Today is the
60th anniversary of a marriage that has lasted more than 3,500 years. This may
sound like a paradox but this is the inescapable truth about the
land of Israel and the Jews.
No marriage has been so long, so deep in its commitment and so
overwhelming in its love as the one between the Jews and their homeland. But no
marriage has been so painful nor so tragic, for the partners were forced apart
by the Roman Empire nearly 2000 years ago.
The bride and the groom pledged unconditional love but were not re-united for
another 1878 years. But for all these years nothing absolute nothing could
emotionally separate the partners even when they lived thousands of miles away
from each other. This marriage was not depending on where the partners
physically resided but were their souls were dwelling.
For that to happen the Jews
metaphorically and in an unprecedented way, lifted the
land of Israel from its native soil and transformed it into a portable
homeland taking it with to all the corners of the earth. Only in 1948 were the land
people physically reunited.
The founding of the State
of Israel then is not the beginning of the marriage between the Land and the
Jewish People, but rather a reaffirmation of nuptials that took place thousands
of years ago between G-d and Abraham the Hebrew. The State of Israel was not
established in 1948 but rather in the year 70, on the day after the Romans
exiled the Jews.
But no marriage can be
taken for granted. Not even after 3,500 years. When a bridegroom offers his new
wife a ring as a sign of commitment, he knows that this is only the first
installment of an ongoing pledge. No marriage can endure if both partners do not
constantly re-invest in their relationship. The moment a marriage is counted in
years rather than marked by shared striving for new opportunities, it has come
to an end. Only a mission - a common dream - can sustain a marriage and only
something greater than itself will allow it to succeed. Marriage is a single
soul dwelling in two bodies, but a soul that has lost its purpose loses
Ironically, the people of
Israel today are struggling to stay spiritually wed to their
land. Rampant materialism and
militant secularism have eroded Israel's sense of
Jewish identity and the historical consciousness that gives meaning to
its national existence. Growing
numbers of its people lack Jewish self-understanding and question why they
should live in this country at all.
It is true that the wonderful Israeli soldiers are ready to sacrifice
their lives for our country. But
how long can this continue when Israel is nothing more than just a country?
are willing to die only for that
by which they have lived. And human
beings can live meaningful lives only when they know that there is something
eternal worth dying for.
It is thus crucial to
identify the element that bound the partners together for these thousands of
years. And that is unequivocally
the mission to be "a light unto the nations," as pronounced by the prophet
Isaiah. The marriage was created to give birth to a wellspring of religious and
moral teachings that will suffuse mankind with the knowledge that life is holy
and that G-d awaits man in order to redeem His world.
This then is the task of
the Land and People of Israel: To
elevate the human race so that it becomes a link between the divine and the
earthly. For life is a mandate, a
privilege --- not a game or a mere triviality. The Jewish people married the land
in order to create a model society that is emulated by all mankind.
It is the rabbis who
consecrate a marriage. But that is only part of their task. As pastors, their
responsibility is to ensure the marriage's success and to tend to it if it
flounders or gets bogged down. This
is the task of Israel's religious leadership today: Religious leaders must transform
the Jewish People by creating a spiritual longing for its unique mission and
thereby restore their marriage to its full potential after the long and
Real religious leaders, as men of Truth, should stir unprecedented awe among Israelis and all Jews. Their towering personalities should attract with their overflowing love.
The hour requires strong and resolute religious and moral guidance.
Like the prophets of old, the religious leaders must generate a spiritual revolution, triggering an ethical-religious uproar that shakes the very foundations of the State.
Only then will the Jewish
People re-engage with its land. Only then can the Jewish people stay eternally
married to its land. Only then will no third party dare to interfere in its
matrimonial bond. This is Israel's hope and future.
May G-d bless Israel!
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JWR contributor Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo is a world-renowned lecturer and ambassador for Judaism, the Jewish people, the State of Israel and Sephardic Heritage. His latest book is "For the Love of Israel
and the Jewish People". It can be purchased by clicking here.