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לימוד תורה

"Covid Inoculation Campaign" and the relevance of the Nation-State

Rabbi Eliezer Shenvald

Parasha in our everyday life - Shemot - 5781

We read Parshat Shemot and the rise in history of the people of Israel as a nation, during the Covid Inoculation Campaign, מבצע לתת כתף"" an exciting operation of its kind, in which the State of Israel the "Nation-State" of the Jewish people comes forward in its greatness and concern for its inhabitants. It is the world leader in vaccinating and eradicating the pandemic from its inhabitants. A campaign in which our mission-laden students, including medics and paramedics, give of themselves and vaccinate thousands of elderly people in nursing homes.

In our Parasha, Pharaoh identifies the process of multiplication of Yaakov's family, and the way it turns into a nation:

וַיֹּ֖אמֶר אֶל־עַמּ֑וֹ הִנֵּ֗ה עַ֚ם בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל רַ֥ב וְעָצ֖וּם מִמֶּֽנּוּ׃ הָ֥בָה נִֽתְחַכְּמָ֖ה ל֑וֹ פֶּן־יִרְבֶּ֗ה וְהָיָ֞ה כִּֽי־תִקְרֶ֤אנָה מִלְחָמָה֙ וְנוֹסַ֤ף גַּם־הוּא֙ עַל־שֹׂ֣נְאֵ֔ינוּ וְנִלְחַם־בָּ֖נוּ וְעָלָ֥ה מִן־הָאָֽרֶץ׃

"And he said to his people, “Look, the Israelite people are much too numerous for us. Let us deal shrewdly with them, so that they may not increase; otherwise in the event of war they may join our enemies in fighting against us and rise from the ground.” (Shmot 1:9-10)

He was the first to declare the people of Israel were a nation. A unique nation in which 'nationality' is not just a framework ('society of responsibility') but part of their religious and personal identity.

The late Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook referred to the fact that our declaration as a nation was made by foreigners, nevertheless it does not change, nor does it diminish its correctness: "Pharaoh says: "Here is the Israelite people". This family turns out to be a nation! The public appearance, and then, "Let my people go". The beginning of the recognition precisely by Pharaoh, the other sideסִטְרָא אַחְרָא , does not change the matter. Pharaoh does not make the political order in the world, he just looked, and knew exactly what was done in the world "(HaRav Zvi Yehuda Kook ZT'L - The Redeeming Torah - Shemot 5727).

Along with becoming a nation, Pharaoh also recognizes the special affinity and longing for the land of their ancestors and for their national home. He warns his people that the new nation may gain strength and seek to fulfill their connection to their land at the first opportunity they have:

ונלחם בנו ועלה מן הארץ - לשוב אל ארץ אבותיהם ולא טוב לנו לאבד עבדינו וקראו לי מלכותא קטיעא.

"It would be disastrous for us to lose this source of cheap manpower. If that were to happen my kingdom would be an emaciated kingdom". (Rashbam ibid)

Because there is a match between the national identity of the new nation and its connection to its country. This is the national home of the people of Israel, and only there will he be able to realize his national aspirations.

Even at the Burning Bush we find the connection between the nation and the land in Moshe's definition of the mission:

וַיֹּ֣אמֶר ה' רָאֹ֥ה רָאִ֛יתִי אֶת־עֳנִ֥י עַמִּ֖י אֲשֶׁ֣ר בְּמִצְרָ֑יִם וְאֶת־צַעֲקָתָ֤ם שָׁמַ֙עְתִּי֙ מִפְּנֵ֣י נֹֽגְשָׂ֔יו כִּ֥י יָדַ֖עְתִּי אֶת־מַכְאֹבָֽיו׃ וָאֵרֵ֞ד לְהַצִּיל֣וֹ מִיַּ֣ד מִצְרַ֗יִם וּֽלְהַעֲלֹתוֹ֮ מִן־הָאָ֣רֶץ הַהִוא֒ אֶל־אֶ֤רֶץ טוֹבָה֙ וּרְחָבָ֔ה אֶל־אֶ֛רֶץ זָבַ֥ת חָלָ֖ב וּדְבָ֑שׁ אֶל־מְק֤וֹם הַֽכְּנַעֲנִי֙ וְהַ֣חִתִּ֔י וְהָֽאֱמֹרִי֙ וְהַפְּרִזִּ֔י וְהַחִוִּ֖י וְהַיְבוּסִֽי׃

"And Hashem continued, “I have marked well the plight of My people in Egypt and have heeded their outcry because of their taskmasters; yes, I am mindful of their sufferings. I have come down to rescue them from the Egyptians and to bring them out of that land to a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey, the region of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites". (Shmot 3: 7-8).

Hashem appoints Moshe to bring the young nation out of Egypt to lead them to their national home in the land of their ancestors - the Land of Israel.

Already from the beginning, at the entry into the land when the people conducted themselves in a tribal framework, there was an affinity between the sovereignty and the nationalism of the people living in the land. Sovereignty designed to realize the unique nationalism of the people of Israel in the land of their ancestors. And it became even stronger after hundreds of years with the appointment of a king under whom it became a unified political framework.

The renewed State of Israel was established as the 'Nation-State of the Jewish People', and as a continuation of its historical roots:

"In the Land of Israel, the Jewish people arose, its spiritual, religious, and political image was shaped, and lived a life of state uprising

This right is the natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate, like all other nations, in their own sovereign State

Thus, members and representatives … by virtue of our natural and historic right and on the strength of the resolution of the United Nations General Assembly, hereby declare the Establishment of a Jewish State in Eretz-Yisrael, to be known as The State of Israel".

One of its characteristics as a unique 'Nation-State' is the 'Law of Return'(חוק השבות) '. Which applies only to those who belong to the Jewish people. And in the 'Nation-State Bill (חוֹק הַלְּאוֹם‎) or the Nationality Bill' which validated its status in the Basic Law. (חוֹק יְסוֹד)

In recent years, there has been an academic discourse entitled "Post Nation-State". The argument was that the archaic 'Nation-State', had come to an end, as well as the individual's obligations to the state that derived from it. A new world is conquered by globalization.

It seems that the corona pandemic and the way in which countries conduct themselves, and converge within themselves, and even more so in the race that countries are waging to vaccinate their inhabitants, show that in the test of reality there is no substitute for 'Nation-State', and it is more relevant than ever. And above all, these days we are filled with a special feeling of joy, belonging to the people of Israel and the State of Israel.

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