Apr 29, 2009

Yom Ha’atzma’ut 5769: “Sing from the Heart!”

Yom Ha'atzma'ut 5769: "Sing from the Heart!"
Rabbi Menachem Creditor

I just wish I were there.

Coming to shul and seeing the Israeli flag in our window is a reminder that the experience of Judaism in even the strongest of Diaspora Jewish communities is just that – dispersed.

That Yom Ha'atzma'ut, the anniversary of Israel's founding, comes one day after Yom HaZikaron, Israel's Memorial Day, is both perfect and traumatic. From memory and loss to release, from mourning to joy, in sudden transition. Visioning the hint of a beautiful future on the heels of commemorating the heroic struggles of a trying past and present.  From surviving to dreaming.

We in the Jewish Diaspora must work to be attuned to the sacrifices of over 23,000 Israeli men and women who have died protecting our home. Only if we struggle to connect to the sirens' calls throughout Israel to stop, to be silent, do we remember that we are one people, one family. But in Israel that is obvious. The busiest streets, the highways, the email labs – everyone stops and stands in honor of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice protecting our Jewish homeland. In the Diaspora, what do we hear? How do we connect when our hearts are in the East and our bodies are at the ends of the West?

And in the midst of an unending news-cycle, in which Israel only appears amidst struggle, it is increasingly hard for a Diaspora Jew to experience the joy of Israel. We gather for communal celebrations, but the environment must be constructed. And protected. There is Jewish power and Jewish legitimacy in the Diaspora, but it is simply not the same as living and breathing the pervasive Jewish air of Israel. The reassurance of spoken Hebrew, of cab drivers who say "Shabbat Shalom", of an Israeli military that struggles to maintain "Tohar Neshek / Purity of Arms" in even the darkest struggle, the public Israeli folk-dancing in Safra Square until 3am – can that be experienced anywhere outside of Israel?

There is work for Israel to do, to be sure. But Israel is not a "them" to the Jewish Diaspora's "us." There is work we all must do, and on this occasion of Israel's birth, the least we can do is dance and sing. With every generation, direct memories of Israel's birth are one more step removed. But music and joy, when they penetrate a person's soul, can bridge that gap. So sing for the peace of Jerusalem! Sing. Music makes distance irrelevant, even but for a moment.

May we not miss the opportunity – today! – to reconnect to Medinat Yisrael, the State of Israel, through song.

May Israel and her neighbors be blessed with the Peace every people deserve.

May the Jewish Diaspora reaffirm its heart, Israel.

Amen.

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Rabbi Menachem Creditor
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