June 6, 2024
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June 6, 2024
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There is a well-known story about a storm descending on a small town, and the downpour soon turning into a flood. As the waters rise, the local rabbi, surrounded by water, prays to Hashem.

First a congregant comes up the street in a canoe.

“Better get in, Rabbi. The waters are rising fast.”

“No,” says the rabbi. “I have faith in the Lord. He will save me.”

Still, the waters rise. Now the rabbi is up on the balcony, when another man zips up in a motorboat.

Once again, the rabbi is unmoved. “I shall remain. The Lord will see me through.”

After a while, the levee breaks, and the flood rushes over the shul until only the roof remains above water. The rabbi is up there, clinging to the top of the roof, when a helicopter descends out of the clouds, and a state trooper tries to rescue him.

Once again, the rabbi insists the Lord will deliver him. And, predictably, he drowns.

The rabbi goes to heaven. After a while, he gets an interview with God, and he asks the Almighty, “Lord, I had unwavering faith in you. Why didn’t you deliver me from that flood?”

Hashem shakes his head. “What did you want from me? I sent you two boats and a helicopter.”

Hashem is always sending us signs of what we should do. Many times we do not understand the signs or we completely ignore them.

Today, the world seems to be turning against the Jewish people once again. Antisemitism has infiltrated our schools, our universities, our businesses and our cities. While antisemitism is not new, over the past 80 years it mostly lurked beneath the surface. Now, it is out in the open. Of course, not everyone is an antisemite. But those who are, are very vocal, and a large part of the world remains silent.

Unlike the past 2,000 years, when we were persecuted and beaten down we had no homeland to go to that would guarantee our safety. But today we have a homeland: Israel. Israel is full of Torah, and it is home to the majority of the world’s Jews. Hashem is fulfilling His promises to the Jewish people, but are we listening to His miracles and His direction?

Consider the vision of the Valley of Dry Bones described in the 37th chapter of Ezekiel. The Lord speaks to the bones: “I will bring you spirit and life. I will give you tendons and flesh and cover you with skin. I will put breath in you, and you will come to life.” This vision symbolizes the process of our redemption. It began with the clanking of the dry bones, symbolizing the Holocaust and the establishment of the State of Israel. The tendons represent the building of the Israel Defense Forces. The flesh represents the great immigration from Russia, Ethiopia and the eventual immigration from the Western world, mostly driven by antisemitism. The skin represents the complete corpus of the Jewish people including becoming a major military and economic power, as a “Start-Up Nation.” The Navi says only then will we see the spirit returning to our Jewish values. We can see this beginning to unfold with a massive return to our traditions, evident in the growing number of Jews seeking information about their heritage and values.

As we are in the beginning of the third Jewish Commonwealth, many Jews do not recognize what is happening to the Jewish State and the Jewish people and the signs Hashem is constantly giving us. Many are in the category of “tinok shenishba,” children who were never given a proper Jewish education and never understood the importance and beauty of our Jewish history and traditions. We are seeing a reawakening among many of our people as they search for meaning in their lives.

Historically, we know the second Commonwealth and building of the second Beis Hamikdash began with a small irreligious segment of the Babylonian Jewish population. The third Commonwealth began with the hard work of secular Zionists who laid the foundation for the State of Israel. Since its inception, the influence of the secular Jews is weakening and religious parties are growing in strength; Israel has shifted from a secular society to a much more religious and traditional society. Recent statistics show that around 50% of Israelis are religious or traditional.

Mark Twain once wrote, “True patriotism is loyalty to the Nation ALL the time, loyalty to the Government when it deserves it.” Twain’s distinction between Nation and Government mirrors the distinction between Eretz Yisrael and Medinat Yisrael. I will always love Eretz Yisrael, though I may critique some of the policies of Medinat Yisrael. Loving Israel means loving the Land and being loyal to the Medina. Engagement with Israel can be a truly spiritual act, despite the cacophony of political pundits.

We cannot separate the Land of Israel from the State of Israel, just as we cannot separate our heads from our bodies. Under the State of Israel, more people are learning Torah than at any time in history. The State upholds Jewish laws of marriage, kashrut and Shabbat, and supports thousands of families devoted to Torah study. The former Chief Rabbi of Israel, HaRav Ovadia Yosef, urged people to recite Hallel on Yom Ha’atzmaut (without a bracha) as a way to thank Hashem for the establishment of the State of Israel, which has provided a refuge for millions of Jews. The Israeli flag is raised at the Ponevezh Yeshiva every Yom Ha’atzmaut. In the early days of the State, Haredi, secular and Religious Zionist Jews all celebrated Yom Ha’atzmaut together. But because of the influence of a few, this unity has dissolved.

The love of Eretz Yisrael is strong among Jews worldwide, but opinions about the Israeli government vary. Some Jews do not like certain leaders or policies, but this does not mean they should hate the Medina. There are Jews on the left who feel disillusioned with a right-leaning government, and there are Jews on the right who, for ideological reasons, do not support the State of Israel. Ultra-Orthodox, or Haredi, Jews have religious reasons for not supporting Medinat Israel. However, many of these ideological reasons are no longer valid.

It is imperative that Diaspora rabbis and teachers instill love, tolerance,and support for Medinat Yisrael. Without the State, we would not have the Land of Israel. It is crucial to give thanks to Hashem for the State of Israel. Hashem engineered the creation of the State of Israel for a reason. Without the Medina, there would not be a country supporting the education of 400,000 elementary and secondary religious students and over 150,000 Yeshiva and Kollel students (from a statistical report on Ultra Orthodox Society in Israel, Israel Democracy Institute). If there would not be a Medina, you would not have over 80% of the Jewish population saying that religion has a strong influence on life in Israel. Without the State of Israel, the world would allow the Palestinians to make the Land of Israel “Judenrein.” And if people want to change the policies of Israel, they should make aliyah and then vote for the parties that support their positions. We need to be thankful to Hashem for creating the State of Israel to protect Jews around the world.

We are witnessing before our very eyes, the prophecy of the Valley of the Dry Bones come to life. And we should be thankful to Hashem for fulfilling that promise. As we approach Shavuos, I direct you to a beautiful Dvar Torah given by Rebbetzin Shani Taragin on the relationship between Chag haShavuos and Yom Yerushalayim

(https://www.ou.org/holidays/yom-yerushalayim-shavuot-prelude/). We must give thanks to Hashem for the miracle of returning Yerushalayim and the Torah that it represents to our control, and this could not have happened without Medinat Yisrael.

Let’s return to the story about the flood. Let us avoid the scenario where, after 120 years, we have to ask Hashem why the Moshiach did not come during our lifetime, and He shakes his head, saying, “What did you want from me? I sent you a State with the greatest Torah learning of all time, and you did not come. I sent you a country where Jewish religion influences all aspects of life, and you did not come. I sent you an economy and defense forces to make you a world power, and you did not come. I sent you miracles on a regular basis and gave you all of Jerusalem, Yehuda and Shomron, and you did not come.” The Moshiach is waiting for you to come.

Rabbi Paul Bloom lives in Jerusalem with his wife Ettie. Paul is a Board Member of the the NY Israel Chamber of Commerce and a retired IBM executive.

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