Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Greatest Miracle


There are two things that lie at the core of of my relationship with God and Judaism. One is the personal providence that I perceive in my life, as non-rationalist as that may be. The other is the single greatest miracle in post-Biblical history: the return of the Jewish People to their ancestral homeland. An ancient nation, exiled and dispersed and massacred with the most horrific persecution in history, fulfills its ancient prophecies and returns to its homeland, to create an amazingly vibrant country and triumph against overwhelming odds.

The more that one learns about the creation of the Israel, the more miraculous it becomes. Historian Paul Johnson, in A History Of The Jews, describes the extraordinary confluence of circumstances that was necessary for it to happen, including the death of Roosevelt (who had turned anti-Zionist), and an amazing brief period in which the Soviet Union was pursuing an active pro-Zionist policy. As Johnson concludes: "Israel slipped into existence through a fortuitous window in history which briefly opened for a few months in 1947-8. That too was luck; or providence."

I recommend reading Johnson's book to learn more about all the factors that had to coincide for Israel to come into existence. I still can't quite believe that for much of my life, I did not celebrate Yom Ha-Atzma'ut. God performed one of the greatest miracles in history, to our immense benefit - how can we not celebrate it? "The ingathering of the exiles is as great as the day upon which the heaven and earth were created" (Pesachim 88a). (See Rav Eliezer Melamed's discussion at this link.)

Happy Yom Ha-Atzma'ut!

82 comments:

  1. The problem with both of your reasons (especially the second) is that you are being selective by picking out the good stuff. How do you explain the Holocaust? So when it comes to the State of Israel we see G-D's hand but when it comes to the Holocaust, we don't attribute any blame to G-d?

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    1. Lots of bad things have happened to the Jewish people (and to people in general). We generally attribute bad things to our freedom of choice. Good things come from God. It's not always the case (especially in the case of natural disasters), but it usually works.

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    2. Fulfilment of the tochacha is a possibility. (I emphasize the word possibility.)

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    3. That's exactly my point. How do you know it isn't the opposite? Maybe the good things that have happened to the Jewish people are dumb luck and the bad things are G-d punishing us?

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    4. Of course bad things come from G-d too. See the tochacha. Or the Shema that we say every day. This is a fundamental Jewish belief. Both good and bad result from our freedom of choice and the response of the Divine hand guiding history.

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    5. Sadly, it is easy to show how the Holocaust happened without requiring anyone to believe in miracles. It's not like the whole world was working to stop the Nazis, y"sh, from getting elected or that they actively tried to prevent WW2 from starting. But with the founding of the state of Israel we see efforts made that should have prevented it from ever being declared or surviving it's first year yet it did.

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    6. This is how it works. The bad stuff just kind of happens, or worse, is our fault. The good stuff is all God.

      So the Holocaust, which we did nothing to cause, is our fault, a punishment for the Haskalah. And the State of Israel, which a group of Jewish people worked hard for, is a miracle from God.

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    7. It may be a "fundamental Jewish belief" (according to some), but that's not relevant to the point Rav Slifkin is making. He's talking about why he believes. Just looking at good things and not bad is a bias and not a reason for belief.

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    8. "The problem with both of your reasons (especially the second) is that you are being selective by picking out the good stuff. How do you explain the Holocaust? So when it comes to the State of Israel we see G-D's hand but when it comes to the Holocaust, we don't attribute any blame to G-d?"
      The truth is, both are equally extraordinary events on the historical landscape, and the occurrence of both point to what we could call the Yad Hashem. But, as I told someone when he asked me why if we retell stories of great serendipity as hashgacha pratit, (which Ramban instructed to do), why we don't equally retell stories of great misfortune, - you're right, but the ones with happy endings are more fun to recall.

      R. Stefansky

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    9. The Holocaust also involved a miracle - that WWII happened at the same time, and Britain decided to get involved. Hitler had every reason to believe that nobody would stand in his way.

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    10. Let me add that the recognition of the extraordinary nature of terrible events and the subsequent attribution of them to Hashem is explicit in the Torah:

      (כא) וְאָמַ֞ר הַדּ֣וֹר הָֽאַחֲר֗וֹן בְּנֵיכֶם֙ אֲשֶׁ֤ר יָק֙וּמוּ֙ מֵאַ֣חֲרֵיכֶ֔ם וְהַ֨נָּכְרִ֔י אֲשֶׁ֥ר יָבֹ֖א מֵאֶ֣רֶץ רְחוֹקָ֑ה וְ֠רָאוּ אֶת־מַכּ֞וֹת הָאָ֤רֶץ הַהִוא֙ וְאֶת־תַּ֣חֲלֻאֶ֔יהָ אֲשֶׁר־חִלָּ֥ה יְדֹוָ֖ד בָּֽהּ:
      (כב) גָּפְרִ֣ית וָמֶלַח֘ שְׂרֵפָ֣ה כָל־אַרְצָהּ֒ לֹ֤א תִזָּרַע֙ וְלֹ֣א תַצְמִ֔חַ וְלֹֽא־יַעֲלֶ֥ה בָ֖הּ כָּל־עֵ֑שֶׂב כְּֽמַהְפֵּכַ֞ת סְדֹ֤ם וַעֲמֹרָה֙ אַדְמָ֣ה וצביים וּצְבוֹיִ֔ם אֲשֶׁר֙ הָפַ֣ךְ יְדֹוָ֔ד בְּאַפּ֖וֹ וּבַחֲמָתֽוֹ:
      (כג) וְאָֽמְרוּ֙ כָּל־הַגּוֹיִ֔ם עַל־מֶ֨ה עָשָׂ֧ה יְדֹוָ֛ד כָּ֖כָה לָאָ֣רֶץ הַזֹּ֑את מֶ֥ה חֳרִ֛י הָאַ֥ף הַגָּד֖וֹל הַזֶּֽה:
      (כד) וְאָ֣מְר֔וּ עַ֚ל אֲשֶׁ֣ר עָֽזְב֔וּ אֶת־בְּרִ֥ית יְדֹוָ֖ד אֱלֹהֵ֣י אֲבֹתָ֑ם אֲשֶׁר֙ כָּרַ֣ת עִמָּ֔ם בְּהוֹצִיא֥וֹ אֹתָ֖ם מֵאֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרָֽיִם:

