Torah Insights for Shabbat
Parashat Shmini 5758
April 25, 1998
Levi-Strauss later recorded that he subsequently found old treatises on navigation that indicated that western sailors, at one time, were able to see Venus in full daylight. Perhaps we could too, if only we knew how.
What is true of the physical world, is true of the spiritual world as well. The beauty of Shabbos, the aura of prayer, the radiance of Torah, and the presence of Hashem in our lives are all right before us. We could see them--if only we knew how.
Spiritual vision is not universal. Consider: Avraham and Yitzchak left for the Akeidah accompanied by two lads, Yishmael and Eliezer. The Midrash recounts that when they reached Mount Moriah, Avraham turned to Yitzchak and asked, "My son, do you see what I see?"
"Yes," responded Yitzchak.
He turned to the two others and asked, "Do you see what I see?"
They answered no.
Avraham instructed the two to stay with the donkey while he and Yitzchak ascended the mountain, "since donkeys do not see and you do not see."
Avraham called that place Hashem Yireh, "as it is said to this day, in the mount where the Lord is seen. " Only those with spiritual insight merit ascending to Divine heights.
As we celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the State of Israel, we have the opportunity to reaffirm our vision of G-ds role in its establishment. The Nazir put it well in his comment on the phrase in our prayers, "May our eyes behold Your return to Zion." It is not only G-ds return to Zion for which we pray, but for our ability to see and appreciate His presence at the time of that return as well.
We, who are proud religious Zionists, believe firmly in G-ds role in the modern Zionist enterprise, whether we consider the establishment of the State as "the beginning of the messianic redemption" or simply acknowledge the great Divine kindness that the creation of the State represents.
But many of us have lost our sense of spiritual vision. The euphoria of 1948 and of 1967 has waned. Partisan politics and personal proclivities have muffled our religious and spiritual connections to the Land and the State.
Dr. Norman Lamm, in his essay, "The Face of G-d: Thoughts on the Holocaust," describes our present challenge. While the Holocaust was a period of hester panim, divine concealment, he wrote, the establishment of the state of Israel was a period of nesias panim, in which G-d turns toward us, giving us "the opportunity to return G-ds glance, to fill our lives with meaning and not emptiness, with providence and not chance, with destiny and not fate."
May this Yom Haatzmaut be an opportunity to renew our vision and to reopen our eyes. As the prophet Isaiah promised, "Lift up thine eyes round about, and see: They all are gathered together, and come to thee...Then thou shalt see and be radiant. And thy heart shall throb and be enlarged."
Rabbi Mark Dratch
Rabbi Dratch is rabbi of Congregation Agudath Sholom in Stamford, Connecticut.
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