"This is the day that God has made!" (Ps. 118:24)
"This is the day that God has made!" (Ps. 118:24) Israel Independence Day: Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook and Yom HaAtzma'ut "And you, O mountains of Israel, shoot forth your branches and yield your fruit to My people Israel, because they are about to come."
On the fifth day of Iyar [May 15, 1948], the pre-state National Council assembled in Tel Aviv to announce the establishment of the State of Israel.
The decision to establish the state was a difficult one. It was clear that, following the announcement, the Arab armies would commence a joint attack on the fledgling state - whose army was still unorganized, supplied with inadequate and outdated equipment. There was also a reasonable concern that the nations of the world would not recognize the State of Israel, and the young country would remain isolated. Nevertheless, the country's leaders took courage, and proudly announced to the world the establishment of the State of Israel.
The Holiness of National Freedom
Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah Kook saw in the founding of the State of Israel a realization of the Biblical prophecies. Its establishment was a Divine miracle, a revelation of God's hand in all its glory. This was not just reishit zemichat ge'ulateinu - the 'beginning of the flowering of our redemption.' This was the process of redemption itself!
With the establishment of various governmental frameworks, with achievements in settling the Land and developing its agriculture - Rav Tzvi Yehudah concluded that this was a fulfillment of the prophecy of the End of Days, as explained in Sanhedrin 98a.
The Talmud there quotes Ezekiel 36:8:
Rabbi Abba commented on this verse: "There is no more manifest [sign] of the End of Days than this!" In other words, the agricultural flourishing of Eretz Yisrael is a sure sign of the Redemption of Israel.
Rav Tzvi Yehudah held that Jewish autonomy is not just a physical concept. Independence is a spiritual concept. The freedom of the Jewish people from foreign rule is not only a political matter; it is also a holy value. He therefore saw holiness in the State of Israel and the IDF. For the individual, he explained, there is an essential difference between the material and the spiritual. But for Klal Yisrael, the entire people of Israel, these are spiritual matters. Military strength, economic growth, agricultural success - these are all part of the redemption process, because they relate not to individuals but to Klal Yisrael and its universal mission.
'Let Us Rejoice and Be Glad!'
R. Chaim Drukman recalled: Because he saw the great value of the State of Israel, he was filled with tremendous joy on Yom HaAtzma'ut. Whoever has not seen our rabbi rejoicing on Yom HaAtzma'ut, never saw true joy in his life. Those who merited witnessing this joy, who heard his words on Yom HaAtzma'ut - they saw how he completely identified with the grandeur of the day, with its holiness and unique essence. In his talks on Yom HaAtzma'ut, he would display such an intensity of emotions that he was brought to tears. You could sense how his soul sang, how his soul rejoiced in "This is the day that God has made!" (Ps. 118:24) Therefore, and due to our awareness of the greatness of the hour - "let us rejoice and be glad in it" (ibid.).
R. Zalman Melamed related: To see Rav Tzvi Yehudah on Yom HaAtzma'ut was a unique experience. He was completely shining, exuding light, so festive. You just saw him, and you felt a spiritual uplifting. During the celebrations, or during the prayers of Yom HaAtzma'ut, he prayed at length, with great excitement and depth, lifting up the entire congregation with him.
R. Yosef Bramson added: His elation was so unique, his joy at this revelation of God's deliverance of Israel. In his singing and dancing, he appeared as if he was walking on the ground and holding his students' hands, like the others in the circle. But in reality, he was somewhere between heaven and earth; all his bones sang out with pure gratitude to the Redeemer of Israel.
Many speak of the State of Israel and praise its benefits, but they only see the externals; they have not yet perceived its inner content. Rav Tzvi Yehudah was one of the select few who grasped, in all its profound depth, the Divine event that took place when the State was established.
(Translated from Mashmia Yeshu'ah, by R. Simcha Raz and Hilah Volbershtein, pp. 277-279)