15 April 2013

Moadim l'Simcha...

6 Iyyar 5773
Day 21 of the Omer


Moadim L’simcha - L’geula Shleima
by Phil Chernofsky, Torah Tidbits Issue No. 1040

Greeting: "Happy holiday" - response: "To the Complete Redemption".

This is the 'official' exchange of greetings for Yom HaAtzmaut, as found in Rinat Yisrael and Koren siddurim. Some say both parts as their greeting. Either way, it makes a very important point.

To those who don't see a positive religious significance in the establishment and existence of the State of Israel, the first part says, 'You are sadly mistaken'. The State - not just Eretz Yisrael - is something great of G-d's making and we should acknowledge Him and thank Him for it.

For those who see the State of Israel as THE realization of the (Zionist) dream, the second half says, 'You are sadly mistaken'. Medinat Yisrael is a major step in the right direction. But there is much more to go.

How can the State of Israel and Yom HaAtzmaut have a positive religious significance when most of the founding fathers of the State were not religious, and some were even anti-religious?

Sadly (there's that word again), this challenge - against viewing the establishment of the State as 'the beginning of the flowering of our redemption' or feeling the appropriateness of applying ZEH HAYOM ASA HASHEM, NAGILA V'NISM'CHA VO to it - is heard far too often. And it is as sad to hear non-religious Jews disparaging the idea of Sanhedrin, Beit HaMikdash, Mashiach and whatever else will be part of the Messianic era.

Look at Pesach. We celebrate Y'tzi'at Mitzrayim and the birth of the Jewish Nation. No problem there. But according to our Tradition, only 20% of the Jews made it out of Egypt. And look at the account of bitter complaining against G-d so soon out of Egypt. But that doesn't 'spoil' the celebration of Pesach.

Look at Shavuot. Matan Torah. Revelation at Sinai. Jewish Unity - like one person with one heart. Great reasons to celebrate. But we were coerced into receiving the Torah, with Har Sinai poised over our heads. And a mere 40 days after that great experience, there was the golden calf and the smashing of the Luchot. Yet that doesn't take away from the celebration of Shavuot.

Look at Sukkot. Divine protection in the form of Heavenly Clouds (and/or actual sukkot) during the 40 year period of wandering in the Midbar - caused by that other major sin - Cheit HaMeraglim. But that doesn't take away from our Z'man Simchateinu.

Look at Purim. Saved from the threat of Haman. Great joy and cause to celebrate. Not diminished by the fact that the Jews mostly remained in Persia and did not answer the call to return to Eretz Yisrael.

Look at Chanuka. Great victory and miracle. Great celebration. The fact that the Chashmona'im usurped the kingship - a sin for which they paid by having their lineage terminated. Some of the later Chashmona'im were found to be idolators. Israel had but a brief period of autonomy but remained under the thumb of Greece and then Rome. And then came the devastating destruction of the second Beit HaMikdash. But we joyously celebrate Chanuka.

None of the good stories of Jewish History end with 'and they (we) lived happily ever after.' Yet we celebrate good things, victories and miracles aided by G-d - sometimes overtly and sometimes behind the scene.

We celebrate and rejoice and thank G-d for the proverbial half-filled cup. We dare not be so ungrateful as to dwell upon the other half that is empty.

The half-emptiness should challenge us to strive to fill the cup all the way. That's why we proclaim and sing L'SHANA HABAA BIRUSHALAYIM HAB'NUYA at the Seder. (And that's what we proclaim it and sing it on Yom HaAtzmaut, as well.)

Pesach needs to be completed by the rest of the DAYEINU song. We say that there is sufficient cause to thank G-d that He took us out of Mitzrayim, but the song points us to the more that we long for. The receiving of the Torah - by all Jews in all times. The coming to Eretz Yisrael - by all Jews. The building of the Beit HaMikdash.

The bracha of Geula at the end of Magid, expresses our hope and prayer for the Geula Sh'leima, even as we thank G-d for the beginning step of Y'tzi'at Mitzrayim.

And that's exactly what our celebration of Hakamat HaMedina should be - plenty to be thankful for, and much more to go.