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The Miracle Right In Front Of Us
When you point out to people that you can't actually prove anything from Chazal's account of the length of the lunar month, or from the Torah's list of animals that have one kosher sign, or from Rav Chaim Kanievsky having a grasshopper arrive in his house, they often get upset. As one kiruv worker put it to me: "So what else am I supposed to talk about, if I want to inspire people?!"
It's a pity - and a lack of broad historical perspective - that it's not sufficient for them that we have one of the greatest miracles in history right in front of our eyes. I can't put it any better than Rav Lord Sacks, ztz"l, in a moving description of how he felt once on Yom Yerushalayim in Jerusalem:
"Standing on the streets of the city, I watched youngsters from around the world, waving Israeli flags, singing and dancing with a joy that was overwhelming. As I watched the celebrations, I was overcome with emotion because suddenly I had a vision of the 1.5 million children who were killed in the Shoah not because of anything they had done, not because of anything their parents had done, but because their grandparents happened to be Jews.
"I remembered how 26 centuries ago, the prophet Ezekiel had a vision of the Jewish people reduced to a valley of dry bones. G-d asked shall these bones live, and Ezekiel saw them come together, take on flesh, and begin to breathe and live again. G-d promised Ezekiel he would open his peoples’ graves and bring them back to the land.
"I remembered the first reference to Israel outside the Bible on the Merneptah Stele, a block of granite engraved by Merneptah IV, successor to Ramses II, thought by many to have been the Egyptian Pharaoh at the time of the Exodus. It was an obituary, ‘Israel is laid waste, her seed is no more.’
"I thought how some of the greatest empires the world has ever known – Egypt of the Pharaohs, Assyria, Babylon, the Alexandrian Empire, the Roman Empire, the medieval empires of Christianity and Islam all the way to the Third Reich and the Soviet Union – were the superpowers of their day that bestrode the narrow world like a colossus, seemingly invulnerable in their time. And yet each tried to write the obituary of the Jewish people, and whilst they have been consigned to history, our people can still stand and sing Am Yisrael Chai. That was my second epiphany: The knowledge that what I was seeing on that day in Jerusalem was techiyat hamaytim, a collective people being brought back from death to life."
Of course, this isn't a miracle in the popular mystical supernatural sense of the term. Historians can chart every step of the way; God did not break the laws of nature for this to happen. Nevertheless, the end result - which was promised thousands of years ago, and which looked absurd for much of history - is nothing less than a miracle.
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Unfortunately I now have to mention a negative aspect of Yom Yerushalayim - one that relates to my very own dati-leumi community. And let nobody say that I only criticize the faults of charedim. As I have written previously, the closer you are sociologically to people who cause problems, the greater your responsibility to condemn their actions.
There's a march that takes place every year on Yom Yerushalayim. It's great to celebrate this special day, and it's tragic that there are religious Jews who are so isolated from national history that they refuse to acknowledge it. But the presence of many of the more right-wing dati-leumi youth singing militant chants insulting Islam and about "death to the Arabs," and the decision to route the march through the Muslim Quarter, is wrong.
First, it's just plain dangerous (though it can simultaneously be argued that by now it's even more dangerous to cancel this foolish mistake, as it would reward those who made threats as a result). Second, it's obnoxious and foolish. We won - we have Israel and Jerusalem. There's no need to be triumphalist and immaturely rub our victory in the faces of all those who lost as a result. Not every Arab is our enemy - but singing chants like this will certainly (and understandably) push them in this direction, quite aside from how it makes us look in the eyes of the world.
Significant portions of the dati-leumi community have been heading in an alarming direction these past few years. Those of us who object to it have a responsibility to speak out.
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Yom Yerushalayim Sameach! And stay tuned for a forthcoming post about a wild animal being used as a new weapon against Israel, that is simultaneously entertaining, fascinating, shocking and disturbing. If you'd like to subscribe to this blog via email, use the form on the right of the page, or send me an email and I will add you.