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05/04/2022 04:28:51 PM


Rabbi Hearshen

עוד לא אבדה תקותינו. We have still not lost our hope. These are some of the most essential and central words of התקוה, the Israeli national anthem. These words encapsulate the sentiment of thousands of years of our people. Thousands of years of praying while facing Jerusalem. Thousands of years of sitting near the eastern wall. Thousands of years of ending our Passover Seders with the words לשנה הבאה בירושלים/Next year in Jerusalem.

Israel is a living testament to the power of hope and optimism. It’s the proof of how powerful it is to believe in the possibilities of life. In 70 CE, the Romans destroyed the Second Temple and eventually ended Jewish sovereignty in the land of Israel until 1948. There’s great evidence that there has always been a Jewish population there but it dwindled over the years. As that population dwindled, the world Jewish population grew and prospered. But there was only so far our prosperity could go because we were always seen as outsiders in every land we found ourselves. Additionally, we were never at home… we were always longing to be somewhere else: The Land of Israel. In 1948, when David Ben Gurion and the other founders of the State of Israel declared it a nation, our longing finally ended and our greatest aspirations were realized. All of this was because there was still hope.

Israel remains the hope today that it was yesterday and that it will be tomorrow. It remains that hope because it reminds us of what we can achieve. It reminds us, that in the words of Theodore Herzl, אם תרצו אין זו אגדה/If you will it… it is no dream. All too often we associate Israel with its military and issues of security. We think of Israel’s safety and its role in our own safety. The problem with this image of Israel is it fails to demonstrate the depth and importance of Israel to the Jewish people and to Judaism. It fails to show how essential our relationship is to our culture, our peoplehood and our faith. Israel is the heart and soul of the Jewish world. It’s not an accident that we pray facing Israel or that our prayers include mentions of Jerusalem. It’s not merely by chance that the Jewish world makes it a point to plant trees in Israel and to visit there often. None of these things are accidental because Judaism without Israel is like a person without a soul.

Yesterday the people of Israel and the Jewish world observed Israeli Memorial Day (יום הזיכרון) and today we celebrate Israeli Independence Day (יום העצמאות). The two observances being side by side points to the paradox Israelis live every day, and the way we all need to go about our lives. We need to see that light comes when we grieve the darkness. Hope comes when we make peace with the sadness and loss. It’s wrong to “move on.” It’s wrong to forget and act as if “everything is okay.” Likewise, it’s wrong to ignore the hope and joy that’s real. It’s wrong to dwell forever on that which is not. We need to look at the whole and not merely at some segment of life. So, as we grow in our relationship with the state of Israel, let’s reflect on hope and how the existence of Israel proves the power of faith and optimism. Let’s celebrate and reflect on the reality that when we believe, the sky is the limit. We can make miracles happen in our own day and age.

Next Shabbat, May 13, we are honored to have the opportunity to welcome the Consul General from Israel to OVS to celebrate Israel. We’ll have services at 6:00 pm followed by an Israeli dinner during which she’ll be speaking. All money raised that evening will be contributed to the Ukraine Relief Fund at our Federation. Please come and dine, learn and celebrate with us.

Sun, June 26 2022 27 Sivan 5782