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The Valley of the Dry Bones and the Advent of the Redemption, Part 4

May 4, 2014

(Part 3)

Makkoth 24a-b:

Once again they were coming up to Jerusalem together, and just as they came to Mount Scopus they saw a fox emerging from the [the ruins of the] Holy of Holies. They started to cry, and Rabbi Akiva seemed merry. Wherefore, said they to him, “are you merry?” Said he: “Wherefore are you crying?” Said they to him: “A place of which it was once said, ‘And the common man that draws nigh shall be put to death,’ is now become the haunt of foxes, and we should not cry?” Said he to them: “Therefore am I merry; for it is written, ‘And I will take to Me faithful witnesses to record, Uriah the priest and Zechariah the Son of Jeberechiah.’ Now what connection has this Uriah the priest with Zechariah? Uriah lived during the times of the first Temple, while [the other,] Zechariah lived [and prophesied] during the second Temple; but scripture linked the [later] prophecy of Zechariah with the [earlier] prophecy of Uriah, In the [earlier] prophecy [in the days] of Uriah it is written, ‘Therefore shall Zion for your sake be plowed as a field…’  In Zechariah it is written, ‘Thus said the Lord of Hosts, There shall yet be old men and old women sitting in the broad places of Jerusalem…’ As long as Uriah’s [threatening] prophecy had not had its fulfillment, I had misgivings lest Zechariah’s prophecy might not be fulfilled; now that Uriah’s prophecy has been [literally] fulfilled, it is quite certain that Zechariah’s prophecy also is to find its literal fulfillment.” Said they to him: “Akiva, you have comforted us! Akiva, you have comforted us!”

That’s how I would sum up Jewish history up until 1947. The dire prophecies kept coming true, so we had faith that the good ones would come true too.

How should the Jews react when the good prophecies start to come true? What if they started coming true, and the faithful reacted the wrong way?

This past Sabbath of Hol Hamoed, an elderly gentleman was honored with the reading of the haftara we previously discussed. Afterwards, the Rabbi spoke about how it was the congregation that was honored to have him, a veteran of the War of Independence and a man who actively participated in the realization of that very prophecy, to once again read it in public, and that we look forward to him reading it to us year after year.

The Rabbi’s words were of tantamount importance. Firstly, because he was able, in a fragment of a sentence, to mention to the laypeople of the congregation that the plain understanding of the prophetic selection was the rebirth of the nation in its land, and does not describe the resurrection of the actual dead. Secondly, because he made it clear that he was happy that the prophecy had come true in our days.

Unfortunately, there is a large, prominent, and vocal segment among allegedly observant and believing Jewry that the Jews are still waiting for the good to come. I mentioned these points to a few neighbors. Some of them attend a class in the prophets delivered by the rabbi to the children of the congregation. I told them that they would be surprised, but I have met many adult graduates of the yeshiva system who are totally illiterate with regards to the books of the prophets. They told me that they were among those people. I then mentioned to some of them that the sages said that this past week’s haftara, which mentions that when the land starts to yield its fruit to such an extent that harvest season will run right into plowing season, is the best indication of the End, they felt cheated. “In Yeshiva, they never taught us these things. Nothing about what the n’vi’im actually said, nothing about Israel, nothing about history. Not about the Holocaust. Not about Zionism. We were ripped off. Do our rabbis even know that something big is still going on? Is it a conspiracy?”

I think it is. Most non-flag-waving Yeshivas I know of are opposed to the study of Navi because it could lead their students to adopt Zionist viewpoints. The prophets had a well-known Zionist bias. I remember in yeshiva when Iyar would roll around and the faculty had some plain and obvious discomfort with the students chepping for some sort of official observance. They of course had the proud and happy yiddishe neshumes inside that tell them that the day is one of joy and should be celebrated the way we celebrate our other holidays, but their hats and blackness and role models were against it, and they must follow suit. Hallel is a crime, with a b’racha is a high crime, because our rabbeim did not do such a thing, and who are we to decide otherwise, all the while ignoring that the truly greatest rabbis of the past generations, the ones who were both scholars and possessed of appreciation for history and the words of the prophets, and not the ones inclined to declare the opinions of other scholars as against those of the “gedolim,” did ordain that the day be observed as one of praise and thanks to the Lord.

It was because the faculty were so adamant about not taking an official stance that I was active in trying to mark the day publicly. If I could, I would arrange that a siyum be made that day, so that even those opposed to celebrating Israeli independence could participate in a s’udath mitzwa. I merited to earn the respect of some of my peers for that, and sometimes they would ask me for my own opinion with regards to celebrating the day. My simple response would be that it should be celebrated like any other holiday, and that the sages specifically created the commandment of Hallel for just such occasions. We have written about this previously. I would also tell them about how many of the “gedolim” treated the day as one of mourning and sadness. They even call it the naqba, catastrophe. Such gedolim with names like Arafat, Khoumeini, Bin Laden, Hussein, Al Husseini, Assad, Sadat, and Nasser. One could hold like those gedolim. That is, if the enemies of our people treat the day as one of their greatest defeats, and are still gnashing their teeth over it, then you better believe that it is one we should be celebrating. Jews celebrate Israeli independence; the bad guys mourn.

To my friend who asked yesterday, if your yeshiva or rabbis are too pious to observe Independence Day properly and hold like the aforementioned gedolim, then I would suggest that you study elsewhere and get guidance from someone else, as you can not properly learn from anybody who lacks such a basic understanding of Jewish history and theology, and basic appreciation for God’s providence, even if he is a so-called gadol. Those are all part and parcel of the all-encompassing Torah, and if a system declares part of that Torah as irrelevant, then it will only impede your own growth through study.

I have two particular brothers in mind as I write this. One is deeply religious and of the belief that Zionism and its related enterprises are cardinal sins. The Jews were supposed to have waited for the Messiah to arrive, and the rest of what the Satmars claim. To him, I say that he should read what I wrote before about how prophecy is less of a prediction of what will be and more of what should be, what we are commanded to bring about. Nathan foresaw Solomon ascending the throne, so Nathan sought to bring about his ascension. Rabbi Akiva believed the prophets, so Rabbi Akiva sought to bring about the Messianic Era. So should we, and if it takes the irreligious to do that, and more so, if they succeed, then so be it. The religious certainly had their chance.

My other brother has left religion. To him I plead that he only not assist those who would claim to be our victims but are in actuality seeking to annihilate us, or remove us from our homeland. Both are just as bad. If he ever needs, we are still here, ready to welcome him with open arms because we are all brothers, and when the time comes for his new friends to turn on him, he will only have his brothers to turn to.

This Israeli Independence Day I recommend you approach another Jewish brother who might not be celebrating and wish him a hearty hag sameah like you would on any other holiday. It is time that all the Jews started celebrating that the good is finally coming true.

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