Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The Greatest Miracle

It's sad that some people seek to bolster emunah through ridiculous stories of sentient pigs, flawed "proofs" from animals that chew the cud, or pseudo-scientific demonstrations of auras. Because there's something so much more powerful which, unlike our ancestors, we are blessed to have right in front of us. It's 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 human history, fulfills its ancient prophecies and returns to its homeland, to create an amazing country and triumph against overwhelming odds. Is there anything more inspirational than that?!

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." (It's worthwhile reading Johnson's book to learn more about all the factors that had to coincide for Israel to come into existence.)

Then there are all the amazing aspects of the War of Independence. The only reason that Israel had soldiers at all were to due to the remarkable events of the life of Colonel John Patterson, the lion hunter of Zion. The fledgling army didn't even have communication devices for its forces, and relied on a network of carrier pigeons. Israel's homemade Davidka mortar turned out to be wildly inaccurate and completely useless at damaging things, but it did make a very loud noise, and that scared away Arab forces!

And ever since the War of Independence, it's been miracle after miracle. Entebbe. The Six-Day War. The absorption of refugees from all over the world. The desert turning green. The tiny state turning into a source of technology and ideas that improve life all over the world.

Yom Ha'Atzmaut celebrates the greatest miracle in recent history. There's nothing more worthy of celebration (see Rav Eliezer Melamed's discussion at this link). Chag Sameach!

53 comments:

  1. Are you sure there is no rational explanation for ISRAEL'S Independence ?

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    1. Not according to people who think they are seeing miracles in historical events. Christians - "USA...therefore G-d". Muslims, "Rise Islam...therefore Mohammed and Allah" Is not the survival of rats amazing ? Billions of Dollars spent over hundreds of years to wipe out rats, yet they survived; a real miracle. FYI I wrote some blog posts about "Israel...therefore G-d"

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    2. There is a rational explanation for [almost?] all miracles in Tanach, too, from the Ten Plagues to Purim, and we gladly attribute their occurrence to Hashem.

      Purim is of course more relevant, as it was a "G-d working through history" thing, much like today's world. There was a confluence of bizarre factors that occurred: a powerful empire ruled by an insecure, paranoid king, a high minister who is not well liked by the servants, an assassination plot that happens to be overheard, and a few people who stick to their faith. None of these aspects is that rare, but the CONFLUENCE and the result demonstrate Yad Hashem.

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    3. I think ACJA has a point, though. There is certainly a confirmation bias in viewing history through the lens of one's own desires and understandings. We'd like to think that ours make more sense - ie America was a logical development from Athens to the Magna Carta to the rise of populism and the downgrading of monarchies in Western Europe, and therefore using the Christian viewpoint is "wrong."

      How does one PROVE G-d in history? Perhaps one cannot.

      In any case, we look at the SAME THINGS and view them through our own lens: "One sun sets and another sun rises" has been applied to the decline of the Golden Age of Jews in Spain leading directly to the discovery of America - how Ferdinand and Isabella were behind both (via Columbus)! So yes, the formation of the USA is indeed because of the hand of G-d, but the hand of the Jewish G-d, not the Christian one!

      (Similar Isrocentric arguments can be made for the rise of Islam- as a test, as a crucible, as a place for the middah of mesiras nefesh to go since the Jews weren't using it properly, etc.)

      Regardless, there is always Pascal's response to King Louis (when asked for proof of the existence of G-d): "The Jews, Your Majesty."

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    4. Are you sure there is no rational explanation for the exodus from Egypt?

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    5. Do you mean for the Exodus to have occurred at all or for rationalist understandings of the miracles of the Exodus. There are certainly theories for the latter (red tides of deadly algae causing death in the rivers and diseases upon the land, volcanos exploding causing ash and fire to descend upon the land as well as darkness and a shift in wildlife, even an eclipse, followed by a strong wind blowing the water back on the continental shelf). I'm not the one to comment on the former, but isn't that what the midrash seems to imply with the idea behind "hardening Pharaoh's heart"? That a normal person would have given in after such pressure much earlier, but he stuck it out bc he was given Divine support to do so - reading between the lines, we can see that if an ancient civilization was faced with crazy natural phenomena in the setting of a slave rebellion, it is not an impossible outcome for the home nation to agree to free the slaves.

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    6. Dude, how do you not see that my reply was a simple, direct, pithy refutation of Dynamic's original comment using his own logic? Nice book you wrote, tho.

