• Zerach Moshe Fedder

The Essence of Independence


Power and Responsibility as Individuals and as a Nation

Today we celebrate a holiday in Israel known as Yom Atzma’ut, or Israeli Independence day.

Much joy, celebration also disillusion and soul searching happens on this day here. In my eyes, Yom Azma’ut can become a parable of the dialectic of what it means to be a Jew and what it means to be human being.

One teaching found in the Kabbalah is that each human being is an entire world. A microcosm of the universe. So too, is the State of Israel , a macrocosm of being human. Therefore, I believe we can learn from the complexity of how people relate to the birth and continued existence of the State of the Jews, the State of Israel -- about ourselves and our desires and inner conflicts.

The name itself Atzma’ut is translated as Independence. But its Hebrew root is Etzm or in English essence. The day where we observe, celebrate and contemplate upon our essence.

The Dialectic of the Jewish Nation

This is what Harav Aaron Lichtenstein's zt"l , the Rosh Yeshiva of Har Etzion had to say about the day:

We stand in constant tension between these two factors, between the consciousness that we are in need of a refuge and an assurance of our existence, and the full adherence to the vision to which God dedicated the command: "Get you out of your country, and from your kindred, and from your father's house, to the land that I will show you." We must maintain our presence in the Holy Land based on the consciousness that it is God's inheritance, and based on a sense of mission. But at the same time, we must not ignore the other dimension – the need for a land of refuge and survival. It is clear that after the command, after the land is already "the land that I will show you," we are incapable of viewing it in a completely secular fashion that distinguishes between religion and destiny.

From time to time we need to be reminded that we must not veer from the boundaries of this dialectic, neither toward excessive use of force, nor to excessive spirituality. We need a reminder that will restore for us the proper proportions and perspective. Yom HaAtzma’ut restores for us with full force and depth the consciousness that here, in God's inheritance, we can fulfill visions, but also exist; we can realize dreams b