"עוד לא אבדה תקוותנו, התקווה בת שנות אלפיים, להיות עם חפשי בארצנו, ארץ ציון וירושלים." "Our hope is not yet lost, a hope two thousand years old, to be a free nation in our land, the land of Zion and Jerusalem." -- Naftali Hertz Imber, Hatikva As Jews in 2022, the words of Hatikva are familiar to us, a happy musical accompaniment as we wend our way through life and through what our Jewish identity means to us. We hear them regularly, and for many of us, they engender a profound sense of pride in what the state that represents us before all nations has accomplished, often in our name. The start-up nation, a powerful country capable of defending itself, a flourishing and raucous (though imperfect) democracy, and a nation gracious and moral to its enemies in defeat. These are the impressions many of us have of Israel. Yom Ha'atzma'ut is the time to reflect upon and celebrate all that Israel is and its accomplishments. But it is also a time to look to the future. The song's two-thousand-year-old hope was not merely to create a prosperous and secure nation. The hope was to create a country that would be a model of justice before all the nations, would be at peace with its neighbours and with itself, would be able to care for all of its inhabitants equally, and would be a profoundly spiritual and godly place. This week, the Torah tells us: "You shall be holy for I, Hashem your G-d, am holy." There is perhaps no more fitting reading or Yom Ha'atzma'ut. This verse encapsulates the unique message and mission of the people of Israel. It tells us that we as a nation have a special purpose, and now with the advent and success of a state for us, that mission transfers to that state. What is holiness? It is the constant striving and growth in the direction of progress, be it societally or be it spiritually. It is the quest to constantly better ourselves and more closely approach that perfect ideal of godliness that we can barely even imagine.
Let's use this Yom Ha'atzma'ut not just to celebrate what Israel is, but to imagine how much more it could be and then to do what we can to help contribute to that change.