May 20, 2024
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The Psalmist (2:11) tells us that the deepest emotion is gilu b’radah, or to “rejoice with trembling.” As we reach the 70th anniversary of hakamat hamedina, the establishment of the State of Israel, I tremble with joy. The profundity of this moment in time touches the deepest depth of my soul. Seventy years is, in the eyes of the Psalmist (90:10), the lifespan of a person. It was also the span of time between the destruction of the first Jewish Commonwealth and the beginning of the second.

No one imagined when Israel was founded, three years after the destruction of the 6 million, that more than 6 million Jews would be living in our homeland—just two generations later. It is quite possible that already a majority of world Jewry resides in the Jewish state in Eretz Yisrael. (There are serious halachic implications to this new reality.)

While it is cool that WhatsApp and Waze were invented in Israel, this does not cause me to tremble. The undeniable fact that Isaiah’s prophecy (2:3) of ki miTzion tetzei Torah (for out of Zion shall go forth the Torah) has come true, does cause me to tremble. There is more Torah being learned today in the State of Israel than has ever been learned anywhere in the over 3,300 years of Jewish history. The State of Israel has been the biggest financial supporter of Torah ever in Jewish history. It is not just the vast majority of young people in American Modern Orthodox circles who travel to Israel to learn Torah, but also the vast majority in yeshivish circles and, increasingly so, among chasidim.

I tremble with joy at the obvious flourishing of the Land of Israel after being desolate for almost 2,000 years. I tremble with joy at the unprecedented revitalization of the Hebrew language after all this time. (Incidentally, the Cardinals at Vatican convocations converse with each other in Italian or English, not Latin.) I tremble with joy that Jewish blood can no longer be freely shed, as the Rav so eloquently declared in 1956. I tremble with joy that I am welcomed home.

So, on 5 Iyar, the 70th anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel, please join me in rejoicing with trembling at the profundity of the occasion.

By Shmuel Landesman

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