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Machshavot | Parashat HaGadol

April 12, 2019 Andrew Shaw
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I ended last week’s Machshavot with Mi K’amcha Yisrael Goi Echad B Aretz – who is like the Jewish people, a unique nation on Earth.

This week I need to begin with it once again because three separate events on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday blew me away and made me realise yet again the miracle of Medinat Yisrael and the glory of its achievements.

We start on Monday, the day before the Israeli elections – the campaign on all sides did not fill me with confidence but then, Sivan Rahav-Meir, one of Israel’s leading broadcasters (joining us for the Weekend of Inspiration) posted the following on her Facebook page.

This is how Rabbi Moshe Alpert of Jerusalem’s pre-State Old Yishuv described the first Israeli elections to the Knesset in 1949. To give us some perspective, the day before Israel’s elections, above all the blaring headlines and non-stop noise:

“At 5:35 AM we woke up, my wife, my brother Reb Shimon Leib and my brother-in-law Reb Natanel Solduchil. And after we drank coffee we put on Shabbat clothing in honour of this great and holy day, because ‘Zeh ha yom asa Hashem, nagila v nismacha bo’ – This is the day the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be happy on it .’ After 2000 or more years of exile, you could say that from the six days of Creation until this day, we have not merited to see a day like this, that we are holding elections in a Jewish state! Shehechiyanu! Blessed is the One that kept us alive and sustained us and brought us to this day! So we went to the voting station near Chabashim Street with our identity cards in hand. With great and mighty joy we walked the short way there, and the entire way I walked like it was Simchat Torah and I was circling with a Torah scroll, because I was holding the identity card of our new Jewish State in my hand.

My happiness and joy knew no bounds! The assistant at the voting station brought the ballot box, and the chairman called out to me and said ‘V’Hadarta Pnei Zaken’ – ‘And you shall honor the old man’, And he told me that since I was the oldest person present, I would be the first to vote. With a thrill of awe and holiness, I handed my identity card over to the chairman, and he read out my name from my card and from the book of voters.

And the deputy chairman wrote down my name and handed me the number 1. Then he handed me an envelope and I went into the other room, where there were ballots from all the parties. And with a shaking hand, moved with holiness, I took one ballot marked “B,” for the Religious Union party, and I placed the ballot inside the envelope I had received from the deputy chairman.

I reentered the polling room, and I showed them that I held only one envelope. Then the holiest moment of my life arrived. The moment that neither my father nor my grandfather had the privilege to experience in their lifetimes. Only me, in my time, in my lifetime, did I merit to experience such a holy and pure moment as this… What joy for me and my portion!

At 6:28 AM, we returned home and went to pray. What a great holiday!”

We tend to forget the miracle of Israel, we take its existence for granted – many of us know no other reality, yet for those early pioneers, every day was a miracle to be celebrated to finally be a nation in our own land once again.

Then there was Wednesday. On Wednesday there was a funeral in France, of a highly decorated pilot and hero of France, this is a clip of his funeral.

Why, you may ask, is Hatikvah being played at a French funeral with a priest present?

The answer is that it was the funeral of Michel Bacos, the pilot of Air France flight 139 that was hijacked to Entebbe in Uganda. He asked that Hatikvah be played at his funeral. His admiration for the IDF and Israel for the miraculous rescue mission in 1976 was never forgotten.

Rav Soloveitchik in his memorable work Kol Dodi Dofek spoke about six knocks on the collective door of the Jewish people calling us all to awaken to our responsibilities as Jews and reach for greatness. These knocks, says the Rav were the six miraculous events accompanying the establishment of the State of Israel.

The fifth of six knocks was attitudinal, as the international community realized that with the birth of Israel the Jews had a homeland and Jewish blood could no longer be shed freely and without fear of retribution. You hijack our people, we will fly across the world to rescue them – we are Israel.

And then there was Thursday – yesterday, the day that the 100th largest country in the world joined China, Russia and America as the only countries to have landed on the moon.

OK, it didn’t really land, more like crashed onto the moon, its brakes failed. However, despite this, for a first attempt with a budget 1% of NASA’s, it was a remarkable success. They will be trying again soon to perfect the landing.

Upon finally reaching the Moon‘s surface (albeit at a higher velocity than intended) it had traveled four million miles – officially having taken the longest route of any craft to ever visit the lunar surface. The trip itself was why the craft was created. And completing the journey proves there’s more than one way to throw a chunk of metal at the Moon.

According to a report from Space.com, the team never intended Bereishit to be a science craft, but instead its mission involved “advancing Israel‘s space program, increasing the nation’s technological knowhow and getting young people more interested in science, technology, engineering and math.” To that end, Bereishit would have spent a few days conducting measurements and studies to aid future landing attempts. Otherwise, the journey was far more important than the destination ever was.

Not every crash is a failure. Team members who worked on the moonshot reportedly interacted with more than one million school children during their efforts to kindle interest in Israel‘s space program and, hopefully, inspire the next generation of scientists, technologists, engineers, and mathematicians.

We observe Shabbat Hagadol this week, in the haftorah we will read ‘I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord, That he may turn the heart of the fathers back through the children, and the heart of the children back through their fathers’.

This week we were reminded by Israeli elections, French funerals and moon missions – how close we are getting as a nation to that great and awesome day – so much has happened, so much is happening – we have so much to be thankful for as a reborn nation.

Shabbat Shalom

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