      R. Stefansky

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    11. Rav Nachman Kahana writes that World Wars I and II were not a punishment for the Jews but rather for the Gentiles; the Jews just happened to be in the wrong neighborhood at the wrong time and therefore suffered the harsh decrees.

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    12. If England had not stood in his way, Hitler may have stuck to his original plan of segregating Jews in reservations.

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    13. @G*3: Events that are unfavorable can also be considered "miraculous": When Titus stuck his sword into the פרוכת, the Gemara says that a "miracle" occurred and blood spurted out. The very fact that Titus entered the היכל and left unscathed is also considered "extraordinary".

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    14. If your a priori belief is that G-d exists and is looking after the Jewish people, then it makes perfect sense to view the creation of the State of Israel as miraculous in nature and being brought about by G-d.

      For those of us who are a bit more skeptical, saying that your emunah comes from events like the creation of the state of Israel (which is the implication from Rav Slifkin) is not all all convincing and certainl not rational.

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    15. @Gershon,
      Taking into account the extraordinary nature of the circumstances that characterize the whole of Jewish history, although not mathematically conclusive, I'd say Occam's razor points to something we call "divine intervention". And, yes, even for skeptics. Take a step back, a deep breath, and contemplate the historical anomaly that is the Jewish people. No other nation could sustain a claim to the Chosen People.

      R Stefansky

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    16. > Events that are unfavorable can also be considered "miraculous": When Titus stuck his sword into the פרוכת, the Gemara says that a "miracle" occurred and blood spurted out.

      A bleeding curtain is miraculous. In that case it's not the tragedy that's a miracle, it's the occurrence of something that's impossible.

      > The very fact that Titus entered the היכל and left unscathed is also considered "extraordinary".

      That's the opposite of a miracle. It would have been a miracle if the act of stepping into the hachel killed him.

      Anyway, my point was not that tragedies *can't* be considered miracles, but that they are rarely attributed to God, while good things are always attributed to God. So while tragedies are seen as punishments for our sins, good things are never seen as rewards, but some kind of largesse from Hashem.

      The most illustrative example of this I've seen was when a plane landed on the Hudson in 2009. It was hailed in the media as "The miracle on the Hudson." It was a miracle that no one had been hurt! The birds that fouled the engines? That just kind of happened.

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    17. I wish I could accept that argument. I think it suffers from two problems, one statistical and one empirical:

      1) The argument that Jeiwsh history is unique doesn't resonate with me. If I buy a lottery ticket, the odds of me winning are very small. The odds of someone winning (given enough players) is very high. When someone wins the lottery, we don't then assume that it's any type of proof that G-d caused it.

      2) The world population at the time of Yetzias Mitzrayim is estimated to be between 25 and 50mm people. Let's use the midpoint of that. The world population today of 7.5B is an increase of approximately 200x. If there were 3mm Jews leaving Egypt and only 14mm today, that's only a 5x increase. How is that consistent with a view that the Jewish people have been singled out by G-d.

      Now if you're willing to admit that there is no way in hell that 3mm left Egypt and it was a much smaller number, then we might have what to talk about... :-)

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    18. > I'd say Occam's razor points to something we call "divine intervention"

      Only if you first assume that there is such a thing as divine intervention.

      Otherwise it's like supposing that magic pixies make cars run because that's a more parsimonious explanation than the complexities of physics and mechanics involved in the operation of internal-combustion engines.

      Gershon, I can't speak for R' Slifkin, but I think that his emunah and that of other rationalists does exist a priori. Faith always requires a leap, one which believers find virtuous and skeptics find baffling. Faith doesn't rest on the State of Israel, but, once there is that faith, emunah is strengthened by things like perceiving God's hand in one's life and in the sweep of history.

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    19. @Gershon
      "1) The argument that Jeiwsh history is unique doesn't resonate with me. If I buy a lottery ticket, the odds of me winning are very small. The odds of someone winning (given enough players) is very high. When someone wins the lottery, we don't then assume that it's any type of proof that G-d caused it."
      Bad analogy. Somebody has to win a lottery. No nation had to suffer extraordinary persecutions throughout history, revive a dead language and return to their ancestral homeland, be constantly subject to irrational anti-semitism, etc...
      Secondly, even if you were correct, it's not a statistical argument. If you were to reduce the world to pure statistics and mechanistic functions, maybe. But the moment you sure for any sort of meaning in anything, and I mean you accept the existence concepts such as morality and responsibility, then it hits you in the face. I'm sure you're familiar with Mark Twain's article. The JP stick out like a sore thumb on the tapestry of history. Imagine yourself as an alien, outside of space-tine, gazing upon the history of our lovely planet. I don't know about you, but the first question I'd ask is who are these Jews?

