Heaven is Knocking; Are You Answering?
On Yom Ha’Atzmaut 1956, Rabbi Soloveitchik delivered a lecture in Yiddish at Yeshiva University in which he sought to put the extraordinary events that had occurred less than a decade earlier into a context and perspective. In his opinion, the remarkably close proximity of the worst atrocity and darkest period in Jewish history to the unimaginable blessing and bright light of the Jewish return to our homeland simply could not be dismissed as coincidental or random. In his address that day, later translated and published as Kol Dodi Dofek, the Rav compared the condition and mood of the Jewish people to the unfolding of the love story in Shir Ha’Shirim: “What is the essence of the story of the Song of Songs, if not the description of a paradoxical and tragic hesitation on the part of the love-intoxicated, anxiety-stricken Lover, when the opportunity, couched in majestic awe, presented itself?” In this majestic love story, Shlomo Ha’Melech describes the longing and desire of the Ra’aya (the Lover) for her beloved Dod. She chases Him, pursues Him and yearns for Him, but alas, He is elusive and inaccessible. Finally, the Dod comes knocking on the Ra’aya’s front door in search of her, but she is exhausted, has undressed and has retired for the night. The moment she had been waiting and hoping for has arrived. The Dod wants to recount to her His mighty love and His longing for her. Yet for some inexplicable reason, at that moment, she becomes lazy and stubborn; she is too tired and spent to respond. The Rav summarizes, “The Lover did not respond to the voice of the Beloved. The door to her tent was locked shut. The opportunity was lost and the vision of an exalted life died.” The Rav suggested that on the heels of the Holocaust, in the shadow of incomprehensible loss and devastation, just when the Jewish people were tired and spent, Kol Dodi Dofek, our Beloved came knocking on our door. He called for us, and the echoes of His voice reverberated through history. The Rav enumerated six “knocks” that he discerned in the events that surrounded the founding of the State of Israel:
- Political: “First, the knock of opportunity was heard in the political arena. No one can deny that from the standpoint of international relations, the establishment of the State of Israel, in a political sense, was an almost supernatural occurrence.”
- Military: “Second, the knocking of the Beloved could be heard on the battlefield. The small Israeli Defense Forces defeated the mighty armies of the Arab countries. The miracle of “the many in the hands of the few” took place before our very eyes.”
- Theological: “Third, the Beloved began to knock as well on the door of the theological tent, and it may very well be that this is the strongest knock of all…All the claims of Christian theologians that God deprived the Jewish people of its rights in the land of Israel, and that all the biblical promises regarding Zion and Jerusalem refer, in an allegorical sense, to Christianity and the Christian Church, have been publicly refuted by the establishment of the State of Israel and have been exposed as falsehoods, lacking all validity.”
- Assimilation: “Fourth, the Beloved is knocking in the hearts of the perplexed and assimilated youths. The era of self-concealment (hastarat panim) at the beginning of the 1940’s resulted in great confusion among the Jewish masses and, in particular, among the Jewish youth…once a Jew begins to think and contemplate, once his sleep is disturbed—who knows where his thoughts will take him, what form of expression his doubts and queries will assume?”
- Self-defense: “The fifth knock of the Beloved is perhaps the most important of all. For the first time in the history of our exile, divine providence has surprised our enemies with the sensational discovery that Jewish blood is not free for the taking, is not hefker!”
- Refuge: “The sixth knock, which we must not ignore, was heard when the gates of the land were opened. A Jew who flees from a hostile country now knows that he can find a secure refuge in the land of his ancestors…Now that the era of divine self-concealment (hester panim) is over, Jews who have been uprooted from their homes can find lodging in the Holy Land.”
- Building bridges and increasing unity within Am Israel;
- Preserving and enriching Torah values and Jewish life in Israel and around the world;
- Securing a significant amount of the billion dollar programming budget for informal education and outreach programs worldwide that exemplify true Torah values;
- Ensuring the future of Religious Zionist ideals.
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