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  2. https://www.quora.com/How-was-Israel-able-to-win-the-Arab-Israeli-War-in-1948-standing-alone-against-an-alliance-of-five-Arab-states-Was-this-a-victory-against-all-odds

    Corrupt leadership and under-trained front-line troops on the Arab side, vs. uniform commitment across all ranks on the Israeli side.
    Primacy of defense over offense
    Many of those in the Jewish militias were prepared, with superior military training, from their time spent as volunteers to the British army, fighting against the Axis armies in Europe during WW2
    Quality of arms, equipment and logistics, accounting for maintenance, bit only very late in the war.
    The Arab states against Israel were not uniformly coordinated in strategy nor unified in their respective political ends, and did not commit all of their armed forces into the effort.

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    1. Hey man - haters gonna hate, deniers gonna deny. You can find a so-called "rational" explanation for anything. Me, I'm with RNS on this one.

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    2. Go to the linked website and you will see many responses to that comment.

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    3. "uniform commitment across all ranks on the Israeli side."

      Wait, which side are you arguing? This is obviously quite miraculous!

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    4. And lovers will love, believers will believe.

      Let each man believe what he can (Darwin) ....

      Let each man find friends who believe as he does and not make him uncomfortable with good questions that he never thought of. Allow him the bliss of ignorance....

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    5. If the Arabs were so lousy, and the Jews so well armed- why didn't the Arabs accept the Peel scheme- or even negotiate a better agreement based on Peel? Indeed, the whole history of Zionism is a sequence of irrationalisms all converging to 1948.

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  3. Why luck? Why providence? They were waiting for about 50 years for an opportunity and when it arrived, they grabbed it. The state didn't happen on its own, people decided consciously to make it happen, when they thought they would be able to.

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  4. Not buying the Pro-Zionist propagandaApril 19, 2018 at 9:07 PM

    The more that one learns about the creation of the State of Israel, the more ambivalent one becomes about celebrating it.
    The racist policies and discrimination against Mizrahi Jews, forced secular indoctrination and infant abductions, even human x-ray medical experiments on them makes one shudder at how viciously the Ashkenazi secular elite abused their power over the rest of the Jews in Israel when they won independence.
    Hard to celebrate that.

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    1. Yep. There's always something to complain about. Korach also had legitimate gripes. So do certain groups in every country today. Like I said above. Haters gonna hate. It's a great line, because its so true.

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    2. The more one thinks about the haredi Ashkenazi hashkafa, the more one becomes ambivalent about associating with them or adopting their religious stringencies or point of view. Their racist policies of discrimination against Mizrahi and Sefardi Jews and insistence on segregation on these ethnic lines as well as their discrimination against baalei teshuva, and poor attitudes of intolerance toward chilonim makes one shudder at how viciously the haredi power structure and elite abuse their power over other religious and non religious Jews.

      Hard to celebrate that.

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    3. "even human x-ray medical experiments on them"
      A lie. X-ray treatment for ringworm was a common procedure across the world. There was nothing in Israeli protocols that was unusual for its time.
      There still is no evidence for an abduction conspiracy, but there was much disorganization and incompetence in the early State. And it's not the State's fault, that during the time when the greatest posek alive was Ovadia Yosef, a בית יעקב school put up a wall to keep out the "frenks".

      The plain simple fact is that in the 19th century, the Orthodox for the most part ignored דעת תורה and stayed in Europe knowing full well that the non-religious were planning to create a state of their own in ארץ ישראל. They paid no heed to Gedolim who advocated ישוב ארץ ישראל such as the Besht, G"ra, חתם סופר, נצי"ב and the בית הלוי.
      And today, we haven't learned. You don't like the State? Then transform the State. Instead you relate to the government as an ATM machine, instead of as a means to performing מצות in a massive way not possible for millenia. The mainstream charedi attitude to the gov't is purely mercenary and thus is a more secular Zionism than that of Ben Gurion.

      You don't like the army? Then transform the army! Tell the army your demands (Glatt, mikveh and no women) and offer to send them 5000 of your boys. Within a decade it will be the חילונים who'll refuse to send their boys to the army.

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    4. Not buying the Pro-Zionist propagandaApril 22, 2018 at 10:24 AM

      "There was nothing in Israeli protocols that was unusual for its time."

      See this and judge for yourself:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vMp1tef4lg4

      "There still is no evidence for an abduction conspiracy,"

      I guess that's true if you don't consider testimonies of family members as evidence.

      You don't like the army? Then transform the army! Tell the army your demands (Glatt, mikveh and no women) and offer to send them 5000 of your boys. Within a decade it will be the חילונים who'll refuse to send their boys to the army.