      "The world population today of 7.5B is an increase of approximately 200x. If there were 3mm Jews leaving Egypt and only 14mm today, that's only a 5x increase. How is that consistent with a view that the Jewish people have been singled out by G-d."
      Why are you assuming singled out must necessitate rapid growth? In fact. God explicitly reaffirms the JP as the smallest of the nations.
      Parenthetically, Rambam writes that Chakhamim, the inter-JP equivalent of the JP to the nations, must always remain a small minority.

      "Now if you're willing to admit that there is no way in hell that 3mm left Egypt and it was a much smaller number, then we might have what to talk about... :-)"
      For the purpose of this argument, you pick a number - it still doesn't change the historical anomaly....

      R Stefansky

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    20. "Only if you first assume that there is such a thing as divine intervention.
      Otherwise it's like supposing that magic pixies make cars run because that's a more parsimonious explanation than the complexities of physics and mechanics involved in the operation of internal-combustion engines."
      Let me rephrase. It points to some deeper meaning that these people may have. Something more elegant than a series of continuous coincidences. "divine intervention" is another way of stating that more factors than simply quantifiable physical motions may have been at play.
      Not to mention that comparing a monotheistic transcendent God to magic pixies is a horrific analogy. God - as we mean Him - is not Zeus.

      R Stefansky

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    21. R Stefansky: Sorry, you completely misunderstand statistics and probability. Any event has an incredibly small probability of happening. Once it happens, it's not evidence of anything.

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    22. Now that is just not true!

      It's incredibly unlikely for someone to win every single lottery. If it happened, you wouldn't just attribute it to a bizarre coincidence!

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    23. Youre assuming that there were many times in Jewish history that Jews could have been wiped out and each time it was "lottery odds" that it didn't happen. That's not what I'm saying. I'm saying that the confluence of events put together has a very small probability of happening and that just isn't proof of anything.

      The odds that 2 billion people would one day be fooled into thinking that Jesus was the messiah is also statistically extremely unlikely. It doesn't prove that he really was the messiah.

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    24. It all depends on how you define the event. The odds that a huge number of people would one day be fooled into thinking that *Jesus* was the messiah is statistically extremely unlikely. But the odds that a huge number of people would one day be fooled into thinking that *someone* was the messiah is statistically extremely LIKELY.

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    25. That's exactly my point!!! The odds that any particular nation from 3500 years ago would survive is extremely unlikely. The odds that at least one nation would survive is extremely likely. Hence, the survival of the Jews proves nothing.

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    26. But it's not just surviving. It's also lots of other things.

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    27. "Sorry, you completely misunderstand statistics and probability. Any event has an incredibly small probability of happening. Once it happens, it's not evidence of anything."
      Firstly, before accusing me of misunderstanding statistics, first craft an accurate statistical analogy. For one thing, determining the probability of winning a lottery is done in a completely different manner than a determining the probability of a specific historical event, where probability is much more complex, given an indefinite number of factors.
      And yes, "any event has an incredibly small probability of happening" and "that just isn't proof of anything", when referring to mathematical proof. But that's not the type of argument it is. It's a reasonable rational argument.

      R Stefansky

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    28. " But it's not just surviving. It's also lots of other things"
      Not to mention, the same nation to introduce transcendent monotheism and claim to be the chosen people.

      R Stefansky

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    29. > Bad analogy. Somebody has to win a lottery.

      Somebody has to win in a raffle. Lotteries can go for months without any winners. The reason that lotteries have winners, despite the overwhelming odds, is because although the odds for any single ticket are one in millions, once millions of tickets have been sold, the odds that one of those tickets will have the winning number is a near-certainty.

      > be constantly subject to irrational anti-semitism, etc...

      It has been argued that it is the anti-Semitism that kept the Jewish people distinct and allowed us to survive as a nation without a home. If we had been accepted by the people around us, we would have assimilated millennia ago. Today, when persecution and anti-Semitism are at historic lows, assimilation is Judaism's greatest existential threat.

      > It points to some deeper meaning that these people may have. Something more elegant than a series of continuous coincidences. "divine intervention" is another way of stating that more factors than simply quantifiable physical motions may have been at play.

      Divine intervention doesn't mean " that more factors than simply quantifiable physical motions may have been at play." It means that God stuck His fingers into the works of the universe and fiddled with it to make certain things happen. Believing that first requires a belief in God.

      *If* you believe in a God Who meddles in history, then Occam's razor can point you towards Divine intervention as a better explanation than a string of coincidences. But you can't point to the string of coincidences and say, "This is complicated and unlikely, there must be a transcendent multi-omni Being totally unlike anything we experience Who intervened in human history and arranged for things to work out the way they did."

      > Not to mention that comparing a monotheistic transcendent God to magic pixies is a horrific analogy.

