Rabbi David Walk, Education Director

Congregation Agudath Sholom | 301 Strawberry Hill Ave | Stamford, CT 06902 (203)-358-2200 www.agudathsholom.org

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Monday, April 16, 2018

Walk Article


Yom Ha'atzmaut-5778 

Rabbi David Walk 


We watched the official ceremony at Yad V'shem on Yom Hashoah. It brought us to tears. The six survivors who lit the memorial fires moved us the most. Each story contained the same two elements:  terrible tribulations at the hands of the Nazis Y"S and a resolve to combat the damage to the Jewish people by building the State of Israel. We don't have Medinat Yisrael because of the Holocaust. That's an anti-Semitic canard. But Zionism has been the best response to that disaster. According to the Israeli government figures, in 1939 there were 16,600,000 Jews in the world; today there are 14,550,000. Where have all the Yidden gone? Sadly, to countries other than Israel, where many disappeared. In Israel our numbers have grown more than tenfold in the last 70 years (600,000 to 6,500,000), while Diaspora populations continue to shrink and shrivel. Take the US of A as an example. Basically, America has the same number of Jews today that it had in 1939, even though hundreds of thousands of Holocaust survivors and other Jewish refugees moved there over the past decadesThe next morning, Rivka and I went out onto busy Derech Chevron here in Jerusalem to hear the siren and watch as our world came to total standstill. Before going back inside, we decided we must put our Israeli flag out our window. Today! 

The most effective response to Hitler, Haman, Pharaoh, Antiochus, et al is Eretz YisraelMedinat Yisrael, Zionism. Call it what you want; it's working. 

The State of Israel is the answer to a prayer and a miracle, however it required hard work. The last miracle that didn't require our participation and effort was the Splitting of the Sea. That's why God emphasized that we should be as passive as possible to observe that amazing wonder (Shmot 14:13-14). But otherwise, we're supposed to do whatever we can to bring about our salvation, even though we have faith in God. That's why Mordechai tells Esther that her right to salvation depends upon her participating in the effort (Esther 4:13-14). But there's another principle about ongoing miracles which God taught us during Creation. During the Creation, we have God 'saying' things and 'seeing' things. According to the Ramban, 'Actualizing things is called saying...and maintaining them is called seeing...The point is to teach that they exist by His desire, and if that desire would detach from them for but a moment, they would become nothingness (Breishit 1:4).' In other words, when God said 'Let there be light', that was bringing light into existence, and when God said 'it was good', that was maintaining its continued being. Israel demands the same from us. We spoke our desire to have the State, that helped establish it. We must continue to keep our attention on it to maintain its ongoing survival.  

Before I go one with my Zionist rant, I must insert a caveat. There is a major philosophic disagreement between the Ramban (Nachmanides) and the Rambam (Maimonides) about God's continued participation in the universe. Ramban maintains, as I just wrote, that the world requires continual input from God to continue. The Rambam insists that God created the cosmos with rules which don't require constant Divine intervention. Therefore, God rarely intercedes. Normally, I'm on the Rambam team, but not today. Got it? 

On Yom Ha'aztmaut 2001, during the Second Intafadawhen terrorists were firing on the road between Jerusalem and Gush EtziyonHarav Aharon Lichtenstein OB"M spoke at Yeshivat Har Etziyon, and told the budding scholars, 'It seems to me that in recent years in particular the feeling of God's continuous providence has been in danger of fading away and being forgotten. Theoretically, we are all aware of the fact that 'an eye sees, an ear hears and all your deeds are inscribed in a book' (Avot 2:1)...Habit and day-to-day concerns suppress the excitement that should take hold of us in face of the creative eye that maintains and renews the creation every day.' In other words, we've begun to take the miracle of Medinat Yisrael for granted. That's a dangerous scenario. 

Please, forgive me if I presume to add to the idea of that sainted Rosh Yeshiva and take on the role of Mordechai, that avuncular nudge. But I don't believe that it's enough to remain 'aware' of Divine providence, the 'eye' and 'ear' of God. I firmly believe that we must be vigilant with our eyes, ears, mouths, hands, assets, etc. to support the continued existence of the Jewish state. Just like the wars of Joshua and David and the miracles of Purim and Chanuka, we had to participate, so, too, this modern miracle requires our efforts. Everyone must contribute to the enterprise. Everyone must decide what they can commit to the endeavor. Moving here is always good. Cash is always welcome. But there are other activities which you can subscribe to in every country, campus and community in the world. Everyone has a role, everyone has a place in the destiny of our people. 

If you really can't think of anything you can do, please, write me:  rwalk36@hotmail.com. We'll brainstorm. Remember, I'm the nudge. 

Life is very busy and demanding. So, I understand how this urgent topic can fall through the cracks. However, if you can't focus on this issue during this period of Yom Hashoah, Yom Hazikaron, Yom Ha'atzmaut and Yom Yerushalayim, then you never will. 

In this grand opera which is Jewish history, some of us have major roles, some are in the chorus and others are backstage, but that's not important. The final outcome requires the effort of all. But I'd like to end with the words of Mordechai, 'If you remain mute at this time, relief and rescue will arise for the Jews from elsewhere, but you and your family will perish; and who knows whether for a time like this you find yourself in your present position?' Your move.