Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel Independence Day commemorates the day on which the State of Israel was declared in 1948. When one contemplates Jewish history we can draw an historic parallel to our own times with the situation of the Jews at the time of the story of Chanukah. In 1939 the gates of legal immigration to Palestine were closed . The British seemed to be favoring their Arab interests in solving the problems of  Palestine. The great hope of an independent Jewish state seemed in mortal danger. The reality of what had happened in Europe to the Jews fueled a desperate attitude which similarly Mattathias must have felt before launching his revolt against the Greeks:  if not now – when?  Just as the Maccabees were fighting the Greeks, the greatest empire the world had ever see to that time, the Jews of Palestine were fighting the British Empire of which it was said: “the sun never sets on the British Empire.” In addition the Jews were opposed by the entire Arab and Moslem world. In terms of numbers, logic and odds, both the ancient and modern struggles were doomed to total failure. But as we know, Jewish history defies all laws of historical precedent and logic.

   Never in Jewish history was the darkness greater than when the Nazi’s “final solution” was in full operation and  at the same time the gates of immigration were closed to Israel. Precisely at that  moment in history, when darkness and despair reached a climax, the people of Israel rose up to create the State of Israel. This historical event symbolically mirrors the rededication of the Temple  and the lighting of the menorah at the time of the Maccabees.  

   In the prayers we recite on Chanukah it is written: “You turned over the mighty into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few…”  Anyone looking on a map today cannot help wonder how the small dot that is Israel can contend with the Arab world from Morocco  to Iraq and the Moslem world of over one billion adherents versus approximately thirteen million Jews worldwide.

   A question is often asked regarding the miracle of the Chanukah lights – why didn’t they wait the short time required till they could prepare pure oil for the menorah, rather than rushing to dedicate the Temple when there was only enough oil for one day. A similar question is why did Mattathias launch the revolt against the Greeks in such a spontaneous manner, rather than first organizing his agenda and supporters.
  The answer to both questions are similar. Sometimes in life situations occur in such a way that only by acting immediately can one take advantage of the window of opportunity presenting itself in the present moment. In order to do this, one must be divested of ego and previously perceived notions, and be totally open to the message God is sending through the situation. The more one nullifies the ego, the more clear the message comes through, giving wisdom and might to act decisively in the moment, and thereby manifesting the full potential of God’s will. This is the intent of the statement of the Sages: “Treat His will as if it were your own will, so that He will treat your will as if it were His will. Nullify your will before His will, so that He will nullify the will of others before your will” (Pirkei Avot 2.4).
   A similar situation to the reality at the time of Chanukah occurred a few years after World War II. As pressure increased in the world for a solution  for the Jewish refugees from the Holocaust, the United Nations in 1947 voted in favor of the partition plan, creating both Jewish and Arab states in Palestine. Despite this vote, anarchy and violence continued unabated up to the date mandated for the plan to be implemented. As a result, strong forces were gathering momentum to postpone or rescind  the decision. Even among the Jews of Palestine and in the Diaspora great confusion, uncertainty and fear reigned.
   At this critical moment in Jewish history, David Ben Gurion, with the full force of his convictions, pressed for an immediate declaration of the birth of the State of Israel, despite the great odds pitted against its survival. He felt that if the present moment was postponed or squandered it could possibly never come again. With little preparation and with no clear answers as to what would be the consequences of such a declaration, the fledgling State of Israel was born. Out of darkness came light, from exile dawned redemption, from hopelessness came new pride and a renewed sense of mission.
   Although Yom Ha’atzmaut represents the fulfillment of a nearly 2,000 year dream, it is not an end in of itself rather the beginning of a work in progress. How Israel rose from the ashes of the Holocaust to build a dynamic, innovative and powerful nation-state while fighting an ongoing war of survival against virtually impossible odds is truly a modern miracle. We are seeing  the words of the prophets come true before our very eyes, as all they predicted would happen is occurring today. Yet, the story will not be completed till the last of the prophecies of a complete redemption and universal peace are established. The rebirth of Israel and the gathering of the exiles to our ancient homeland is the prerequisite for the accomplishment of the Jewish mission to be  a light unto the nations. Yom Ha’atzmaut symbolizes the lighting of the flame. May it radiate its light to encompass all of Israel and the entire world.