WHOSE BROAD STRIPES AND BRIGHT STARS

Back in mid-November,  synagogue regulars read about our patriarch Ya’akov giving twenty of the best years of his life to Lavan, a “wheeler dealer” who became his father-in-law. When time came for Ya’akov to finally head home, financial obligations had to be met. Leave it to Lavan to concoct a scheme involving speckled livestock and striped livestock. Leave it Ya’akov who had HaShem’s loyalty  and support to foil his father-in law’s chicanery.

As we celebrate Independence Day, I cannot help but see an inherent message in the speckled and striped livestock that Lavan intended to use as wages. For me, Lavan’s speckled and striped livestock represent the stars and stripes of Old Glory. Unlike, Lavan who intended to separate the speckled from the striped, Independence Day serves as a reminder that the stars and stripes are inseparable.

Aside from the stars representing the 50 states and the stars representing the 13 colonies, the stars and stripes deliver a message beyond that of national pride. The stars and stripes represent heaven and earth respectively. The stars remind us that this country was founded as one nation under G-d. Despite the current zeitgeist, where countless strength and innumerable effort are being expended to cleanse America from all vestiges of the divine, our Founding Fathers saw our creator as being indispensable to the success of these United States of America. Our Founding Fathers also saw the blessings of human toil and effort. As such, Americans were encouraged to build streets and roads, pathways and thoroughfares – some perfectly straight, others with many a winding turn – to traverse the vastness of the country. Symbolical, these are the stripes so proudly displayed together with the stars on the flag of this country.

Whether deserving our not, Manhattan proudly proclaims itself as the city that never sleeps. Long before New York City helped itself to this moniker, these United States presented itself with the challenge of being a country that must be constantly vigilant. This too is emblematic of our flag. The stars are only visible during the night; the stripes (our network of roadways) are only visible  during the day. Alternately, these United States, realizes only too well that it existence depends upon how it navigates its course of action not only during the day, when stripes are so easily discernible but also, and perhaps especially during the night when all we have are the stars to guide us.

I have no idea who was credited for naming the single-seat, high wing monoplane that Charles Lindberg flew on the first solo nonstop transatlantic flight from Long Island, New York, to Paris, France, the “Spirit of St. Louis.” Personally, I cannot help but feel that the “Spirit of America” would have been a far better choice. Aside from great strides in transportation, there is no question that airplanes and not ships are not only responsible for bringing continents closer together,  they are also responsible for bridging the gap between heaven and earth. Aviation aside, this too is the quest of these United States. As a defender of democracy, as a champion of human rights, as a proponent of personal responsibility and as fighter for freedom, this country serves as a constant reminder that that G-d-given rights and inalienable go side by side. Arguably the former is represented by the stars; arguably, the latter is represented by the stars.

This July 4th, the Zell home, along with countless other homes will be proudly flying the American flag. Perhaps, its broad stripes and bright stars will evoke the close ties between our heavenly Father and His children on earth, our constant vigilance during sunshine hours and starshine hours, and the narrowing of the gap between G-d given rights and inalienable rights.

 

A MEANINGFUL INDEPENDENCE DAY TO ALL!

LET FREEDOM RING, LET THE WHITE DOVE SING

Although not intended as such, the chorus of the song “Independence Day” recorded by Martina McBride, rings just as true today, as the first time I heard it on WABC radio, a quarter of a century ago: “Let freedom ring, let the white dove sing. Let the whole world know that today is a day of reckoning.” With Israel celebrating seventy-one years of independence on the 9th of this month, perhaps a perusal of the above lyrics, which are admittedly taken entirely out of context, would tastefully set the tone for Israel’s upcoming celebration.

One of the most popular parks in Jerusalem, bears a decidedly American name. Although, referred to as Gan HaPa’amon or the Garden of the Bell by its residents, Liberty Bell Park serves as a reminder of the unshakable relationship that exists between these United States and Israel. Dedicated in 1976, the year of our bi-centennial, Gan HaPa’amon boasts a replica of the Liberty Bell proudly displayed in downtown Philadelphia. But Gan HaPa’amon boasts so much more. It boasts the shared ideal of liberty. Both Israel and the United States deal with minority populations in a far better fashion than most other countries in this world. And even though Israel’s democracy is based on a parliamentary system as opposed to the American presidential system, both countries are intent on letting freedom ring – not just for the rest of the world to hear, but also to  remind its citizens and leaders, that freedom is our most precious commodity, as well as our most sacred creed.

The first time the white dove was introduced to us, it was speechless. And with good reason. It had an olive branch in its mouth. Yet, even without any olive branch, I cannot help but feel that the white dove would have been speechless. After all, the white dove, had little, if anything to say. For the white dove, it was a “wait and see” situation. The white dove couldn’t possibly have presumed to know what would come forth from Noah’s ark, especially on a figurative basis. And even though it may not have been a pretty sight to behold, the white dove kept its eyes open. Many a tear may have had to fall, as the white dove witnessed both disappointment  and disaster over the centuries,  but the white dove refused to look away. And then, seventy-one years ago, this month, the white dove blinked hard. It couldn’t believe its eyes. After two thousand years of uncertainty and wandering, a Jewish homeland rose from the ashes of the Holocaust. It was then that the white dove began to sing. The white dove has been singing ever since.

“It is a nation that dwells in solitude and is not be reckoned among the nations” (Numbers 23:9), said Balaam. However prescient Balaam may have been, he was not speaking from a political point of view. He couldn’t have been speaking about nations of that time, because in Balaam’s Israel, Israel did not exist as a political entity. It was seventy-one years ago, that the State of Israel emerged as a political entity. May 14th, 1948, therefore, was a day of reckoning among nations. Military analysts at the Pentagon reckoned that Israel wouldn’t last more than a month, before having to surrender to the surrounding countries with better equipped and better trained armies. Military analyst reckoned wrong. As a teenager, I asked the principal at the Jewish Day School – he had arrived from Israel a year earlier to take the position – what he reckoned Israel would do with all the land that was now theirs, after the Six Day War. He reckoned that Israel had no need for that land. He too reckoned wrong. American Presidents over the last half century have felt it their duty to come up with “peace plans.” When it came to Israel, they, along with their Secretaries of State, also reckoned. Yet, none realized, that Balaam, under HaShem’s direction, provided us with the immemorial words that Israel “is not to be reckoned among the nations.”

As freedom continues to ring, and the white dove continues to sing, let the whole world know that when it comes to Israel, there is  no reckoning. And let us join together in wishing our Jewish Homeland, continued bracha (blessing) and ongoing hatzlacha (success)!