On the fifth of Iyar, 5708 (1948) – three years after the end of the terrible Holocaust which left six million Jews dead and millions more alone, widowed, and orphaned – the Creator of the World returned the land of Israel to the Jewish nation, two thousand years after He exiled them from it.

Since then, there has been an ingathering of the exiles from the four corners of the earth, and the prayer “Who gathers in the dispersed of Israel” (Shmoneh Esreh) has been partially fulfilled. The Jewish nation made the desert bloom, built cities, and established large centers of Torah, wisdom, and science, just as our prophets predicted. However, this year the Jewish nation suffered a serious crisis, when one of the most physically and spiritually beautiful parts of the land was handed over to our mortal enemies. “The ways of God are hidden.”

How should we relate to Israel Independence Day this year?

On the verse, “This is the day which God made” (Psalms 118:24), Chazal comment:

It is written, “This is the day which God made; we will delight and rejoice in it/him (bo).” Rabbi Avin said: We would not know whether “bo” means “in it, the day” or “in Him, God.” Solomon came later and clarified (Song of Songs 1:4), “We will delight and rejoice in You” (Yalkut Shimoni, Pinchas #782 and Isaiah #505).

The question that the Midrash is asking is whether we should focus on the holiday itself, which is a day on which a miracle occurred for which we praise God, or whether we should rejoice in God directly, in which case we are faced with difficult questions. How can we rejoice in God when we have so many questions in the areas of belief and trust, when the innocent suffer, and when we have other, similar theological problems? Rabbi Avin suggests that we find the solution by examining the words of King Solomon son of King David, who wrote in Song of Songs, “We will delight and rejoice in You.” What is the meaning of this answer?

The question that the Midrash is asking is whether we should focus on the holiday itself, which is a day on which a miracle occurred for which we praise God, or whether we should rejoice in God directly, in which case we are faced with difficult questions. How can we rejoice in God when we have so many questions in the areas of belief and trust, when the innocent suffer, and when we have other, similar theological problems? Rabbi Avin suggests that we find the solution by examining the words of King Solomon son of King David, who wrote in Song of Songs, “We will delight and rejoice in You.” What is the meaning of this answer?

The Midrash tells the following story relating to this verse:

We learned there that four went into the Orchard: Ben Azzai and Ben Zoma, Elisha ben Avuyah and Rabbi Akiva. Ben Azzai looked and was harmed. About him it states, “If you find honey, eat only what you need” (Proverbs 25:16). Ben Zoma looked and died. About him it is written, “Precious in the sight of God is the death of His followers” (Psalms 116:15). Elisha ben Avuyah cut the plants. What does this mean? When he entered batei knesset (synagogues) and batei midrash (houses of study) and saw children excelling at their Torah studies, he would have words with them and silence them. About him it says, “Don’t let your mouth make your flesh guilty” (Ecclesiastes 5:5). Rabbi Akiva entered and exited unscathed. He explained, “This is not because I am greater than my friends; rather, it is as the wise teachers taught, ‘Your deeds will draw you closer and your deeds will distance you’ (Mishnah, Eduyot 5:7).” About him it is said, “The King has brought me to His rooms” (Shir HaShirim Rabbah, Vilna edition, #1).

The rooms of God are complex and complicated, and everyone relates to them in a different way. This is true to such an extent that some are unable to visit God’s rooms. Such a visit demands tremendous strength of spirit, and only a few can exit unscathed. Rabbi Akiva visited God’s rooms and saw the destruction of the Temple, the sparks of the Messiah and the extinguishing of the sparks, as well as foxes that walked on the Temple Mount. Yet he continued to say, “We will delight and rejoice in You.” This is because there are additional rooms in the house of God, and in those rooms Rabbi Akiva found a different perspective. The Gemara elaborates:

“But if you will not hear it, My soul shall weep in secret for the pride” (Jeremiah 13:17). R. Shmuel b. Inia said in the name of Rav: The Holy One, blessed be He, has a place, and its name is “Secret.” What is the meaning of “for the pride”? R. Shmuel b. Yitzchak said: For the glory that has been taken from Israel and given to the nations of the world. R. Shmuel b. Nachmani said: For the glory of the Kingdom of Heaven. But is there any weeping in the presence of the Holy One, blessed be He? After all, R. Papa said: There is no grief in the presence of the Holy One, blessed be He, as it says (I Chronicles 16:27), “Majesty and splendor are before Him; strength and beauty are in His place”! – There is no contradiction; one case refers to the inner rooms, and the other case refers to the outer rooms (Chagigah 5b).

The Creator of the Universe has two sets of rooms: the inner and the outer. The inner is a hidden place, the innermost rooms of the house of God. This is the place where God cries, because in these rooms He sees the glory of Israel taken away from them. These are the rooms where Rabbi Akiva and those like him visited many times. However, Rabbi Akiva did not despair or become depressed, because he also saw the showroom, the outer room where “Majesty and splendor are before Him.”

It is our task to struggle with the tension between the inner and outer, the light and darkness which exist simultaneously. Nevertheless, there are days when God allows us to enter the outer rooms only and to see what He has done for us. In under sixty years, we have a country full of Torah and wisdom; a country which has much kindness and altruism; a country among the most advanced in the world in many varied fields. This is His showroom and ours – “We will delight and rejoice in You.”

Happy Independence Day!!!