      It's a perfect analogy in this context. You were trying to use the simplicity of Divine intervention in contrast to the complexity of coincidental historical interactions to show that it's more likely that there is a God and He is manipulating events. My point is that the magic pixies are a simpler explanation for how cars work in the exact same way that God is a simpler explanation for how history works. In the same way that my argument for the existence of magic pixies is unconvincing, your argument for the existence of God is unconvincing. That there isn't a one-to-one equivlance between God and magic pixies is irrelevant.

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    30. Re: R Stefansky as Anonymous

      You present a warped explanation of parsimony (Occam's razor). It is unparsimonius to call upon powers of divine intervention to justify any incident, no matter the prospective improbability of it occurring, and certainly the retrospective improbability of it having occurred.

      Because there are infinite possible paths the universe may proceed along, the way things do occur is always highly improbably when analyzed retrospectively. To pretend that explaining it as a function of Occam's razor is appropriate is very silly indeed.

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    31. "My point is that the magic pixies are a simpler explanation for how cars work in the exact same way that God is a simpler explanation for how history works. In the same way that my argument for the existence of magic pixies is unconvincing, your argument for the existence of God is unconvincing. That there isn't a one-to-one equivlance between God and magic pixies is irrelevant."
      No. You're comparing physics to a series of continuous historical anomalies. Magic pixie theories are born from ignorance of physical phenomena, and are quenched with scientific knowledge. On the other hand, knowledge of the very set of coincidences points to something metaphysical.
      Just to be clear, it's not a mathematical argument. It's like observing the behavior of one's wife, and determining that probably, she loves him.

      "Because there are infinite possible paths the universe may proceed along, the way things do occur is always highly improbably when analyzed retrospectively. To pretend that explaining it as a function of Occam's razor is appropriate is very silly indeed."
      Infinite possible paths, yes. But rational people don't live that way. We don't view a series of coincidences the same way we view a series of unrelated events, and claim that since there are infinite paths, each and every historical event in and of itself has a minuscule probability of occurring, and no matter what happened it would be improbable, and therefore all events should be treated equal. It is logical to assume, and we do assume, that when a continuous series of events occurs that seems to imply something, it should be considered.

      R Stefansky

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  2. Go further and read "The Secret War Against the Jews" and you really get a sense of God moving history to ensure Israel would happen despite the wishes of all the nations.

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  3. Well put, Rav Natan.

    Ĥag Sameaĥ,
    Catriel Lev, your neighbor in Ramat Bet Shemesh Alef

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  4. Maybe the difference between your celebration of Yom HaAtzmaut with few or no reservations, and my extreme ambivalence, is that you are able to completely compartmentalize celebrating the creation of Israel from celebrating the creators of Israel, the vast majority of whom actively or passively desired the destruction of Torah observance.

    Agreed?

    Andy

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    1. "The vast majority of the creators of Israel desired the destruction of Torah"? Can you cite a proof of that?

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    2. Read any history of Mapai and Mapam that deals with their attitude towards religion/ Torah observance. I doubt that you would find even one that says that these groups did not prefer that Torah observance go away, in favor of the "New Jew". Ben Gurion thought it would go away by itself, whereas some more to the left wanted to take active measures to destroy Torah observance.

      Andy

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    3. What difference does it make what the people involved were like? One of the greatest enablers of the State of Israel was Stalin, who not only pushed for Israel at the UN, but also supplied it with arms!

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    4. So that's two miracles, then. One is the State of Israel. The other is that, in spite of the alleged intentions of its creators, Torah observance appears to be flourishing.

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    5. And some historians believe that it was Stalin's brutal leadership of the Soviet war effort that beat the Nazis, and therefore saved what remained of the Jews.

      But I would not take part in any celebration of this Soviet victory, because it inevitably is a glorification of Stalin.

      Would you?

      Andy

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    7. Andy,

      I suggest that had you been on Auschwitz on the day the Soviet troops marched in, you would have celebrated. Stalin or no Stalin.

      In any event, my own worldview aligns closely with that of R' Slifkin. I find it hard to understand how G-d fearing people fail to see the obvious miracle that is the State of Israel. Its founders weren't perfect? So what? Our history is full of imperfect agents of the will of the Almighty.

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    8. Mark---

      "Yours is a somewhat obviously inappropriate comparison: Stalin and the Zionists? Really?"

      No, that was your comparison, not mine. When it comes to Stalin, I would not attend. When it comes to anti-Torah creators of Israel, I am extremely ambivalent, the exact term I used. Please be more careful next time.

      "I suggest that had you been in Auschwitz yourself on the day that the Soviets marched in, you would have celebrated. Stalin or no Stalin."

      I would have celebrated my release. But I would not (by my own choice) have attended any ceremony that could be construed as glorifying Stalin, especially given that Stalin encouraged his soldiers to mass-rape even Jewish women survivors (Check Andrew Roberts, "The Storm of War".)

      "I find it hard to believe that any G-d fearing person can ignore the obvious miracle that is the State of Israel."

      I never said I ignored it. I said I'm extremely ambivalent about celebrating the anti-Torah creators of Israel. Again, please be careful.

      "Its creators weren't perfect? So what? Our history is full of imperfect agents of the will of the Almighty."

      "Not perfect"? "Imperfect agents of the will of the Almighty"? Most of these people were extreme enemies of Torah observance. So I'm extremely ambivalent about joining any celebration that would glorify them.

      I find it hard to believe that any G-d fearing person can not be at least a bit ambivalent about attending a celebration that would glorify enemies of Torah observance.

