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Born a few years prior to the establishment of the state of Israel, I still feel the thrill of its emergence on the stage of nations.
It was a time characterized by depression and sorrow in the Jewish world. The Holocaust was fresh in everyone’s mind. I can still hear the anguish in the tears and screams of the congregation at Yizkor on Yom Kippur at the Jewish Community House of Bensonhurst when the chazzan would intone the memorial prayer for the Six Million.
The room was filled to overflowing; many in the congregation had lost brothers and sisters, cousins – even entire families – to the Nazis. As a child I could feel the pain that hung as a dark cloud over the congregation. I felt it pressing on my shoulders as I clung to my grandfather for comfort. When Yizkor was concluded, everyone appeared exhausted from the ordeal. I shall never forget this abyss of sorrow that swallowed up young and old alike.
Countering this was the ecstasy we all felt in the fledgling Jewish state. Though Israel’s existence was precarious – a little nation flanked then as now by enemies on every side – Jews nevertheless felt a joy we hadn’t felt for centuries. Our hearts burst with pride when we gazed upon the noble Israeli, tilling the soil with one hand and defending it with the other.
These proud, idealistic Jews gave us a sense of dignity and worth we desperately needed, specifically in the aftermath of World War II. While there was real concern regarding the viability of the state, it was overshadowed by the sense that Israel was founded on the bedrock of miracles. Even the most secular among us quoted from the Prophets.
But just as the frontier spirit faded in the United States in the late 1800’s, it soon began to ebb in Israel as well. Today a kibbutznik no longer tills the soil; he’s more likely involved in the production of microchips. Those who still cultivate the land do so from air-conditioned tractors. As was true in the U.S., once the frontier spirit was gone, all the negative elements of existence became more pronounced.
For Israel this meant the horrific reality of living in a hostile neighborhood with little possibility of crafting a peace with its neighbors. The initial joy of Israel’s rebirth steadily gave way to the melancholy of day-to-day life. And as Arab nationalism was replaced by Islamist fervor, the situation became ever more glum. Dar Al Islam, the territory of Islam, can never permit a sovereign Jewish state in its midst.
And so an Ain Breira syndrome manifested itself. We saw it at work in Prime Minister Barak’s attempt to extract a peace from Yasir Arafat by surrendering to him more than he’d requested. And yet no peace emerged.
A classic example of the malady afflicting many of our brothers and sisters in Israel and the galut is the about-face executed by Ariel Sharon in his stance on territory and settlements.
Not too long ago, when Sharon never dreamed he would be elected prime minister, he was dubbed the “father of the settlements.” Indeed, he’d had taken upon himself the responsibility of raising funds for the settlements. During his stay in Chicago I accompanied him on several occasions and heard him wax poetic in describing the settlers as modern-day kibbutzniks, the best of Israeli society, the greatest protectors of the Jewish state.
Every settlement was precious to him, and in his various governmental capacities he used every ounce of his strength to advance their number. Yet, as prime minister, he gave up Gaza, going so far as to forcibly remove the same Jewish settlers he had praised. What happened to him? The answer is the Ain Breira syndrome.
The standard-bearer of nineteenth century German Orthodoxy, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, in his classic work The Nineteen Letters, described human existence as having been reduced to “physical enjoyment” and explained the role of the Jews among the nations of the world:
“Therefore there would be introduced into the ranks of the nations one People which would demonstrate by its history and way of life that the sole foundation of life is God alone…”
About the Author: Rabbi Philip Lefkowitz is the rav of Agudas Achim North Shore Congregation in Chicago. During his nearly five decades in the rabbinate he has led congregations in the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom and served as an officer, Executive Committee member and chair of the Legislative Committee of the Chicago Rabbinical Council.
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Few Arab Israelis found anything positive in the decision of its MKS to join any Gaza flotilla.
US Jews prefer to be like their non-Jewish liberal friends complaining about “settlements” and Bibi
New Israel Fund & its supporters must be countered; Israel’s in the midst of an unprecedented storm
Haym Solomon, overlooked hero of the Revolutionary War, was America’s “Funding Father.”
Latvia, July 4, 1941 they forced many Jews in the shul putting it on fire; everyone was burned alive
There’s blood on the reporters’ hands AND New Israel Fund for funding groups feeding lies to the UN
Respect & appreciation for our country is not only a civic value but an essential Jewish one as well
When words lose meaning, the world becomes an Orwellian dystopia; a veritable Tower of Babel
Israel, like the non-radical Islamic world. will be happy see the ISIS beheaded for once.
Kids shouldn’t have “uninstructed” Internet access, better to train them how to use it responsibly
What if years from now, IS were to control substantial territory? What world havoc would that wreak?
Rambam writes the verse’s double term refers to 2 messiahs: first King David; 2nd the final Mashiach
The Gaza flotilla has been rightfully and legally blocked by Israel’s Navy, with greetings from Bibi
No necessity to redefine marriage, just address equal rights for couples in non-nuclear families
In all cases, condoning Gay Marriage, not only does not advance Tikun Olam, it obstructs it.
The Roman Catholic Church places upon the head of its Pope the 2 crowns of government and religion
The inspiration for the US Constitution was the shared moral values of Judaism and Christianity
I stated with clarity in simple terms, “Jews don’t have gangs.”
The law protects businessman from participating in an activity against their religious beliefs.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/israels-ain-breira-syndrome/2007/07/25/
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