For many rationalists and skeptics in today's era, it's increasingly difficult to summon inspiration and faith with regard to Judaism. Torah codes and other outreach proofs just backfire. And when a critical eye is turned to the Torah and Talmud, many difficult questions arise. I constantly receive inquiries from people who are disillusioned and deeply distressed.
Personally, I am able to draw inspiration from the extraordinary Divine Providence that I feel with regard to how my own life has unfolded. But, aside from this being rather non-rationalist, it's not something that can be expected to inspire other people!
However, there is something else that I find extraordinarily inspirational. And it's not some sort of cute shtick, like a Scriptural encoding for Pi or a Midrashic reference to an unusual manner of frog reproduction. Instead, it is a very basic and fundamental part of Jewish history. Furthermore, notwithstanding the disturbing phenomenon of many millions of people that deny it, it is factually true.
The matter I am referring to was mentioned today by President Obama. I'm no fan of Obama, and the reference to Israel in his 2009 Cairo speech was severely disappointing. Still, unlike some people I know, I don't consider him to be Satan incarnate, either. In his speech upon arriving in Israel, he beautifully encapsulated the matter to which I am referring in two sentences:
“More than 3,000 years ago, the Jewish people lived here, tended the land here, prayed to God here. And after centuries of exile and persecution, unparalleled in the history of man, the founding of the Jewish State of Israel was a rebirth, a redemption unlike any in history.”
And there you have it. A simple but mind-blowing historical account: an ancient home, centuries of exile and the worst, most irrational persecution in history, followed by the extraordinary return to the land and creation of a vibrant country. (And if you study some political history, you realize just how extraordinary it was that the State of Israel came into being and survived the War of Independence.) Is it not an astounding history?
It's tragic that many Jews, who will proudly point to the Hand of God in everything from missing a train to the landing of a locust on a table, entirely downplay Providence when it comes to the return of the Jewish People to their homeland and the creation of the State of Israel. It's far and away the most extraordinary and inspirational part of the Jewish experience.