      Andy


      Its creators weren't perfect? So what? Our history is full of imperfect agents of the will of the Almighty.

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    9. "I would not take part in any celebration of this Soviet victory, because it inevitably is a glorification of Stalin."

      Then the continued existence of the State of Israel is also a glorification of Stalin. He recognized Israel *de jure* over a year and a half before Truman did, and while Truman was prosecuting Americans for running arms to Israel, Stalin was having his Czech stooge Gottwald arm the Haganah.

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    10. I don't think that assuming that celebrating the independence day of a state entails celebrating its founders means that it equally celebrates all the factors that were necessary for its creation, such as, say, Stalin. If you would ask the average person what celebrating the independence of a state whose founders were x but whose independence was politically achieved through the maneuvering of head-of-other-state y, I doubt that anyone would claim that in any way the day glorifies y, and a great many would agree that x is a part of what the day commemorates.

      R Stefansky

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    11. Andy wrote: I find it hard to believe that any G-d fearing person can not be at least a bit ambivalent about attending a celebration that would glorify enemies of Torah observance.

      Indeed, I believe that all of us observant Jews would be ambivalent about attending "a celebration that would glorify enemies of Torah observance".

      However, thankfully, that has nothing to do with celebrations of Yom HaAtzmaut, which are never celebrations "that would glorify enemies of Torah observance". I have never seen a Yom HaAtzmaut celebration that related at all to enemies of Torah (except religious ones which castigated enemies of Torah) - only celebrations of the fact of Jewish independence, and of the great miracles that God wrought for us in granting us the ability to control our own land once again.

      It is true that I haven't visited every single Yom HaAtzmaut celebration which ever occurred, but I have, in addition to attending religious celebrations of Yom HaAtzmaut, attended quite a few nonreligious celebrations of Yom HaAtzmaut also; and I have STILL not witnessed any "celebration that would glorify enemies of Torah observance" in those Yom HaAtzmaut celebrations.

      I have also NEVER HEARD of a celebration of Yom HaAtzmaut which even mentioned that it was celebrating anything "that would glorify enemies of Torah observance".

      Andy, I suspect that you are confusing your personal view (which is disputed by many) that those active in creating a Jewish state were people, "the vast majority of whom actively or passively desired the destruction of Torah observance"; with the idea of a celebration of the Jewish state's coming into existence, which is clearly a celebration of God's Grace in granting us the state, which, with all of its flaws, has advanced the Jewish people tremendously (and has advanced Torah learning and observance tremendously).

      You are entitled to your opinion, Andy;but PLEASE do NOT confuse that with the meaning of all celebrations of Yom HaAtzmaut.

      Bivrachah,
      Catriel Lev, Ramat Bet Shemesh-Alef

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    12. Israel was NOT created by Ben-Gurion or the MAPAI or the Kibbutznikim. It was created by the PEOPLE and belongs to the people. Those I mentioned played an important role but the fact that manh of them were anti-religious does not detract from the importance or the kedushah of what they and others
      created.

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    13. It is ironic that recent statements by Ken Livingstone, encouraged by anti-Zionist Jews that because Zionists like Arlosoroff or LEHI people had contacts with with the (pre-Holocaust) Nazis is used to claim that Zionism is tainted and that Zionism and Nazism are related in some way, yet the far, far more direct support given by mass murderer Stalin is not considered a problem. Apparently anything done under the red hammer-and-sickle flag is okay according to the "progressives".

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    14. Andy,

      You wrote, "Most of these people were extreme enemies of Torah observance. So I'm extremely ambivalent about joining any celebration that would glorify them."

      I suppose that depends on your definition of "extreme." Ben Gurion came to some well-known, and possibly regrettable, arrangements with the ultra-orthodox at the time the state was born. So it's hard to claim that he or his circle were exactly persecuting Torah observant people, whatever he may have thought or written. Quite the opposite. Hardly "extreme."

      But perhaps it's just an excuse. You are focusing on the half-(or less) empty part of the glass. Can't you see the rest? Can't you see the amazing state that has been built for us? Can't you acknowledge the sacrifice of over twenty four thousand of our brethren so that we can live here in our ancestral land in freedom, responsible at last for our own defence and our won destiny? Can't you celebrate that we now have a home, a bulwark against any future holocausts?

      I suggest you are focusing too much on one factor, while ignoring the quite miraculous, and wonderful, remainder.

      Mark

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    15. Since I have a day job, I can't respond to all of these comments.

      For those of you who think that the groups that became Mapam and Mapai were not extreme enemies of Torah: I can only ask you to read the histories about this. Ben-Gurion needed the Knesset votes, and wanted a free hand in foreign policy, so he came to an agreement with the Agudah. But he threatened them that if they don't sign on, he'll make a coalition with the parties to the left, which would look to destroy Torah observance. Probably not an idle threat, given that the left had significant control of the economy, i.e. many salaries, and a significant number were extreme Communists. Maybe Ben-Gurion can be classified as a more passive enemy of Torah, but many others were in fact extreme enemies of Torah.

      Please spare me the pop-psychological analyses of my psyche. I said I'm extremely ambivalent, and I am in fact extremely ambivalent: the same people who risked and gave their lives to save the physical bodies of the Jewish people wanted to do away with the soul of the Jewish people, i.e. Torah observance. I'm just grateful that those who thought Torah observance would go away by itself restrained those who wanted to take active measures to kill it---and make no mistake, there were PLENTY of such people.

