The day after Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, is a moment for reflection and renewal, a time to celebrate the miracle of Israel’s founding and to recommit to the work of its birth. Much remains to be done in pursuit of a more perfect Jewish homeland, envisioned by its founders as a nation based on the prophetic principles of dignity and peace, a society defined by justice and equality. Perhaps it is not an accident that Yom Ha’atzmaut often precedes the Torah portion Kedoshim, which commands the Israelites to be holy through ethical behavior and interpersonal relationships. These values, articulated in ancient verse and modern declaration, reflect the ideals of Torah and the aspirations of the Jewish people. On this day, the day after Yom Ha’atzmaut, they hover, dancing before our eyes with potential.
Ezra Bitton, a Moroccan-Israeli poet, captures the urgency of this work in his poem “The Dream of a Jew,” in which he writes: “I will fight with all my strength/ To bring the redemption of my people closer/ And to see the light of the future/ Shining in the eyes of every child.”
That is the purpose of redemption framed in Jewish terms: to see the future in our children’s eyes. As Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote, “we do not worship the soil.” And so, for the sake of every child, let us be brave enough to reexamine ourselves — individually and as a People — in light of our best intentions and most sacred texts, acknowledge our shortcomings, and recommit to work towards a better future.
May the State of Israel be a beacon of hope and inspiration to the Jewish people and to all who seek a just and equitable world. May it be a place where the aspirations of the Jewish People are fulfilled, and where the ideals of Torah are upheld.
May the Holy One bless the future of the State of Israel with prosperity and success, and may it be a shining example of how a democratic and pluralistic society can be built on a foundation of ethical behavior and social justice.
Ken yehi ratzon — may it be so.
Am Yisrael Chai!