D’var Torah: ‘Happy Birthday, Israel’ can have many meanings

These three words are both powerful and meaningful: Happy Birthday, Israel.
Let’s look at them one by one:
First, what is a birthday? People often celebrate the day of their birth with parties and celebration. In the writings of the Kabbalah, it is explained that on one’s birthday the stars are lined up just the way they were at the time when they were born. The same energy that gave them life can be drawn down again for more energy and blessing in their life. Therefore, it is quite proper to celebrate one’s birthday and use that day for personal reflection and growth.
When is the birthday of Israel? Some would say it was 70 years ago, in 1948, when David Ben-Gurion declared the independent State of Israel. Others might say it was 3,000 years ago, when King David completed the conquest and set Jerusalem as the eternal capital of Israel. Still others might look back to the first day when Joshua led the Jewish people across the Jordan River into the land just after the passing of Moses.
Upon closer scrutiny, though, we find that G-d had already promised this land to Abraham 1,000 years earlier, as a covenant with his children for all generations. Likewise, G-d reiterated this promise to Isaac and Jacob. There is a fascinating commentary by Rashi on the first verse of the Bible. There, where it says G-d created heaven and earth, Rashi, quoting the Midrash, says G-d put Israel aside for the Jewish people while creating the world. (That is also why so many commandments of the Torah can only be performed in Israel, because Israel was planned as the homeland of the Jewish people from its very creation).
Indeed, Israel is singled out in the Torah and referred to as “the land which G-d looks upon, from the first day of the year until the last day of the year.” There is a special bond be tween the G-d of Israel, the land of Israel and the people of Israel. The Sages even go so far as to say: This special bond was the purpose of all of creation.
This leads us to our third word and concept: being happy. When one realizes that they are connected to G-d, creator of Heaven and Earth, and that G-d is a personal G-d who cares about every detail in their life, then the little things that may have bothered them will no longer detract from their happiness. This leads to fulfilling the directive “serve G-d with joy.”
When one is focused on the bond with G-d, Israel and our fellow man, then one can hear the song of joy which emanates from every creation.
The Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Chasidism, taught that maintaining a state of joy draws down divine blessing and power to overcome all obstacles in life. He taught that joy is the gateway to blessings for us, removing any problem in life.
So be happy, my friends. Celebrate our bond with the Almighty and G-d’s gift of Israel. Stay connected to each other, maintain happiness all the time, and we will be blessed with the greatest birthday gift of all times – the coming of the moshiach (messiah) and the era of peace and goodwill for all mankind, with our return to Israel in peace, together with all Jews from around the world, to serve G-d there once more. Amen, let it be soon.

(Rabbi Chaim Litvin is the outreach director for Chabad of Kentucky.)

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