Fundamentally Freund: Kvell, don’t kvetch, on Independence Day

The rush of everyday life, as well as the withering criticism of the media, provide potent distractions, drawing our attention away from the incredible success of the Zionist enterprise.

April 21, 2015 20:55
3 minute read.
Israel Air Force planes

People watch Israeli Air Force planes fly over the Mediterranean Sea from a Tel Aviv beach, during an aerial show as part of celebrations for Israel's Independence Day, marking the 66th anniversary of the creation of the state. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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As the State of Israel celebrates 67 years since its remarkable rebirth, it is becoming increasingly easy to lose sight of the miraculous times in which we are living.

The rush of everyday life, as well as the withering criticism of the media, provide potent distractions, drawing our attention away from the incredible success of the Zionist enterprise.

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Everyone is so busy kvetching, or complaining, rather than kvelling, or bursting with pride, that we forget what the Jewish people have managed to achieve in such a short span of time here in the Jewish state.

So put aside for the moment any fears you might have about that guy in the White House or the tyrants in Tehran, and ingest the following healthy dose of much-needed patriotic perspective.

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Since 1948, the Jewish population in the Land of Israel has grown nearly tenfold, as millions of immigrants have been absorbed from around the world. Seven decades ago, six million Jews were gassed, burned and slaughtered across Europe. Nowadays, six million Jews reside in the Jewish state, filling the streets of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa and elsewhere.

In the blink of an eye, we went from bloodstained Jewish history to blossoming Jewish destiny. If that’s not a miracle, then what is? And speaking of miracles, Israel has made the desert bloom, taken the high-tech world by storm and built a free country amid a sea of despotism, all in less time than it took to construct the Leaning Tower of Pisa (177 years), the Great Wall of China (centuries), or even Washington’s National Cathedral (83 years). Not bad, don’t you think? In the spiritual realm, we have also reached new heights. Israel is now home to more yeshivot than have ever existed at any time in all of Jewish history. On any given day, more Torah is being studied than ever before, more pages of Talmud are being scrutinized, and more Jews are visiting sites such as the Western Wall and the Cave of the Patriarchs.

Indeed, in just about every field imaginable, be it literature or music, theater or the arts, Jewish creativity in Israel is at an unprecedented level.

Back in February 1896, Theodor Herzl wrote the following in his book, Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State): “The Jews who will it shall achieve their state. We shall live at last as free men on our own soil, and in our own homes peacefully die. The world will be liberated by our freedom...enriched by our wealth, magnified by our greatness.

And whatever we attempt there for our own benefit will redound mightily and beneficially to the good of all mankind.”

We are closer than ever to fulfilling that noble goal.

Sure, there are numerous problems and challenges at home and abroad, and no one in their right mind would deny that much work remains to be done.

But we cannot and must not allow the difficulties to drag us down or overwhelm our sense of appreciation for the gift that God has given us by restoring Jewish sovereignty.

In this connection, it is worth recalling a very special story about the “Tzaddik of Jerusalem,” Rabbi Aryeh Levin, and Dr. Hillel Seidman, the Yiddish writer and journalist who survived the Warsaw Ghetto.

The year was 1949 and Dr. Seidman was visiting Israel. On the eve of Independence Day, he ventured out into the streets of Jerusalem together with his wife to see the crowds who were celebrating the birth of the Jewish state.

“I was surprised,” Dr. Seidman recounted to author Simcha Raz, “to bump into Rabbi Aryeh dancing with youth in the city streets.” At the time, Rabbi Levin was 64 years old. “His face,” Dr. Seidman said, “beamed with joy as he danced with religious fervor.”

Perhaps noticing the wonder on Dr. Seidman’s face, Rabbi Levin told him, “After the sea of tears and the flood of hardships that befell our Jewish brethren in the Holocaust, we finally have the good fortune to see Jewish children dancing with joy in their hearts. You tell me, isn’t this reason enough for us to give praise and thanksgiving to the Lord of the Universe?” It most certainly is.

Happy Independence Day!

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