      But I'll repeat the following, because I think that this is what it really boils down to: maybe the difference between your celebrations of Yom HaAtzmaut with few or no reservations, and my extreme ambivalence, is that you are able to completely compartmentalize celebrating the creation of Israel from celebrating the creators of Israel, the vast majority of whom actively or passively desired the destruction of Torah observance.

      Agreed? I believe that some of your comments pretty much made the same point.

      Andy

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    16. Andy, since I have a day job, I cannot deal with all of the incorrect assumptions you are making, so I will be relatively brief.

      However, you make statement: maybe the difference between your celebrations of Yom HaAtzmaut with few or no reservations, and my extreme ambivalence, is that you are able to completely compartmentalize celebrating the creation of Israel from celebrating the creators of Israel, the vast majority of whom actively or passively desired the destruction of Torah observance.

      After that, you ask us to agree to it, even though it is based upon many unwarranted assumptions. One of those assumptions is that the vast majority of the creators of Israel "actively or passively desired the destruction of Torah observance" - for which many of us, as was expressed above, see no indication of it representing the truth. Many of the founders of Israel were religious Jews for whom the above is certainly NOT true, and among the others, it certainly doesn't appear that they favored the "destruction of Torah observance." Herzl himself wrote that he wanted separation of church and state (something which more and more religious people are coming around to desiring as well, as the Chillul Hashem of the behavior of religious politicians embarrasses us more and more - I, personally, have not adopted that attitude, but I have more sympathy for those with that attitude as time goes on; however, that is a different topic). As for Ben-Gurion's attitudes toward religion, I hear so many people who propose so many different attitudes as "the absolute truth about Ben-Gurion and religion", that I am rather skeptical that whatever you wish to believe could be the "absolute truth".

      As someone already pointed out, Andy: If what you want to believe about "the creators of the state" is true that simply adds another miracle to the state's creation - that, despite all of these powerful people who were running the state wanting to destroy Torah observance, it is flourishing in the Jewish state!

      In any case, rather than using your phraseology, Andy (which seems somewhat biased toward equating the vast majority of Israel's leaders with anti-Torah militants and making that a reason to refrain from glorifying God's miracles - which, to so many of us, seems totally unwarranted as a reason for refraining from glorifying God's miracles, even if it could possibly be true), let's just say that the difference between our celebrations of Yom HaAtzmaut with few or no reservations, and your extreme ambivalence, is that we are able to celebrate God's miracles without being judgmental about how he sends us those miracles, while you mix your negative feelings about some of the agents who were used to effect those miracles into the calculation about whether or not to celebrate those miracles.

      Agreed?

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    17. "But I would not take part in any celebration of this Soviet victory, because it inevitably is a glorification of Stalin."

      Stalin was probably preparing to attack Germany in 1942 or '43, but Hitler preempted him with Operation Barbarossa. The plain fact is that the Soviets killed many more German soldiers at Stalingrad alone than fell to all the Western Allies. Here's an excellent graphic depiction: https://vimeo.com/128373915.

      Had the fighting on the Eastern Front not jumped off as early as it did – andconsumed so much of Germany's manpower, materiel, and (stolen) wealth – the invasion of Western Europe would probably have been delayed long enough for the death camps and murder squads to finish off what was left of European Jewry.

      Stalin's support for Israel's establishment was part of his anti-imperialist strategy and he was looking for opportunities as the British Empire disintegrated. That didn't keep him from planning his own final solution to his own Jewish problem. His timely death stopped that.

      But acknowledging that WWII would have taken a very different course without Hitler's invasion of the USSR has very little to do with glorifying Stalin.

      As to Wallace, he held far left views, to the point of surrounding himself with Soviet agents (probably mostly unknowingly,) and he was a whack job with a penchant for Edgar Cayce and even more far out mystics. That probably contributed more to the Democratic Party establishment's rejection of him than did his Zionism.

      None of this in any way means that the establishment of the State of Israel wasn't miraculous, so long as we don't expect miracles in our day to be as open as Kriyat Yam Suf.

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    18. Andy,

      Your ignorance of the facts and your ingratitude are contemptible. You should be saying hallel with a bracha for the existence of the State and saying shaking the hand personally of every early zionist who made it possible.

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    19. To summarize:

      1. Some of you believe that the groups that eventually became Mapai and Mapam did NOT comprise the vast majority of the creators of Israel--political leaders, commanders, soldiers, etc. I say they did. (I said "vast majority", not "all".)

      2. Some of you believe that it is unclear whether Mapai and Mapam were extreme (passive or active) enemies of religion and Torah observance. I say they were, and I don't think they themselves denied it. (Again, I said "vast majority", not "all".)

      Some of you indicated that you had sources that show that I'm wrong about these two points. I'm genuinely curious about this; if you remember where you saw them, please provide them to me. I'm open to changing my mind, and I actually hope you are correct. But so far, every source I've seen was unequivocal on these points--even non-Jewish sources.

      3. Some of you say that "extreme ambivalence" means I'm ungrateful to the Creator and the creators for the State of Israel. I say "extreme ambivalence" means that I AM grateful, and to both. But I also refuse to gloss over the fact that these creators, Mapai and Mapam, were extreme enemies of the Creator.

