Yesterday was June 6th – 75th anniversary of D Day.
Today is June 7th – 52nd anniversary of Yom Yerushalayim.
Tomorrow is June 8th (after sunset) – 3331st anniversary of the Giving of Torah.
Three anniversaries – all linked in a beautiful way, and highlighted by a controversy in Israel this week.
First, D Day. It was very humbling to see the veterans gathered in France for the ceremonies yesterday, to realise that without their heroism and bravery – there would not be the free world we have today. However, we have to realise that the fight against hatred and evil which they fought 75 years ago is still being fought today and we the Jewish people are still hated as we were 75 years ago.
However, there is a huge difference, the difference is todays’ anniversary – Yom Yerushalayim. This was the day when the world realised that the Jews would no longer go quietly into the night, we would not stand by and watch another annihilation of our people. Back then, during the Shoah we had no home, no army, no air force, so when the Nazis came – we were murdered in our millions.
However, in 1967 when the Arab armies declared their genocidal intentions to wipe out the 3 million Jews of Israel – this time it was different, this time in just six days with the bravery and heroism of the IDF and Divine guidance we defeated our enemies and returned to our eternal capital, Jerusalem.
Which brings us to tomorrow night and Sunday – the third anniversary, Matan Torah.
On Har Sinai we received our guidebook to life. Many of the values that the western world lives by are from the Torah. However the Torah is not simply a guidebook for the individual, it is also a guidebook for a society. It was the basis of the society that David HaMelech and his son created at the time of the 1st commonwealth accompanied with the building of the Bet HaMikdash in Jerusalem. However, that idea has led to some controversy in Israel this week which I think goes to the heart of the need for Mizrachi!
Let me explain.
Bezalel Smotrich, a religious Zionist MK, said that he would want a world in which Israel is governed in accordance with Torah law. Smotrich made his comments on Kan Radio Monday morning, following similar remarks in a speech he delivered on Sunday at the Merkaz Harav Yeshiva in Jerusalem, where he said that he was seeking the Justice Ministry “in order to restore our judges as of old,” and “to restore” Torah law to the Jewish state.
His comments generated significant opposition – including a tweet from Netanyahu, in which he said: “The State of Israel will not be a halachic state” – and condemnation from numerous MKs.
Smotrich later clarified his remarks, saying that the State of Israel would not return to biblical times, and insisted that he believed Torah law was a better and more moral code for Israeli law to draw from than English-common law, Turkish law and other legal frameworks that have contributed to Israel’s existing one.
“For sure, my will is that in the long term, the State of Israel be governed by Jewish law; that’s how it needs to be in a Jewish state,” Smotrich said during his Monday interview.
“If you ask me how long it will take, it will happen only when the Jewish people want it – not when I want it or you want it, but when the Jewish people want it,” he continued.
“The State of Israel and the state of the Jewish people will return to be governed as it was governed in the days of King David and King Solomon – by Torah law, obviously in accordance with our days, our challenges and economy and how society lives in 2019,” asserted Smotrich.
In response to criticism, Smotrich wrote a 1,300-word essay on his Facebook page clarifying his remarks.
He said that the exile of the Jewish people from the Land of Israel and its loss of sovereignty meant that we had forgotten the role of Jewish law in governing a state, but that it had always been the desire of Jews in exile not only to return to their land but also to their legal code.
“Yes, I believe that the Torah and the wonderful, 2,000-year old heritage of the Jewish people has a lot to give in our days as well,” Smotrich wrote.
“And no, we won’t return to the days of the Bible,” he continued, saying that “social realities” were different and need to be addressed differently.
“So let’s stop being afraid of our roots. First and foremost, uproot the ignorance… and implement as much as is possible from all that is good in [the Torah] in daily life,” he said, adding that this should happen gradually and “without coercion.”
What Smotrich is suggesting is simply what Rabbi Reines dreamed of when he created Mizrachi in 1902. He believed that we should be a part of the World Zionist Organisation and try and inspire it from the inside. Not through coercion but through a demonstration of the beauty of Torah living and a passion for building a Jewish state.
Mizrachi UK believes that the Torah should be at the centre of Zionism and also sees Jewish nationalism as a tool for achieving religious objectives. The idea of Kol Yisrael Areivim Zeh Ba Zeh – all Israel are responsible for one and other, urges us to look beyond our own community and try and inspire others with our outlook of Torah within the modern world, Torah with Zionism, Torah with secular education. A Torah that is broad, a Torah that is not judgemental, a Torah that lives in the 21st century but combines the wisdom of the last 3000 years.
1948 and 1967 were stepping stones on that vision for the Jewish people and we understand that our success and return were going to encourage our enemies to transform their hatred of us from hatred for the Jewish Race to hatred for the Jewish State. D Day reminds us of the battles of the past and strengthens us for the battles of the present and future.
Yom Yerushalayim gives us the belief and the realisation that the Jewish peoples and the worlds story are heading towards, please God, a wonderful conclusion as reishit tzmichat geulatenu gathers apace.
And Shavuot reminds us what all this is for, what are we meant to be as Jews. Ki Chaim Chayenu v Oreach Yameinu – it is your life and the length of your days. However, it cannot be in a vacuum and it cannot be in isolation from the world. We have to make sure Torah is always a Kiddush Hashem, which has not always been the case.
Wishing you all a meaningful Shavuot full of Torah and discussions combined with a sense of pride and amazement in how far we have come as a nation since D Day happened 75 years ago.