Today is Israel’s Independence Day, Yom Ha’atzma’ut. In 1948, soon after the declaration of Statehood, a “Prayer for the State of Israel” was written. Rabbi Yitzhak Halevi Herzog, who served as Chief Rabbi at the time of the founding of the State, wrote the piece and asked the great Israeli writer S.Y. Agnon to put his mark on it by editing it. The most powerful words of this prayer appear in the opening, stating that the establishment of Israel represents “reyshit tz’mikhat g’ulateynu,” “the beginning of the rise of our redemption” or, as our Mishkan Tefilah siddur translates it, “the dawning of hope for all who seek peace.” This year, violence on the Gaza border marred the week in which we celebrate Israel’s birthday. Under such circumstances, it can be difficult to affirm the hope that Israel promises or the redemptive process it has initiated. But, the prayer does not declare that Israel has already redeemed us or the world; only that it contains the ingredients necessary for redemption to occur. Redemption will not come without the wisdom and vision of great leaders to resolve the many dilemmas Israel still faces these 71 years on. Happy Yom Ha’atzma’ut!
Rabbi D. Feingold