      I believe any dictionary check for the word "ambivalence" will support me on this. Please let me know if I'm wrong.

      4. Some of you say that celebrating the creation of Israel in no way glorifies the creators of Israel. I think most people think of Independence Day celebrations as being at least in part a glorification of their respective countries' founders/ creators.

      "Ignorance" "ingratitude" "contemptible"; next time, please read what I wrote carefully before engaging in empty mudslinging.

      Andy

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    20. "But I also refuse to gloss over the fact that these creators, Mapai and Mapam, were extreme enemies of the Creator."

      Too harsh. I retract that, and include instead: "But I also refuse to gloss over the fact that these creators, Mapai and Mapam, were extreme enemies of religion/ Torah observance."

      Andy

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    21. Andy,

      I've been trying to upload a picture.. couldn't find a way to make it work, so instead I have to write out the quote it's from HaRav HamMekubal Chacham Ovadia Hedaya (Rosh Yeshivat HaMekubbalim in bet El, Baal Shut 'Yaskil Avdi') who managed to voice his celebration without ambivalence:

      "And in light of what we have now explained, that all those towns that were built by those secular Jews, and all those who live in them - religious people who busy themselves with Torah and Mitzvot - from this (building) they already deserve a portion (of the reward for the Torah and Mitzvot) and especially those who go out to war against the enemy to defend the land and its inhabitants. for there is not greater mitzvah than this... and this is the decisive element for sometimes one mitzvah outweighs all the other sins - and this we see for the land has not spit out it's inhabitants - those 'wicked ones' and thus we have to say that they have great mitzvot to their credit...."

      Andy, Tze Ulemad

      I will email the picture to the baal hablog if anyone doubts my translation - which is a fair doubt to have, I suppose...

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    22. I have no reason to doubt what this mekubal said. The Gemara notes that Haman, who was obviously worse than Mapam and Mapai by many orders of magnitude, was rewarded, because he provoked the Jewish nation to teshuvah.

      For what it's worth, I believe that people who do not celebrate Yom HaAtsmaut should also be extremely ambivalent about their non-participation. What I'm against is this absolute surety on both sides. This is one of those issues where, based on the facts, I believe that the proper response for EVERY Torah observant Jew should be at least some degree of ambivalence.

      Imagine someone risks his life to save the lives of your family members. But it turns out that that he's a very charismatic member of the Moonie cult, and he convinces a significant number of your family members to join; these family members waste the rest of their lives in the cult.

      You might privately thank him for saving their lives; but would you do anything that might be construed as publicly honoring him (which inevitably brings honor to the Moonie cult as well)?

      I know, I know, this example is not perfect; but do you see the point?

      Andy

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    23. That's a great example because what I would do is hold an annual thanksgiving feast to celebrate my child being alive and invite the moonie as the guest of honor.

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    24. Yes, you might do that; maybe I would too. But would you do it with NO reservations at all about the possible glorification of Moonism that this could cause? (Even putting aside the possibility that he could convert more of your family members to Moonism!)

      Andy

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    25. I think it would be quite obvious to all the guests exactly where I stood on Moonieism and therefore I would have no problem showing gratitude to one of their faith. How much less of a problem would I have with a fellow Jew who still risks his life to protect mine every year on reserve duty regardless of his stance on Judaism.

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    26. So (I assume)you would make it crystal clear to all of your guests that you believe that his Moonie faith has destroyed tens of thousands of lives, and thousands of families, and that this man here is giving his life to perpetuating this unbelievable evil. That you are honoring him SOLELY for saving lives; other than that, this man is wholly evil, and must be stopped at almost all costs before he does more irreparable damage.

      Is this crystal clear distinction being made as regards Yom HaAtsmaut? Or are the creators of Israel being honored, and their destructive ideology being glossed over? Some of the commenters here were unclear on whether Mapai and Mapam were enemies of Torah observance! (I'm still open to evidence that they were not; no one has provided any yet.)

      "How much less of a problem would I have with a fellow Jew who still risks his life to protect mine every year on reserve duty regardless of his stance on Judaism."

      The vast majority of secular Jews today are simply ignorant of Judaism, through no fault of their own. They have a "live and let live" attitude. They are not at all like the old Mapai/ Mapam, for whom extreme antipathy toward Torah observance by any and all Jews was practically one of the tenets of their faith.

      Andy

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  5. "Roosevelt (who had turned anti-Zionist)"

    Roosevelt was a typical upper-crust WASP of his era who seems never have been too happy about Jews in general, perhaps even more so than others of his class. The anti-Zionist stuff doesn't seem independent of that.

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    1. Roosevelt wasn't WASP. He was Protestant, but his father's family was Dutch and his mother's family was French.

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    2. And unlike his cousin, he was an Episcopalian. That says something. You don't have time be a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant to be a WASP.

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  6. Why is calling return of the Jews to Israel a "miracle" any more rationalist than realizing the hashgacha in your own life? Both don't defy the laws of nature and can sustain rational explanation. The convergence of factors that allowed us to return to Israel, which I assume you call a miracle, expresses itself in incidents we call hashgacha pratit as well, albeit on an individual as opposed to national scale.

    R Stefansky

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    1. Doesn't Rambam have a bit more limited scope for hashgacha pratit?