      There already is a quota for drafting about 3,000 hareidi boys per year in place and I don't see any transformation happening anytime soon. They get indoctrinated by the IDF "cultural enrichment programs" like everybody else.

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    5. "See this and judge for yourself:"

      I'm not going to waste my time. I've already researched the issue. You answer this: Was X-rays a standard treatment for ringworm at that time across the world? Yes or no.

      "if you don't consider testimonies of family members as evidence."
      Family members did not testify that their kids were abducted; they TESTIFIED that their kids disappeared under strange circumstances. They CONCLUDED that their kids were abducted. Do you see the difference?

      "There already is a quota for drafting about 3,000 hareidi boys per year in place and I don't see any transformation happening anytime soon."
      So you have a (presumably unmet) quota which at best would reflect 5% of the population, and you wonder why the army hasn't been transformed?

      "They get indoctrinated by the IDF "cultural enrichment programs" like everybody else."
      Prove it. Heck, prove that anybody gets indoctrinated. Do not include those "charedi" guys who were sent to the army because they were already going OTD.

      Again, the reason why the gov't was and (to a lesser extent) is the way it is, is because not enough Orthodox Jews joined the call by Torah True Jews to build the country in the 100+ years preceding Herzl.

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    6. Not buying the Pro-Zionist propagandaApril 24, 2018 at 2:22 PM

      "I'm not going to waste my time. I've already researched the issue."

      I guess this is what happens when you try to reason with someone who dank too much of the kool-aid.

      "You answer this: Was X-rays a standard treatment for ringworm at that time across the world? Yes or no."

      This is wrong question to ask, obviously. If you would have bothered yourself to watch the documentary I linked to, you would have seen that it was the levels of X-ray radiation applied to these Mizrahi children which was unusually high and therefore dangerous/lethal by any standard. By the 1950's this danger was common medical knowledge.

      "Family members did not testify that their kids were abducted; they TESTIFIED that their kids disappeared under strange circumstances."

      Um, last time I checked, if someone disappears under strange circumstances, that actually does count as evidence of abduction. I know its not CONCLUSIVE evidence or proof, but we aren't talking proof.

      "So you have a (presumably unmet) quota which at best would reflect 5% of the population, and you wonder why the army hasn't been transformed?"

      You seem to have a lot of confidence in Chareidim, and maybe your should, but we have a cautionary tale from the Dati Leumi community. It has been sending their boys to the army in the tens of thousands per year FOR DECADES, and they are still failing miserably in their attempt to transform the army.
      Heck, they can't even manage to keep 18 and 19 year old girls out of the combat units, let alone out of the army bases. The minute any DL rabbi speaks out, they are shut down and blacklisted by the IDF and the government. You are living in fantasyland.

      "Heck, prove that anybody gets indoctrinated."

      Once again, you are being ridiculously naive.
      Once again, lets look at the DL community.
      Informal surveys report a disturbing number of religious recruits lose their level of observance--either partially or totally by the time they leave the army.
      Here is a very sobering article:
      https://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/20291

      "Again, the reason why the gov't was and (to a lesser extent) is the way it is, is because not enough Orthodox Jews joined the call by Torah True Jews to build the country in the 100+ years preceding Herzl."

      Wut? Even if I grant you that the Torah-True Jews failed and the State was handed over to the secularists for them to make Israel a secular country due to their failure, is this a reason to celebrate Yom Ha'atzamaut?

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    7. There were haredi officials in the highest ranks of Israeli govt that either did nothing about the Yemenite abductions, covered it up, we're complicit participants in it, or did nothing about it and at very least held onto those major state secrets to their deaths in a disservice of justice to the victims and perpetrators.

      What do these evil deeds of Israeli govt officials have to do with the miracle of Jewish nationalist renewal and rebirth of Jewish homeland? There were many evil people in charge during 1st and second temple periods and yet we mourn the loss of self sovereignty.

