This week we celebrate the anniversary of America’s independence, an event of great magnitude in the history of mans’ struggle for freedom. At a time like this we should be humble and realize that we are the beneficiaries of the dedication and sacrifice of countless others who came before us and built up and defended America.
I wake up each day and give thanks to the Creator for all the blessings He has bestowed on me – chief among them the privilege of living in the greatest country on earth. I am aware, however, that not everybody feels the way I do.
It’s sad but true that we live in a time of unprecedented hatred of America, here at home and around the world. Nevertheless, it is our duty to foster an appreciation of the inner essence of America and transmit it to our children. The founders of this country took their inspiration from the Bible. They believed the dignity of man stems from the Creator of the universe Who fashioned man in His Image and endowed him with inalienable rights.
No nation has been a greater crusader for the freedom and wellbeing of mankind than the United States of America. The 20th century’s evil empires of Fascism, Nazism and Communism were defeated because of America’s leadership of the free world.
Let those who disparage America, especially in Europe, ask where the world would be today if not for the generosity and freedom-loving spirit of the American people and the steely determination of the American soldier.
It’s fashionable to ridicule our country and its leaders, and even some members of the clergy say terrible things about America from the pulpit. Sometimes, as a corrective to this cynicism, it’s important to view America from the standpoint of others who came here after experiencing oppression in their native lands.
One of the greatest rabbis of the past generation, Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, ruled that it is a religious obligation to display loyalty to America and absolutely forbidden to engage in any speech or behavior that would offend the honor of this nation.
Rav Feinstein grew up in communist Russia where he was subjected to all manner of religious oppression. When he managed to reach America he breathed its holy air of freedom and devoted his life to religious service. He established a world-renowned seminary in Manhattan, trained thousands of leaders, wrote volumes of classical works; and became a towering religious leader to millions of Jews around the world.
In the spirit of Rav Moshe’s gratitude to the United States, I wish, as a Jew and an American, to specifically thank President and Mrs. Bush for the way they so movingly honored Israel on the recent 60th anniversary of its miraculous rebirth. America has been a special friend and supporter of Israel since its inception, of course, and the president made a profound and moving speech from the rostrum of the Knesset.
Speaking about the shared democratic and spiritual values that draw the two nations together, he said:
The alliance between our governments is unbreakable, yet the source of our friendship runs deeper than any treaty. It is grounded in the shared spirit of our people, the bonds of the Book, and the ties of the soul. When William Bradford stepped off the Mayflower in 1620, he quoted the words of Jeremiah: “Come let us declare in Zion the word of God.” The founders of my country saw a new promised land and bestowed upon their towns names like Bethlehem and New Canaan. And in time, many Americans became passionate advocates for a Jewish state.
Making reference to the mutual dedication to the war against terrorism, the president also said:
Some people suggest that if the United States would just break ties with Israel, all our problems in the Middle East would go away. This is a tired argument that buys into the propaganda of our enemies, and America rejects it utterly. Israel’s population may be just over 7 million. But when you confront terror and evil, you are 307 million strong, because America stands with you.
And he concluded with beautiful wishes, saying, “Over the past six decades, the Jewish people have established a modern society in the Promised Land, a light unto the nations that preserves the legacy of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And you have built a mighty democracy that will endure forever and can always count on America to stand at its side. May God bless Israel.”