Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak Hacohen Kook, who established Israel’s Chief Rabbinate, once asked what was the deal with all those Holy Days and Shabbats.
If this world is holy, he wondered, why can’t it be holy all the time? Why do we need to set aside only a few specific days to that end? Why are we like sons of angels only on Rosh Hashana? Why do we pray the whole day only on Yom Kippur?
The rabbi asked these questions, and also offered an answer: Any day should have been a holiday. Any day should have been holy. The potential exists, yet we are unable to recognize it. We’re not built to celebrate every day and be merry every day. The holidays, said the rabbi, are our opportunity to be exposed on a one-time basis to the true holiness and true power of all days of the year. The Shabbat is our opportunity to recognize the potential inherent in all other days of the week.
If I may continue with Rabbi Kook’s logic, Independence Day is also a day where we are allowed to feel what we have been repressing the whole year. A day where we are allowed to recognize what is hidden from view during our daily life. We are allowed to be a little more optimistic, and look at our country in a somewhat different way.
Indeed, this goes against our nature: After all, we are unable to wake up every morning and admit that things are going well. Not us. We prefer to whine.
We prefer to talk about unemployment, and forget that once upon a time we had food rations here; we lament the state of education, but forget that Israel is the world’s number one exporter of scientists and men of letters; we whine about the absence of morals here, but forget that our crime rate is among the lowest in the world.
We prefer to whine about the state of our culture, but ignore the international achievements of Israeli film and Israeli literature. We talk about the Iranian threat, without mentioning that for the time being, we are in fact the only nuclear power in the region.
Independence Day is an opportunity; an opportunity to admit that something beautiful is being done here. That something touching has been built here. That we only become better with the passage of time. We have an ultra-Orthodox deputy health minister, a religious science minister, and a secular Knesset speaker, who holds his first tour in an Arab town.
We have camaraderie here and people help each other during times of crisis, we have a special culture and diversity of opinion, and we have quite a bit of love and spirituality around here, hiding behind the veneer of our hurried routine.
We have plenty of time during the year to look into what is still missing. Independence Day is the opportunity to admit that we already achieved most of it. Chag Sameach.