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Maccabi World Union Yom HaAtzma'ut Message

Kfar HaMaccabiah, Sunday, April 22, 2012

‏ל' ניסן תשע"ב

 

Yom HaAtzma'ut Israel's 64th Independence Day:

 Israel, tzedakah, and the dilemmas of life as a Nation

 

Dear Friends,

We are approaching the celebration of Yom HaAtzma'ut, Israel's Independence Day - just 64 years!, preceded by a day of deep sorrow for the Jewish people (especially for Israeli citizens), Yom HaZicaron leChalalei velenifgaei pe'ulot eivah - the Day of Remembrance of the Fallen of Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and those killed in terrorists' actions. This is the most extreme combination of feelings in our reborn nation: the great sadness of all households in Israel who over a 24 hour period remember their family and friends who died in defense of our country, followed by the sudden and overwhelming joy of a new year in the life of the third Jewish Commonwealth rebuilt as a State from the ruin after the Shoah – despite the Holocaust, not because of it.


The life of the Jewish people as a free nation in the State of Israel (in contrast to "the Land of Israel" as ultra-Orthodox non-Zionists groups refer to Israel, who do not recognize the theological and historical legitimacy of our Jewish State) has restored our normality as a people. For a long period of little less than 1,900 years, we have conceived our existence as Jews only through the prism of a religious community (a process which started with the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 c.e. and the loss of our national dimension). It was an approach to the reality of our people as small groups – or as minorities – generally living amongst hostile majorities (especially in the West, with its anti-Semitism based on accusations of deicide for 17 centuries), linked through reciprocal solidarity.  Jewish standards in that milieu, established within Jewish law, referred to the Jewish People as a network of Jewish communities throughout the world.


Let's take, for example, the laws of tzedakah (social justice, solidarity with the needy) that explain in the scales of the most famous commentators,  the 8 degrees of the Rambam (Maimonides) or Ibn Gvirol's 7 degrees or within the Shulchan Aruch of Yosef Caro, how we should behave with those members of our communities who are in financial difficulties, from training them to fill an occupation (to make their living by themselves) to the amount of money we should take from our income to share with them.


Laws of this kind are definitely of great importance for the life of the State of Israel today, for our reality as a rebuilt nation in the Land of our ancestors. However, these laws do not provide enough answers to the new dilemmas of our national life. With their complexity, their amazing social awareness, their vision of social justice, the laws of tzedakah do not give an answer to, for example, what happened in the summer of 2011 in Israel.  9 months ago, the Israeli middle class rose up en mass to protest tax and labor burdens and the most basic costs (housing, health and education) that fall disproportionately on it, a clear case of "Eifah veeifah" (Torah's expression to point out injustices based on double standards). Socially, and all too clearly, there was a strong financial injustice... which the laws of tzedakah, focusing on poverty, had not contemplated.


Israeli society is still discussing how to resolve this specific issue, as it does on issues like the punishment of criminals or drivers who have caused fatalities, the place of education in developing the future of our people, or the defense of our right to our ancestral land in international forums - all issues that have few precedents in the ancient Jewish legal and philosophical arenas, but which today have new challenges (some only intellectually fascinating, others appallingly real).


This is what causes us to affirm that the totality of Jewish life takes place only in Medinat Israel: it is only here, in this little slice of territory which once again became our national home, that we face new challenges and dilemmas of our existence as a nation. It is here where the decisions of the Supreme Court determine a part of the spectrum of the ethical life of our people; where the opportunities of new technologies often yield dilemmas - especially in fields like biomedicine; where concepts such as solidarity are interrelated with State responsibility. With the complicated shift from the cozy Jewish community to the less intimate populous nation, we have multiplied our already extensive Jewish multi-dimensionality in tackling the issues that make the life of a country from the ethical legacy of our ancient sources, looking for new answers to the new national questions we face.


Medinat Israel is the chessboard of our nation: a nation built with great suffering and effort, with 22,993 people killed in battles to defend our homeland and in terrorist actions of the enemy; a nation which suffered deprivation for 3 decades, and that is today one of the world's most advanced countries. While assessing the sacrifice it entailed and the means that ensure its existence, let's celebrate its 64 years of freedom and recognize the historical and divine redemption its establishment brought to our people, so often persecuted and decimated.


On this 64th Yom HaAtzma'ut, may we all be blessed in the joy of witnessing the further growth and flourishing of our small but great State, in peace, recognition and acceptance by the Nations of the Earth, of our dream of a united Jewish People returned to Eretz Tzion ve'Yerushalayim, the Land of Zion and of Jerusalem, Eternal Capital of our People.

 

May God bless the State of Israel, which marks the beginning of our national Renaissance, the rebirth of our pride and our Future as a People.

 

Chag Ha'Atzma'ut Sameach!

Chazak ve' ematz!

 

RABBI CARLOS A. TAPIERO

Deputy Director-General & Director of Education

Maccabi World Union

 

Maccabi World Union Yom HaAtzma'ut Message
Maccabi World Union.jpg
We are approaching the celebration of Yom HaAtzma'ut, Israel's Independence Day - just 64 years!