The Talmud at the beginning of Tractate Avodah Zarah (3a) relates a dialogue between the nations of the world and Almighty G-d. It was the Messianic time and the nations of the world complained to G-d: “Why wasn’t the Torah given to us? We were not given any chance to appreciate and follow its laws and commandments. If we would have been offered it, we too, like the Jews, would have followed its precepts.”
G-d responded almost in jest. “OK, I will give you one easy commandment and we will see if you can follow it.”
Almighty G-d then gave them the mitzvah of building and living in the succah. While they were sitting in the succah, G-d caused a tremendous heat wave to descend upon them. When the heat became unbearable, the nations of the world left the succah in anger. On their way out they kicked the succah in their abhorrence of this mitzvah. G-d was proven correct in his assessment that the nations of the world could not follow even one mitzvah – let alone the entire Torah.
The Talmud continues: “But isn’t it permissible for them to leave the succah? For even a Jew who is uncomfortable in the succah may leave. ‘Mitzta’er patur miSuccah,’ a person who experiences discomfort is exempt from the mitzvah of Succah.” So why was G-d angry and how did it prove the point that the nations of the world would not follow the Torah given the opportunity to do so?
To this the Talmud replies that it is one thing to be mitzta’er (uncomfortable), and quite another to kick the succah in disgust and anger when you leave. Jewish people might leave the succah when they experience discomfort, but they would still always express a love for the mitzvah and never kick its walls in anger and revulsion.
In 1948, the Jewish people were in a state of chaos and pain. They had just lost over six million individuals who were brutally slaughtered in the Holocaust, and they were still wandering – seeking a home, a place where they could go and feel secure. In a miraculous move in front of the entire world, Israel was partitioned by the United Nations, and the Jewish nation on the ancient Jewish land of Israel was born.
Despite the advice of the United States to wait before declaring independence, David Ben-Gurion, in a bold and dynamic action on erev Shabbat, declared Israel an independent state – the first since the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 AD. He was quoted as saying that if not then, it would never happen.
All over the world the Jewish people were celebrating. There wasn’t any rabbi or gadol who did not say the blessing of Shehechiyanu, as all of them recognized that this was the beginning of the Messianic age.
Ben-Gurion was not a religious man. Quite the contrary – he had little connection with the Jewish religion. Yet despite his shortcomings, the Jewish world accepted this miraculous event brought about and realized through the bold and dynamic act of an irreligious person.
As we jump to our time and see the different factions amongst our people, each one making excuses for why they do not accept Israel as the homeland for our people, I am reminded of the story of the succah, and instead of the nations of the world I juxtapose our people.
Today many of our people have taken this miraculous event – the establishment of our own state, the first in two thousand years, a state that is the center of Torah and Judaism in the world – and have kicked it and abused it. It is as if we said to G-d, “We don’t want any part of this wonderful gift that you have bestowed on us. We have taken the mitzvah of yishuv Eretz Yisrael, dwelling in the land of Israel, and instead of appreciating this wonderful gift, have kicked it in disgust and refused to accept this as a miracle from G-d.”
Our people are very diversified. There are those who recite the words “Next year in Jerusalem” with such fervor at the Seder on Passover eve. But until all of us wholeheartedly accept the reality that we have Medinat Yisrael and recognize the enormity of this gift, Mashiach will unfortunately tarry.
Israel has always been referred to in the Torah as an integral part of the Jewish people. G-d promised it to our forefathers, and it was the dream of our people in every generation to be worthy to live in this beautiful land. Our generation has been given that chance. We all need to embrace it, love it, and support it.