Seven and seventy are significant numbers. Both signal a time of completion and contemplation. The world was created in seven days; Shabbat is the seventh day of the week; the Sabbatical year, Shmitta, is the 7th year in the cycle; the Jubilee Yovel year is proclaimed after seven Shmitta cycles. Seven and its multiples signify a time to cease, to contemplate.
Seven is also a number of blessing. There were seventy elders, seven Noahide Laws, seven Patriarchs and Matriarchs, seven arms on the Menorah and seven blessings for a bride and groom. Seven Ushpizin on Sukkot and seven colors in the visible spectrum of light.
Seven multiplied by ten gives us seventy – a number which combines and unites… or divides and proliferates. After the Flood, the world was divided into seventy nations and languages, but when seventy Jews went down to Egypt, they went as one man… shiv’im nafesh (singular). Seventy can go either way. It all depends on us.
Seventy years ago, in 1948, Israel became the first independent, sovereign, Jewish state after 2,000 years of exile. That in itself is a miracle. However, Chazal have warned us that the recipient of a miracle tends not to recognize the miracle he has merited. We get used to “miracles” very quickly and soon consider them commonplace events. What has transpired during these seventy years in the Jewish state? Are we living a miraculous existence? And where do we go from here? Consider this…..
In 1948, there were 600,000 Jews living in Palestine. Seventy years later, in 2018, there are over 6,000,000 Jews (75% of the total population) in Israel. This is an incredible, ten-fold increase in the Jewish population. (Compare: In the past seventy years the population of the United States doubled.)
The current birthrate in the Western world is 1.7 children per family. In Israel, the Jewish birthrate is 3.1 children per family. The Arab birthrate is less.
Jut after its birth, this tiny, truncated plot of land doubled its population by absorbing 6-800,000 Jewish refugees whom no one else wanted or offered to assist. Think of America doubling its population with refugees today.
Over the past seventy years, Israel has fought ten wars (or more… it depends how you define “war”) plus countless “skirmishes,” intifadas, and, less organized but nevertheless lethal attacks, from vastly greater forces and has, with God’s help, prevailed.
There are 193 member countries in the United Nations. Israel represents one tenth of one percent of the world’s population. Yet, since its foundation, over 50% of all resolutions in the UN Human Rights Council and almost 90% of the resolutions from the UN Generation Assembly have criticized Israel.
In the midst of constant danger and turmoil, Israel has absorbed and integrated several million Jews from vastly different backgrounds and cultures, and has emerged as a world leader in hi-tech, health, scientific research, agricultural advancement and higher education. It is a forerunner in medical progress, new inventions, warfare and defense. Its economy is thriving and its industry developing.
And on the all-important Jewish scene, today Israel is, of course, the world’s focal point of Torah study. There are more yeshivot and students learning Torah here than in the rest of the world combined.
Who would have believed the tiny, bedraggled yishuv of pre-1948 would turn into a hub of world interest and activity, a military power and political force to be reckoned with, and the center of renewed Torah study? Who could imagine that all of the above would emerge from an stagnant, backwater spot on the face of the earth, populated by war-torn refugees and immigrants? We are truly the heart of the world, the eye of the storm, the focal point of Creation, the Chosen People. And even after the Six Day War in 1967, we are still so small that you can’t find us on a map!
Problems? We have them galore. (Which country doesn’t?) They will be with us until Mashiach arrives. One by one, we attempt to solve them. And as we do our part, Hakadosh Baruch Hu infuses our efforts with daily blessings and miracles and sees to it that things progress. It’s true the going is slow. We Jews are a highly individualistic nation, notoriously non-conforming and not easily disciplined. Our Jewish democracy is, therefore, unsurprisingly noisy, messy and sometimes contentious, although no worse than other democracies in the world. The dangers we face are real, and the rifts in our political, ideological and religious debates are deep. But they are an expression of our desire (often unconscious!) to be a just and humane light unto the nations, to reach Jewish unity and spiritual heights. And in the midst of all this seeming chaos, Jewish law is continuously evolving and blossoming as we explore new ways to implement halacha in a 21st century state.
Before the Mishkan could be built, before any physical edifice can be built – school or factory, synagogue or hospital – one needs materials with which to build. Once the structure was completed, the Shechina descended and gave its Divine stamp of approval. But even before its completion, the builders and materials, engaged as they were in holy work, were themselves hallowed.
We have reached the end of a significant period – 70 years. We have built an amazing “edifice” – a labor of love inspired by Jewish memory and longing. But it is still incomplete. When the remainder of God’s children return home and the vessel is filled with Torah, it too shall be crowned with the Shechina’s Divine Light.
Our own extended family (our families have grown with time!) consists of Jews who came to the Holy Land from America, Poland, Bukhara; Morocco, Russia, England; France, Egypt, Austria, and Hungary, plus that unique breed called “Yerushalmim” – students of the Vilna Gaon who came more than ten generations ago. We wear different styles of clothing, yet are all cut from the same cloth, share the same genes and speak in the same sacred language. The Navi Yishayahu prophesized… Uri uri livshi uzeich Tzion – wake up, wake up, clothe yourself in strength Tziyon… livshi bidgei tifarteich Yerushalayim Ir Hakodesh – put on your clothes of glory, Holy City of Jerusalem… We are the confirmation of the Biblical promise. The return of Bnei Yisrael to their Promised Land has begun.
We have been living in the State of Israel over fifty years yet I still wake up every morning and thank Hakadosh Baruch Hu for the awesome privilege of being here. For allowing us to have a part in building His new “mishkan.” In this new cycle of seventy, Mashiach will surely arrive. If you want to be here to welcome him, hurry and come. There’s really no other place for a Jew to be.