Wednesday, April 18, 2018

I'm a Realist AND I Believe In Miracles - Happy Birthday Israel

I will bring you out... and save you... I will redeem you... I will take you to be My people... I will bring you to the land which I swore to give, and I will give it to you as an inheritance. (Shemot 6:6-8)

These verses are the five promises God made to Israel. They are most familiar to those reading the Hagaddah. The number four abounds during Pesach- cups, children, questions, promises. God tells the Israelites, "I will bring you out. I will save you. I will redeem you. I will take you as My people." For each of these we drink a cup of wine. But there is a fifth promise. It is the promise represented by Elijah's cup and the question of whether we should drink a fifth cup of wine at the seder. "I will bring you [back] into the land I have promised you."

While Jews have never fully left the land of Israel, 70 years ago we returned as the governing majority, a first move towards fulfilling Herzl's dream. Just over 40 years earlier, 120 years ago, Herzl convened the first Zionist Congress in  Basle, Switzerland, dreaming first of a refuge, and then of building an ideal society. We still have much to do. Israel is not perfect. With our support, expectations, and effort it will continue on that path. As in the words of Rabbi Tarfon, "It is not for you to complete the work, but neither are you free from it."

Tomorrow, when we celebrate Yom Haatzmaut, we will recite Hallel, the songs of praise added to our t'fillot to celebrate God's miracles. There is some debate over whether this Hallel is recited with or without a bracha to begin and whether we should also recite Al HaNissim (For Miracles) in the Amidah. Though Israel is certainly not a utopia; though we are brought to the heights of ecstasy and the lows of despair by news, though daily life in Israel continues for many to be a struggle, and for too many of us aliyah is not a realistic option, the creation and development of Israel over the past 70 years is nothing short of miraculous. In the words of David Ben Gurion, "To be a realist in Israel you have to believe in miracles." I drank that fifth cup, and when I recite Hallel this Thursday, I will say that bracha. How about you?

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