Thursday, 22 April 2010

Did we forget Yom Ha'atzmaut?

Some of our readers may have noticed that there was no Nishmablog post for Yom Ha'atzmaut. Could it mean that we were possibly making a statement through this lack of even a post. The fact is I was wondering myself why I didn't post something, at least to mark the day (which I do, in some way, personally mark).

What occurred to me was my own ambivalence about the day which, perhaps, indicated something to me about our celebration of Jewish holidays. What are we really marking when we celebrate, for example, Pesach? The simple answer may be freedom but I think that that is only part of the answer. The full answer includes a recognition of God's role in our Exodus and the expression of shevach v'hoda'ah in appreciation. The focus of Pesach is not on freedom itself but our appreciation to God for this freedom.

This led me to recognize that with Yom Ha'atzmaut we have the same issue. Are we celebrating the establishment of an independent Jewish country or are we celebrating God Who gave us this country? The two poles, of course, represent ends of a spectrum with different individuals experiencing different feelings -- but what is most dominant, that feeling of celebrating independence (a feeling that can be shared with secular individuals as well), or that feeling of shevach v'hoda'ah to HaKodesh Baruch Hu for giving us this independent nation?

I once heard a rav explain that it took 100 years before Chanukah was clearly accepted as a holiday to be celebrated into the generations. This may have been the issue. Clearly all felt positive in throwing off the Greek oppressors but was the dominant emotion a secular celebration of independence or a religious recognition of the Divine? It may have took years to answer that question or to bring the emotion that substantiates an eternal value in the day to come forth.

The same may be true for Yom Ha'atzmaut. Clearly it is a day that I mark and celebrate. I benefit from the reality of a State of Israel. But why did I not blog about? This celebration, it would seem, for me still has not moved into my realm of Torah thoughts. While I thank God for the State, I have not crossed the line where the celebration of God's role has precedence in my feelings over the feelings of independence itself. It has, as such, not yet become an eternal value within my structure of Torah. Thus it was possible for me to let the day past without a blog post.

Is this something that I should work on for next year or is this simply a reflection of the present reality of the day? That is something for me to think about but it may be something that demands further contemplation by all of us.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

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