Parshat Achrei Mot/ Yom Haaztmaut
This week we celebrate Yom Hazikron and Yom Haaztmaut –Israel’s Memorial Day for the fallen soldiers of the IDF and the next day Israel’s 64th birthday, Israel Independence Day. Tuesday night and Wednesday day is Israel’s Memorial Day and Wednesday night and Thursday is Yom Haaztmaut-the celebration of Israel’s founding. These seemingly secular days are anything but secular. The framework for understanding these days is a Jewish religious framework, a Zionist framework. Israel’s founding moments is one of the most spiritual in the life of Am Yisrael. Even for the secular Zionist who repudiated the rituals and Jewish law and observances of their fathers and mothers, Yom Haatzmaut is a fulfillment of the Jewish ideals of our people and a new life for our historical imperatives.
Israel is not just another country in the parade of nations. But for the Jewish People, the modern miracle of the state of Israel is one of the great religious moments of our history. The restoration of a national homeland for the Jewish People after the darkest moment of our people’s history, the Shoa, is more than just an event in a historical timeline. The restoration of our National ancient homeland is a moment of pride and joy and spiritual renewal. Even for American Jews and Jews throughout world, Israel’s 64th year of existence should be a moment of religious awe.
According to Rav Soloveitchik, the great Modern Orthodox thinker in his book Kol Dodi Dofek, the rise of the modern State of Israel is a reminder that God is knocking on our door. God is trying to rouse us from our sleepiness. Just as the lover in Song of Songs (Shir Hashirim) knocks on his lover’s door to trying to get her attention to greet him.
In a world where many assert the death of God especially in light of the Shoa, Soloveitchik reminds us the God is calling out to us. It is our choice whether or not to answer the door.
Yom HaZikaron where we honor the deaths of the fallen IDF soldiers who gave their lives in defense of the modern state of Israel and the next day when we celebrate the miracle of the “Start Up Nation” we must see if we can answer the call to support the ideals of Israel whether or not we agree with any of its governments. The very beautiful audacity of a Jewish Democratic state is a statement of God’s miraculous call to us to work for and support that reality.
This week’s Torah portion called Achrei Mot, after the deaths refers specifically to the death of Nadav and Avihu, the sons of Aaron who died when they brazenly tried to offer sacrifices that were not proscribed. They violated the precincts of the Mishkan, the Holy Meeting Place and tampered with the new sacrificial system. This week our Torah portion reviews the sacrifices for Yom Kippur, Day of Atonement, Day of Forgiveness. Aaron the High Priest and father of the two who died, must send a goat to Azazel with all of our sins placed upon its head. For the ancient Israelites this was the way to restore their closeness with God and to be ready to answer God’s call again.
May we be ready to answer God’s knock on our door and may we celebrate and support Israel as the way we listen to God’s call to us!