The process of independence

Our vehicle remains the messianic donkey, which moves ahead, stops inexplicably, goes backward, but continues to his destination.

independence day air show_521 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
independence day air show_521
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
“The sound of my beloved knocks” (Song of Songs 5:2)
From the perspective of more than six decades of national sovereignty, how can we properly assess the success – or lack thereof – of the restored Jewish state?
If we are to be condemned for not (yet?) having fulfilled our function as a “holy nation and a kingdom of priest-teachers” of compassionate righteousness, moral justice and peace to the world, we must admit to being guilty as charged; however, the successful discharging of that national, covenantal mission will only happen at the time of universal redemption, as our prophets testify (Isaiah 2, Micah 4), so we seem to have a long way to go before the possibility of reaching that goal.
My revered teacher Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, in his novella Kol Dodi Dofek (the sound of my beloved knocks), masterfully interprets a passage in the Song of Songs to refer to the reaction of the Jewish people themselves to the miraculous advent of the Jewish state. God is our eternal lover, who has guaranteed that we will eventually be worthy, that He will fulfill His covenant to us and that “even if we were scattered to the ends of the heavens, from there will He gather us and from there will He take us up to the land of our ancestors’ inheritance,” and pave the way for the ultimate millennium (Deuteronomy 30:4).
Soloveitchik explained that in the year 1948 the Dod or Lover (as it were), the Eternal Shepherd, knocked at the Community of Israel’s door to signal His readiness. The timing was unexpected, historically absurd and incongruous, miraculous – but critically necessary for Jewish survival.
Other “knocks” at the door followed closely: Israel’s victorious conclusion of the War of Independence, the lightning victory of the Six Day War and our return to the Western Wall of the Old City of Jerusalem.
But what was the response of the masses of world Jewry to all of the divine knockings at the door? Did we open the door to let our Lover in, did the beloved open the door to go out and join her Lover in the Land of Israel reborn?
“I have taken off my dressing gown, how so can I get dressed again?; I have cleansed off my feet, how so can I make them muddied again?” I have finally felt a respite from my persecution, I am about to retire after many long days of travail, can I legitimately be expected to start anew at this stage of my life? I have at least begun to refresh my wounded and exhausted body. Can I legitimately be asked to resettle swamps, to wage wars, to brave battles?
“I get up to open for my lover, but my hands drip with myrrh, the myrrh passes through my fingers on the doorknob of the lock. I finally open for my lover, but [alas, too late] because my lover has slipped away, gone... I look for Him but I do not find Him, I call out for Him but He does not answer me...” (Song of Songs 5:3-6).
Did we indeed miss the moment, overlook the opportunity? I hardly think so. Just as exile is a process of history, so is redemption a process – and this is only the “beginning of the sprouting of our redemption.”
We have grown from 600,000 to close to six million strong; we have brought together exiles from every conceivable culture and of every conceivable color and ethnic background, melding together as one nation.
Yes, we remain a work-in-progress, and we certainly have a difficult and dangerous journey ahead of us. Our vehicle remains the messianic donkey, which moves ahead, stops inexplicably, goes backward, but continues to his destination. And all of our prophets guarantee that we will eventually reach that destination, not only for the sake of the Jewish future but for the sake of world redemption.
The writer is the founder and chancellor of Ohr Torah Stone Colleges and Graduate Programs, and chief rabbi of Efrat.