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    2. Firstly, I was questioning R. Slifkin's internal system of miracle designation. Inasmuch as he refers to the establishment of the state of Israel as a miracle, he should equally view similarly serendipitous events in his own life. What Rambam held re hashgacha pratit is another matter.

      Incidentally, I'm interested in what R. Slifkin has to say about the teleological argument, since the multiverse theory notwithstanding, life itself arose from a confluence of circumstances more improbable than the creation of the Jewish State.
      Secondly, rationalism is not defined by the actual positions Rambam held on a variety of issues; remember, a lot of what he held was based on a now-discarded Aristotelian worldview. His position on hashgacha pratit is greatly informed by the Aristotelian idea of the soul.

      R Stefansky

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  7. To see miracles in the creation of Israel is not inconsistent with rationalism at all.

    For one to see miracles behind his own marriage, his own life, etc., is also not inconsistent with rationalism. But for others to look at those same events and see miracles is, perhaps, inconsistent.

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  8. "Roosevelt (who had turned anti-Zionist)"

    I wonder if that had anything to do with Roosevelt's sacking of the super Zionist but super far left Henry Wallace as Vice President in favor of Harry Truman. Wallace would attack Truman repeatedly during the 1948 Presidential campaign for inadequate support for Israel.

    That said, nobody really knew what Roosevelt really thought on any particular issue other than Louis Howe, who had died in 1936, and Harry Hopkins, who would die in early 1946. None of the three had a chance to write memoirs.

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    1. Wallace was sacked for other reasons. He was considered to be unfit to be President. The Chairman of the Democratic Party who carried out the plan to get rid of Wallace and who recruited Truman (unbeknownst to him) to replace him said he wanted it written on his tombstone "Here Lies the Man Who Prevented Henry Wallace From Becoming President of the US".

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  9. Rabbanit Yehudit Yosef quotes her father in law (Rav Ovadia Yosef Zt"L) In answer to the question of how can we thank Hashem and recognize a miracle which was facilitated by individuals who were not Shomer Torah and Mitzvohs, Rav Ovadiah would refer them to the Gemara in Meilah (17b) where the Gemara informs us that Hashem sent a “Shed” (a normally destructive and negative spiritual force) to perform a Nes (miracle) for Rav Shimon Bar Yochai.
    Although Rashbi (acronym for Rav Shimon Bar Yochai) was somewhat disappointed in the ‘agent’ Hashem chose and sent to perform His bidding, nevertheless, he realized that he still must be appreciative of Hashem. As he declared: “Let the miracle come from wherever it will come [it is still a miracle and we must thank Hashem for it].” So too she explains, "“Maran (a deferential title to her father in law) never missed an opportunity to remind everyone of our obligation to thank Hashem for all of His miracles and wondrous deeds which he did for us [through the establishment of the State]."
    Ron Yitzchok Eisenman

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    1. You don't even have to go that far-just look at what Tanach says about Yeravam Hasheni.

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  10. Rav Nachman Kahana says that WWI and WWII were punishments for the goyim; the Jews just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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    1. Perhaps then, he should keep his thoughts to himself.

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    2. Adam from ManchesterMay 17, 2016 at 4:07 AM

      I agree Fozzie, a truly bizarre comment.

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  11. I agree with you that it was/is a tremendous miracle, but if I can take the Irgun/Lechi version of history for a second, it seems that Israel would have arisen at the end of the '40s or early '50s at the latest whether America or Russia liked the idea or not. The English were slowly being driven out by an increasingly popular violent Jewish insurgency. The UN decision was arguably largely irrelevant.

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  12. Another incident that later had immense ramifications regarding the creation of Israel occurred during World War I. Kitchener was a legendary British military leader who was Secretary of State for War (or whatever they called the Defense Minister in those days). He had immense prestige so anything he wanted he got. He would have certainly opposed the Balfour Declaration, however, he was killed on a ship headed to Russia when a U-Boat sank it with a torpedo. Had the torpedo missed and Kitchener survived, there almost certainly would not have been a Balfour Declaration.
    Another factor to consider was that Ben-Gurion was being pressed by the Americans in the run-up to 5 Iyar to delay "for a while" the proclamation of the state. Just a short time after that date, the Berlin Blockade began which marked the official beginning of the Cold War and the American-Soviet consensus that supported the creation of the state would have almost certainly evaporated.

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  13. The Gemara says that Omri was rewarded for building a city in Eretz Yisrael, by founding a dynasty of four generations of kings. Even though the city he built was a shrine to avoda zara, such is the merit of building up the Land. How much more so should credit go to people who built up the land who may have been ambivalent to Judaism, but were certainly not idol-worshippers.

    Source: Em Habanim Semeicha

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  14. Dear Rabbi Slifkin, altercockerjewishatheist has written numerous posts about proofs of G-d from Jewish survival, prophecy, the the rise of Israel etc: - it seems he does agree with you about the amazing rise of the State of Israel ! Nevertheless, he does not find any of these sorts of arguments convincing. For example - people throw around the word 'prophecy' but I have never seen anybody describe the requirements for a prophecy in such detail. Check him out.

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  15. The rise of the USA was a Miracle. Come to think of it so was the rise of a the Island England. There are natural explanations for the survival of the Jews and the rise of Israel and need not resort to claims of miracles. Ditto USA, Ditto England.

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