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Yom Haatzmaut 5761

By: Rav David Milston

As we all know, there are certain events in the Jewish calendar that always fall on the same day of the week as other events. For example, the first night of Pesach this year was on Motzei Shabbat, similarly the night of Tisha Be'av will also be on Motzei Shabbat. This is not a coincidence, every year, Seder night falls on the same night of the week as the eve of Tisha Be'av (for more on this particular parallel see the Beit Halevi , Parshat Bo, on the words "Lel shimurim").

It is surely, therefore, no coincidence that whatever day of the week the Seventh day of Pesach falls on, on that same weekday we will celebrate Yom Haatzmaut. Just as this year the seventh day fell on Shabbat, so the fifth of Iyar (the official date of Yom Haatzmaut) this year will also fall on Shabbat (though the celebrations begin on Wednesday night).

To my mind, there are enormous parallels between the seventh day of Pesach - Kriyat Yam Tzuf and the State of Israel and its ongoing development.

Let us take a closer look at the events leading up to the splitting of the sea, the actual splitting of the sea, and the episodes that followed immediately after this unprecedented miracle.

Am Yisrael, after two hundred and ten years of slavery, culminating in eighty years of intense persecution, left Egypt. They showed immense commitment in following Hashem into the midbar, leaving civilization, and wandering into the unknown.

Seven days of freedom have passed, they have not followed the most obvious route to the "Promised Land", on the contrary, they seem to have changed direction, and suddenly find themselves "cornered" in a seemingly "impossible" situation. The "regretful" Egyptians are behind them, and the sea is in front of them.

They have nowhere to turn, they begin to pray, Hashem tells Moshe Rabeinu that this is not a time for prayer, speak unto the people of Israel, and start journeying. Moshe lifts his staff, and the sea splits. Our people walk through the sea, and as we all know, as soon as the people are safely out of the sea, the waves come crashing down on the pursuing Egyptian army.

Having seen a revelation that was so far unparalleled in the history of man, the people sing to Hashem - "Shirat Hayam. Yet almost immediately after this chapter of miraculous salvation, Bnei Yisrael are faced with a water crisis, followed by the attack from behind of the Amalakim. Here we see, that same people who just a moment ago reached the unprecedented level of Shirat Hayam, now fall, doubting that Hashem can bring them water, doubting that he can sustain them on their way to final redemption. Our Rabbis tell us, that the episode regarding the water, or seeming lack of it, is what triggered the onslaught of Amalek.

Amalek is not only a people it is a characteristic. The gematria of Amalek is the exact same gematria as that of the word safek (doubt). Just as the Amalekite enemy attacked us from behind without the knowledge of the warriors at the front of the camp, so the enemy of doubt, slowly eats away at us, without us really knowing, until suddenly we face a crisis.

Though " a maidservant at the splitting of the sea saw more than the prophet Yehezkel" immediately after the event, upon returning to the natural "routine" of life, doubt sets in, culminating in the war with Amalek. The only way that we can succeed in the war with Amalek, is by having faith in Hashem. As the Mishna in Rosh Hashana tells us, in our war against Amalek, we succeeded, when Am Yisrael looked to the skies becoming subservient to their Father in Heaven, whenever they lost their faith, they began to lose in their war against Amalek.

This chain of events, is remarkably parallel to our experiences over the last sixty years.

Am Yisrael after the Second World War was a depleted seemingly weak entity. The persecution of years of exile, culminating in that most terrible period, unparalleled in the history of mankind, left its mark on our people. Yet, unlike any other nation in the world, our people refused to disappear from the face of the earth. Against all the odds, the post-Holocaust generation, slowly but surely began to rehabilitate itself on the way to our long awaited final redemption.

When we look at that period between 1945 and 1948, we see a people who on the one hand, have finally left "Egypt", yet on the other hand, they have nowhere to go. The one place that Jews belong, Eretz Yisrael, is closed off to them. Like Bnei Yisrael at YamTzuf, they are seemingly trapped.

Miraculously, independence was gained.

In the diplomatic arena, a world that had willingly turned a blind eye on the Jewish situation for more than a decade was compelled to vote in favor of the establishment of a Jewish State.

On the battlefield, Jews fought arm in arm against established armies to ensure the declaration of independence.

Anyone who looks objectively at these events can truly see a revelation of G-d. How many peoples three years after almost being entirely destroyed, stand up and fight and succeed against all the odds? The establishment of the State of Israel, and its ongoing existence despite our enemies, is a phenomenon that negates all human logic. To my mind we have merited to see yeshuat Hashem in every way. As if the sea has split, miraculously providing the solution when all was lost. When man had almost given up, Hashem brought us to closer to our final destination - complete redemption.

In 1948 the miracle was clear to all, everyone could see that we had taken one step closer to final redemption. However, the years following independence, the difficulties of a young country in its early stages of development, caused people to doubt. Amalek set in, "is this the state that we dreamed for?"

Yet each time doubt began to ascend, the incredible faith of the "Am Hayoshev Betzion" overcame all stumbling blocks and continued its march forward.

In 1967, we have almost a repeat of history. Once again Am Yisrael is seemingly cornered, yet once again salvation arrives in less than six days in a way that to this day astonishes me. After the six-day war, we find ourselves with Yerushalayim back in our hands after 2000 years of foreign occupation. Once again the miracle is clear, yet once again after the initial celebration doubt sets in.

Our existence is a combination of Shirat Hayam on the one hand, and milchemet Amalek on the other hand. The establishment of our State, and the recapture of Yerushalayim, are to my mind no less than modern day "kriot yam tzuf". We have indeed merited to see with our own eyes, prophecies that we never dreamed of seeing.

Every so often, our State enters a difficult period en route to redemption. This year has been no exception to the rule. However, we must not let "doubt" win its battle over us. For fifty years we have fought tooth and nail for what we have. The people of Israel, similar to Nachshon ben Aminadav, have marched into the sea, with emunah sheleimah, this has always been our key to success - our belief in our people and our belief in our Land.

I enter this Yom Haatzmaut with even more simcha than I normally would do. Each day I realize more and more how our ongoing existence in this wonderful country is a miracle in absolute terms. I thank Hashem daily, that it is my portion to be in the right place at the right time. I would not want to be anywhere else in the world than in Eretz Yisrael, with Am Yisrael, totally absorbed in Torat Yisrael.

Today is a festival, we must celebrate it in everyway, showing our infinite gratitude to Hashem, for bringing us home.

Chag Sameach


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