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  5. Hey, very few people in the USA refuse to celebrate 4th of July because of the actions of the US government! For that matter, do most people across the world refuse to celebrate their own countries own Independence Day because of the actions of people in their government? The Jews got gold and silver when they left Egypt but ended up using that wealth for the service of the golden calf. That doesn’t stop us from thanking God for all the wealth that he gave us when we left Egypt. Being thankful and appreciating a gift is something everyone must do, it’s called Hakarat Hatov. Once you have the gift it’s your right and responsibility to try to improve it. But if things don’t go your way that’s not a reason to trash the whole enterprise. On a related note, it should be mandatory that everybody learn the history of how the Jewish people came back to the land of Israel and how many improbable coincidences and unlikely events had to occur in order for this to happen. You’d have to be blind not to see the Yad Hashem guiding this enterprise. The sins of the people who started the country are nothing to be proud of but they also shouldn’t be used to denigrate one of the greatest miracles in modern times and make you ignore hakarat hatov
    to Hashem. As Rabbi Meshulam Roth (1875-1963), a member of the Israeli Chief Rabbinic Council, writes in a tshuva on this subject: “Indeed there is no doubt that that day (the 5th of Iyar) - which was established by the government and the members of Parliament, the elected representatives of the people, as well as the majority of the great Rabbis to celebrate throughout the land, to commemorate our salvation and our freedom- it is a mitzva to make it (a day) of happiness and Yom Tov and to recite Hallel” (Kol Mevasser 1:21).

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    1. Not buying the Pro-Zionist propagandaApril 22, 2018 at 10:09 AM

      Just as I wouldn't expect Native American Indians to celebrate July 4th, I wouldn't expect the descendants of the Old Yishuv community or the Taimani community to celebrate Yom Ha'atzmaut.

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    2. They do, though. And for good reasons.
      But hey, at least you won the prize for most nonsense attempt at history.

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    3. That's like argument that we shouldn't celebrate Columbus day, Washington's birthday and Lincoln's birthday.
      Similar (as mentioned above) memorial day and veterans day, all of the above now considered a day for sales at malls (and amazon, etc).

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    4. Not buying the Pro-Zionist propagandaApril 23, 2018 at 1:58 PM

      "That's like argument that we shouldn't celebrate Columbus day, Washington's birthday and Lincoln's birthday."

      It all depends who "we" is. I would be surprised if those who still wave Confederate flags in the South "celebrate" Lincoln's birthday along with the rest of the USA (even though it is an official national holiday) and I can't blame them if they don't.

      I'm not arguing that the secular Ashkenazi establishment and their sycophants shouldn't celebrate Yom Ha'atzmaut. On the contrary, they have every reason to celebrate the fact that they have successfully usurped the pre-Zionist religious establishment, and replaced Jewish identity with an Israeli identity.

      I'm talking about the ones who were usurped.
      Why on Earth should they celebrate Yom Ha'atzmaut?

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    5. Lincoln's birthday is not a national holiday (in some states, mostly northeast, it is a state holiday; that just means banks are closed, and "white sale" in Macy's).

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    6. Not buying the Pro-Zionist propagandaApril 25, 2018 at 2:19 PM

      Well, I guess you won the argument then.
      Congrats.

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  6. "It's sad that some people seek to bolster emunah..." So is RS bolstering faith or making a rational argument for an actual miracle ? My blog has explained reasons to reject the 'State of Israel...therefore G-d' argument. Some Christians make a similar argument, their argument goes "The USA...therefore Jesus". Muslims join in with "Amazing rise of Islam...therefore Mohammed and Allah" Bloody h-ll to all. Just because you think "amazing" things have happened does not imply supernatural was involved.

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    1. Do you really think that I am talking about a supernatural intervention against the laws of physics? Have you never read this blog before?

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    2. Dear Rabbi, I have read some of your blog posts, and your Challenge of Creation, sometimes applauding your blog posts. Do you refer to Chaos Theory or Quantum Theory ? G-d using CT and QT as instruments for the creation of the State of Israel ? G-d monkeying around with either would be violations of physics, even if we don't notice. No need to resort to 'miracles' to explain anybody's history. The belief of a nation's deity intervening in history was an ancient near east belief, and also among other ancient cultures. They saw their deity's finger poking into history just like you think your deity is poking his finger into history.

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    3. Rabbi, you are not going to convince a self-described atheist to see anything supernatural in anything. His only reason to even visit blogs such as yours is to poke fun at anything you have to say.

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  7. My typing right now 'involves an extraordinary confluence of circumstances that was necessary for it to happen.' Yet another miracle of history.

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    1. You are making a common mistake about how to define the event. I discuss this in The Challenge Of Creation. There's nothing extraordinary about typing, it happens all the time. The same cannot be said for a nation re-creating their homeland after thousands of years of exile.

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    2. Dear Rabbi, you have picked an event (Israel 1948) and claim it is unusual. I may pick another event, say the rapid rise of Islam which is also extremely unusual, so that "Islam...therefore Prophet Mohammed and Allah".

