Growing Light

Recently, the Jewish People celebrated Hanukka. The sixth day of Hanukka was also the first day of the new Hebrew month. That night at sunset, when many lit their Hanukka menorahs either at the entrances to their homes or in windows overlooking the public thoroughfares, a sensitive soul could perceive a growing abundance of light in the world, both man-made and natural. For six days, with the addition of new candle every evening, the menorahs poured out more and more light; and with the moon entering the growing half of its cycle, that light was augmented by the light of the newly waxing moon.

It's enough to get one thinking. As Israel stares down the barrel of yet another round of elections, with all the mudslinging and wheeling and dealing that comes with it, it's germane to ask a simple but complex question:

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What is missing here?

Why is the country so tied up in angst pains? 

Remarkable Achievements

After all, in its 67 years of independence, the modern resurrected State of Israel has racked up some significant achievements, bordering on the sheer miraculous. Among the greatest is its very survival. The Jewish State, against all odds, has survived so many wars bent on its annihilation that one can count them on two hands. And the Israeli economy has grown strong and famous worldwide, with the ability to support millions of immigrants pouring in from countries all over the world.

So what is troubling us as we approach our eighth decade of independence?

Three Hebrew words are relevant here: heshek, tshookah and kisufim.

Each of these words expresses a different shade of desire - of wanting, of longing.

What made the Maccabee victory of Hanukka so compelling? It was the common people's burning desire for reclaiming the profaned Temple in Jerusalem, and for the city's purification as a holy city once again. As long as the Greek Syrian conquerors forced the Jews to abandon the Torah and teachings of their ancestors, the Jews' longing for the laws of the Torah and the opportunity to fulfill them increased exponentially.

It reached a point where the entire nation experienced a desire for closeness to God as they had experienced when they stood assembled at Mt. Sinai to hear God’s voice. That singleness of purpose is what brought them together, and gave them the drive they needed and the meaning they were looking for in life. And it was due to this passionate desire that they were able to fight and vanquish the Hellenistic Greeks who were far better equipped for battle.

Such purpose and desire is what is missing in our modern age.

Heart Stir

What we need is a stirring. Something that generates a tickle in all of our hearts that will inflame our ventricles with the nagging desire to do the will of the God of Israel. This is the impetus, the heshek and the tshookah, that will provide the will to find meaning in our lives here in this little and beautiful land. Such a stirring of passion will bring the nation all at once onto the same wavelength.

And where can that heshek come from? Perhaps the place to find it is to dig deep and experience a thankfulness for all the blessings that we do receive here. Granted, life is not perfect, and there is so much room for improvement - but there is a tremendous amount of good in each of our lives that we can be thankful for that can bring us to that level of longing. And once we as a nation reach that level, there will no longer be conflict between the religious and the non-religious, since each person will be free in her or his own way to serve the Creator in the best possible fashion.

Whispers of the Ancient Prophets of Israel

And on that day, we may see the words of the prophets come true before our eyes. Like these:

“Then say to the House of Israel, so says the Lord God: (…)

‘I will take you from the nations, and gather you together from all the countries, and I will bring you to your land. I will splash pure water onto you, and you will be purified from all of your sins, and I will purify you from all of your idols.

I will give you a new heart, and I will place within you a new spirit; and I will remove the heart of stone from your bodies, and I will give you a heart of flesh.

I will place My spirit within you, and I will cause you to walk in My laws and guard My precepts so that you will do them. You will dwell in the land that I gave to your ancestors, and you will be for me a people, and I will be for you the Lord.’” (Ezekiel 36, 42, 44-48).

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