50 Years of Independence
Jews in Israel and some around the world are celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of our independence. During this period many are debating the past and future of the Jewish people.
Some believe that the state needs to tare down all boarders and to suppress anything to do with Judaism. I have heard some say that the Maccabian victory was the worst moment in Jewish history. Had they lost we would have totally assimilated and all of the tribulations of the last two thousand years would have been prevented. This opinion I have heard from Shulamit Aloni and other Post-Zionists.
I have heard others say that the worst thing that could have happened to the Jewish people is the creation of a Jewish state run by secular people who pride themselves in the openness of their trief diet. Most absurd is that this proclamation was said in an institution whose primary source of new students come to study for a while in the State of Israel. They come with Zionist youth groups and University programs. This “holy” message could not be expressed without secular Diaspora Jews who have become Chozrim Betshuvah.
Some express a slightly different opinion. They believe that since the secular state already exists we must participate and try to make the best of this unfortunate situation. Do they think that life was better living under oppressive gentiles who worship a man who hangs there and bleeds?
Certain people believe that the very existence of the Jewish State is the beginning of the messianic era. The state, with its trief eating, licentious and lying politicians are just the beginning of the greatest era for all of mankind. If this is the beginning I can just imagine what it will be like at its height.
We should ask the question: Now that we are a free nation and have our own state what are we to do? How are we to act? After thousands of years living under of the gentiles G-d gave us our own land to live in, to govern ourselves, and to realize our potential through Torah and Mitzvot.
Rabbi Uziel of Blessed Memory was the first Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel. Michmaney Uziel was first published in 1938, which is ten years before the state came into existence. In his discussion on Passover, which is the holiday of freedom, he discusses this subject. He starts by comparing similar words used in the Passover Hagadah. We start by saying “Next year we will be in Israel free men – Beney
Chorin.” However, the Hagadah ends by saying that G-d is the Salvation of Israel – Ga’al Yisrael. What is the difference between freedom and salvation?
Rabbi Uziel answers this by saying that true freedom leads to salvation. When a person is freed from enslavement he may still have a slave mentality. Being freed from Slavery is not total freedom. A newly freed person must free himself from his submissive attitude. He needs to feel totally free and that no circumstances can return him to
his drudgery. Additionally he actively works to free others from their own bondage. This free attitude is what can lead to Salvation.
He goes on to say that the entire point of the Torah is to raise a people from their lowliness, poverty, ignorance and impurity and to give them the greatest holiness and to lead them to ethical pinnacles.
A person who is physically free but accepts attitudes that are foreign is not actually free. One might not follow other cultures because they are good or correct but only because others follow them. In other words Rabbi Uziel is saying that we as a nation are not free by trying to mimic gentile societies, which may have some nice things but also has very many problems of their own. Rabbi Uziel continues to say that such freedom is worse than ordinary slavery.
The Word Chofesh, which also means free, is different from the word Chori. Chofesh is used with reference to anyone has been freed from slavery included a gentile slave whose attitude has not improved. The word Chori is much more refined. In Kohelet it says “Happy is the land whose king is free and whose ministers eat proper meals, and woe to the nation whose king is a youthful.”
A free king, or for that matter any national leader, is one who does not succumb to external pressures, is independent, and follows the tradition of his forefathers. A youthful leader has no will or power to protect his domain, and follows any external spark. He is like a kid who will take anything which looks nice.
I do not feel that I have adequately explained Rabbi Uziel so please see the original.
Sixty years after its publishing and fifty years into our freedom the words of Rabbi Uziel ring as if they were composed to reconcile and even to go against many the attitudes which are presently popular.
The word Chori which is the root of Ben Chorin discussed in the Hagadah refers to an upper-class person like those killed during the first Galut by the wicked Nevuchadnetzar. Therefore a free society is one which must be independently wealthy. When the gentile nations fear that Israel will not make some major purchase or investment because some small town mayor is a Neo-Nazi then we will truly be free.
A nation is truly free when it and its leaders have a real backbone, when it is financially rich and possesses important knowledge and information, and which does not rely on the whims of other nations.
Even better it is preferable that the other nations rely on Israel for Economic and humanitarian assistance. This freedom is worthless if it is not associated with high moral standards and true commitment to battle poverty and not to simply better the lives of the rich.