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May this seventieth Yom HaAtzmaut bring us closer to the flowering of redemption

Every Shabbat morning at Holy Blossom we sing words of prayer for the State of Israel. These word, said to be written by the noble prize winner S.Y. Agnon, describe the state as “reishit tz’michat g’ulateinu—the first flowering of our redemption.” These words sit uneasy with me. We are in the midst of Pesach when we celebrate our redemption from Egypt, and at the Seder we look forward to the redemption in the future. We open the door for Elijah and imagine a world at peace. Are we saying with the prayer for Israel that this process is now happening? I think that we can get in trouble when we sanctify what is at the expense of what ought to be. There are a lot of problems in the world, and we cannot be passive about trying to fix them.

But, then, I think this line might be about aspiration: “May the State of Israel be the first flowering of our redemption.” On the evening of April 18, according to the Jewish calendar, Israel turns seventy. For seventy years, this tiny country and its people have done amazing and inspiring things. Jews, free in their land, have brought science and technology, art and culture to the whole world.

We celebrate Israel’s accomplishments and pray that it can continue to be a light to the nations.  This is not to say that there are not issues in Israel—conflict, lack of religious pluralism, high rates of poverty, etc.—but, we Jews have hope that we can slowly help our people, and then the world, and with God’s help, move towards redemption. We seek peace; we strive for wholeness.

For seventy years, we have celebrated and loved the State of Israel. A relationship of love does not always mean that we agree or idealize. It means we support and stand with Israel. We stand with Israel it its time of grieving, and that is why we commemorate Yom HaZikaron, Israeli memorial day on April 18 at 6 pm. Our shinshinim, the young Israelis spending a year of service with us, are going to reflect on their experiences of Yom HaZikaron, and, we share Israel’s joy with our Yom HaAtzmaut celebration after our service.

This year we will have food and wine stations including shakshuka made to order. We are also going to sing classic Israeli music with Rabbi Tanya Sakhnovich.

May this seventieth Yom HaAtzmaut bring us closer to the flowering of redemption.

I hope to see you at our Yom HaZikaron and Yom HaAtzmaut events as well as these other events that celebrate Israel:

Alley-Oop to Aliyah: African American Hoopsters in the Holy Land
The Challenge of Jewish Pluralism in Israel
Yom Yerushalayim


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