By Rabbi Steven Pruzansky (This is reprinted with permission of Mizrachi magazine.)
On Yom Haatzmaut in 1956 – Israel’s eighth Independence Day – Rav Joseph Ber Soloveitchik zt”l presented a memorable address later published as Kol Dodi Dofek (“The Voice of My Beloved Knocks”). The Rav highlighted six divine “knocks” on our communal consciousness to which Jews should pay attention– knocks precipitated by the establishment of the State of Israelthat revealed God’s hand in history.
There was the “political” knock in which, uncharacteristically, the United States and the Soviet Union in the early years of the Cold War both voted in favor of a Jewish state in the land of Israel; the “military” knock, in which a tiny outnumbered Israel prevailed over its powerful neighbors; the “theological” knock, in which the new State of Israel refuted Christianity’s theory of the eternal wandering Jew; the knock on the hearts of our youth, who perceived the divine role in history and redemption after the concealment of the Holocaust; the knock of “self-defense,” in which our enemies realized for the first time in two millennia that Jewish blood is not cheap and Jews will fight back aggressively; and finally, the creation of a refuge for Jews and the beginning of the end of the Exile.
The Hand of Providence was already visible then. In the ensuing decades, and now as we celebrate Israel’s 75thanniversary, it is appropriate to highlight six additional knocks in which God’s presence in Israel’s history and statecraft has been manifest.
The first knock was the capture, trial and execution of Adolph Eichmann, the architect of the Holocaust. It was a brilliant operation that defied international legal norms and was denounced by the United Nations and the New York Times. But it established a new norm: the State of Israel is the custodian of Jewish history, represents all Jews, and will exact justice against our past tormentors.
The second knock is perhaps the most obvious as it has shaped Israel’s history ever since: the Six Day War. It was a miraculous victory of the few against the many that followed several weeks of dread and apprehension across the Jewish world as Arab armies massed on Israel’s borders. But the Arab nations were maneuvered into a series of fatal and foolish mistakes and Israel regained control over its biblical heartland and the Old City of Yerushalayim. That we have unfortunately squandered many fruits of that victory and more than 90% of the territory does not detract one iota from the feelings of exultation at witnessing the triumphs of the Ba’al Milchamot,” the true Master of War.
Nine years later came the third knock – the miraculous raid on Entebbe. After an Air France plane that departed Israel was hijacked and diverted to Uganda, Israeli special forces swooped into Entebbe Airport and rescued the hostages. UN Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim, later revealed to be an ex-Nazi, condemned the rescue as a “serious violation” of Ugandan sovereignty, not having lifted a finger to save one Jew. But Israel did, reinforcing the notion that Israel is responsible for the fate of all Jews across the world.
The fourth knock is so blatant that we tend to gloss over it: Kibbutz Galuyot, the ingathering of the exiles. As pious Jews continue to pray for the realization of this majestic, prophetic vision, it is actually happening before our eyes. Jews have returned to the land of Israel from well over 100 countries and forged a society that can get raucous at times but has become a melting pot of Jews of different backgrounds, customs and historical experiences sharing one common denominator: we are Jews who have come home, precisely as was prophesied by Yeshayahu, Yirmiyahu, Yechezkel, Zechariah and many others.There is no louder knock that should cause us to open our eyes and behold God’s wonders.
The fifth knock is the religious revival that has occurred. Israel’s Socialist founders assumed that devotion to Talmud Torah and observance of Mitzvot would wane in a generation or two to be replaced by the new Jew, a secular Israeli. But the Yeshivot Hesder program began in 1953 and the Haredi world was rebuilt and the religious population exploded. The Six Day War catalyzed a teshuvah movement that brought myriads back to Torah. There are more Jews learning Torah today in Israel than at any time in any place in Jewish history. And the full integration of halacha in a modern society in well underway but still a work in progress. Nonetheless, the unanticipated renaissance of Torah evokes Yechezkel’s vision (36:26) of the returnees to Israel being implanted with a “new heart…and a new spirit.” It is a Torah revolution that is only gaining strength and adherents.
The sixth knock is the Start-Up Nation, Israel as an economic and technological powerhouse that benefits the world with our creativity and drive. This too was unexpected though prophesied. There is no surer sign of redemption that when Israel will yield its produce again (Sanhedrin 98a) and Rav Kook foresaw that reborn Israel would expand and innovate in all worldly matters (Orot Hatorah 9:5). Israel is a world leader in hi tech, all so that the Torah can be brought to full expression in the modern world.
The voice of my Beloved “knocks” – in present tense! There are certainly additional manifestations of God’s providential hand knocking on our doors. The questions are: do we hear it? And how do we respond?
Happy Yom Haatzamut!