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    3. Yes. It would appear that God does love all his chidren.
      Doesn't mean that rabbi slifkin is wrong.

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    4. Acja ( an oxymoron if you ask me ) the rise of Islam was surely with Hashem's will. Many nations have arisen to power. The point RNS is making is that when these nations fall from power they don't return thousands of years later. They disappear completely. I believe it was Louis ?16 who asked Robespierre for a proof of G-d. The answer was "the Jews"

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    5. Dear RS - I was addressing the premise that a set of amazing coincidences around an event implies supernatural intervention. That my typing now is not the same event as Israel 1948 is obvious. I do not think the argument "Amazing Coincidences Israel 1948...therefore divine intervention" is valid.

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    6. The point RNS is making is that when these nations fall from power they don't return thousands of years later. They disappear completely.

      Actually, this is untrue: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assyrian_people

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    7. Clarify. The Greeks fell from power, but they persist in the same place.

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    8. Modern day Assyrians and Greeks have no connection to the ancient peoples who lived in those areas. But Jews maintain the same ancient literature and traditions of our ancestors who lived in this land. We celebrate the same holidays, speak the same language, read/write the same 22 letters of the alphabet, practice the same dietary restrictions, maintain the same laws of purity, etc. No other nation on Earth even comes close

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  8. To pull together the points in some of the comments above:

    In a very highly complex system involving myriad factors interacting in countless ways there will be some very unusual outcomes. When examined in retrospect each one will appear extremely statistically rare, yet a fair number of them are randomly bound to happen. How can we say that the creation of the modern State of Israel isn't such an event, and if it wouldn't have happened to happen with Israel then some other rare event would have happened (and did happen), and other observers would be (and probably are) looking back at that event too and mistakenly viewing it as a result of intervention in the statistical randomness.

    (Apologies if this post has already been sent; am having some browser issues - and please feel free to delete this sentence when posting my comment.)

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    1. I will like to add a few things. Ancient Israel's religion evolved a theology that G-d would eventually return the Jews to their homeland. That hope played a significant role in the survival of the Jews and the rise of Israel in 1948. Ancient nations without such a theology would be less likely to survive an invasion and exile, let alone a return to their homeland.

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    2. I dunno. If some hyper-rationalists could invoke "Annuit coeptis" as their motto, why not us?

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  9. It is curious to consider that the state of Israel was created in large part by Jews who did not believe in miracles, or who at any rate were tired of waiting for a miracle. This does not necessarily contradict Rabbi Slifkin's thesis, of course.

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  10. The confluence of factors means only that Hashem wanted it to happen - which is obvious to a believer. (There were quite a few factors that had to come together for the Holocaust to happen.) It's utterly irrelevant to one's attitude toward the State.

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  11. On Tisha B’av of 5769 (2009)I discovered an astonishing, unknown prophecy. I read this out loud in a lecture I delivered to a Shul, and years later, people would still approach me to tell me how moved they were by it. Let me share it here. It comes from William Whiston, a 17th century Christian Hebraist and translator of Josephus.

    In his account of the destruction and aftermath of the destruction of the First Temple, Josephus records that while Nebuchadnezzar repopulated Samaria with the Cutheans, he left Judea as an empty desert. Whiston thereupon makes, in his notes, the following amazing statement, which can be found on page 278 of the Hendrickson edition, Antiquities 9:7 (185):
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    We see here that Judea was left in a matter desolate after the captivity of the two tribes, and was not repeopled with foreign colonies, perhaps as an indication of Providence that the Jews were to repeople it without opposition themselves. I also esteem the latter and present desolate condition of the same country, without being repeopled by foreign colonies, to be a like indication, that the same Jews are hereafter to repeople it again themselves, at their so long expected restoration.
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    An absolutely incredible prediction, made hundreds of years before it was fulfilled in the buildup to 1948. On rare occasions in life one is granted moments of crystal clear vision, and this was one of them. May we all merit to perceive the Redemption, speedily, in our days.

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  12. Here's a meta-comment:

    I don't think that you are going to be able to prove any religious tenet from the return of the Jews to Israel and the foundation of a Jewish State there.

    However, it is still notable that among those who detect the hand of God in finding lost car keys, many will not bat an eyelash at the re-establishment of the State. Or perhaps they do when the big events happen (1948, 1967), but then push that feeling out of their consciousness for other reasons.

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    1. David, I'm surprised. Take time to read Chareidi literature to find out how their leaders interpreted the meaning of the establishment of the state.

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  13. Jews come in, Arabs come out. You can't explain that!

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