A Seder for Independence Day

Israeli youth Scouts are reflected in a pool as they light torches, during a memorial ceremony at the Mount Herzl military cemetery, on the eve of Memorial Day in Jerusalem, Israel, 10 May 2016. (Credit: EPA)

Israeli youth Scouts are reflected in a pool as they light torches, during a memorial ceremony at the Mount Herzl military cemetery, on the eve of Memorial Day in Jerusalem, Israel, 10 May 2016. (Credit: EPA)

A letter from Rabbah Michal Schwartz, The Masorti Congregation of Petah Tikvah, Shomrei Emunah’s sister congregation in Israel. 

The Month of Iyyar

The month of Iyyar is a special month in the Hebrew calendar. Up to a few years ago it was a boring month, lacking holidays. But 68 years ago something changed. It is already 68 years that we celebrate Israel Independence Day in the month of Iyyar. Most Jewish holidays are thousands of years old; Israel Independence Day is a new, fresh holiday.

But as much as it is young, it is unique. In this young holiday is hidden an ancient mystery.

Tradition teaches us that the land of Israel was promised to our Patriarch Abraham. The people of Israel left the land of Israel to go into exile four different times:

The exile in Egypt lasted 400 years. In leaving there, the people went from slavery to freedom.

The Assyrian exile was one to which a portion of the people left, never to return.

The Babylonian exile – to which the Jews went and from which they returned after 70 years to establish the Second Temple.

The Roman exile – to which the Jews went after the destruction of the Second Temple, almost 2000 years ago, and from which they returned to establish the State of Israel.

This people established the State of Israel only 68 years ago, but they actually dreamt of it for hundreds and thousands of years. On Independence Day we should remember that this young holiday is the fulfillment of an ancient dream, thousands of years old.

Has the dream really been fulfilled? Is the work accomplished?

In our time Independence Day lacks meaningful traditional content. Mostly we spend the day in prayer, in watching the ceremony of lighting fires on Mount Herzl, in watching the Bible Quiz, the awarding of the Israel Prize and in viewing nostalgic films on TV. One of our goals must be the construction of a “Seder” for Independence Day that will be meaningful and authentic. We must also remember that not all the Jews have returned from the Diaspora. Many of our compatriots dwell in foreign lands. There are missing and captured IDF soldiers.

In this month of Iyyar let us raise up a prayer:

“Sound a great shofar for our freedom, and lift a flag to gather our dispersed, bringing us together from the four corners of the earth.” [Weekday Amidah]

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Rabbah Michal Schwartz

Rabbah Michal Schwartz

Rabbah (Rabbi) Michal Schwartz is hard at work building a Masorti (Conservative) kehillah (community) in Petah Tikva Israel.This community is a sister congregation to Congregation Shomei Emunah.
Rabbah Michal Schwartz

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