By: Rabbi Menashe Sasson
Reporting from Jerusalem, Israel
I. The Nature of Teshuvah
Rosh HaShanah [ראש השנה], literally translated, means “the head of the year.” It is, in other words, the holiday which celebrates the Jewish new year. However, unlike other new year celebrations, Rosh HaShanah is not observed with raucous parties and fireworks. Rather, it is a somber day of reflection and prayer.
Tanakh refers to the holiday not as Rosh HaShanah, but rather, as Yom Teruah [יום תרועה], which, literally translated, means “day of ‘blast (of shofar) ‘trumpet call,’ ‘cry,’ or ‘alarm.’’” “[T]here shall be a day of rest for you, a remembrance with shofar blasts [תרועה], a holy convocation.” Vayyiqra 23:23. Rosh HaShanah is the first of the two Jewish “High Holidays,” the Yamim Nora’im [ימים נוראים], the “Days of Awe.” The second of the two High Holidays is Yom Kippur [יום כיפור], the Day of Atonement. The ten days between Rosh HaShanah [ראש השנה] and Yom Kippur [יום כיפור] are known as the Aseret Yemei Teshuvah [עשרת ימי תשובה], the Ten Days of Repentance.
The misva of Rosh HaShanah [ראש השנה] is to hear the blowing of the shofar, Vayyiqra 23:23, which is intended to motivate individuals to do teshuvah [תשובה], that is, to repent for one’s sins, during the Aseret Yemei Teshuvah [עשרת ימי תשובה].
Teshuvah atones for all sins. Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Teshuvah 1:3. Teshuvah, in turn, consists of four elements: (1) ceasing the commission of the particular sin, (2) removing the particular sin from his thoughts, (3) resolving in his heart to never again commit the particular sin, and (4) verbally confessing the particular sin. Id., 2:2. “The confession should be made ‘before G-d,’ and not in public.” Id. 2:1, n.9.
II. The Misva to Conquer Eretz Yisra’el
HaShem commanded the Jewish people to expel the inhabitants of the land and to not enter into an agreement with them that would allow them to remain in the land.
The Halakha – Jewish law – relating to non-Jews living in Eretz Yisra’el recognizes two classes of people: those who claim an ownership or similar interest in Eretz Yisra’el and those who do not claim any such interest.
Regarding those who claim an ownership interest in the Land, the Torah is not merely referring to ancient civilizations who just happened to be occupying Eretz Yisra’el prior to the arrival of the Jewish people; rather, the Torah is referring to any people – for all time – who claim a legal right to Eretz Yisra’el.
According to the Or HaHayyim, the pesuk which states that: “You are to drive out all of the inhabitants of the land. . . .” means that:
Or HaHayyim, commentary to Bamidbar 33:52.
Likewise, Abarbanel said:
Abarbanel, Commentary on Shemot 34:11-12.
III. The Misva to Reside in Eretz Yisra’el
The Talmud states:
Maseket Ketuvot, 110b.
Halakha, that is, Jewish Law, states that the misva of living in Eretz Israel is timeless; it is still the Halakha today. The Shulchan Arukh, Even HaEzer 75:4, states that: “If [a husband] proposes to ascend to Eretz Yisrael and [the wife] does not want to [go], [the husband] must divorce her. . . . [And if the wife] proposes ascending [to Eretz Yisrael] and [the husband] does not want to [go], he must divorce her.”
IV. The “Palestinians”
The Roman emperor Hadrian conquered Judea in the year 135 C.E. The Jewish warrior Bar Kokhba was killed and the Judeans were exiled to the four corners of the earth.
Hadrian enacted laws, punishable by death, which made it illegal for any Jews who remained in Judea to keep Shabbat, study Torah, or circumcise their children. Yerushalayim was bulldozed and renamed “Aelia Capitolina.”
Hadrian also changed the name of “Judea” to “Palestine.”
There, of course, has never been a Palestinian people or a State of Palestine. The Arabs who call themselves “Palestinians” are nothing more than a people who lost any contemporary legal right to Eretz Yisra’el during 1948 and 1967.
V. The Jewish Sins Which Requires Teshuvah
The first sin which requires teshuvah is the failure of the Jewish people, through their elected government officials in Medinat Yisra’el, to have immediately asserted sovereignty over the entirety of Eretz Yisra’el following the conclusion of the 1967 war. When a person reacquires a lost object, his natural inclination is to immediately claim ownership of the object. If he does not immediately claim ownership, he “opens the door” to competing claims. So it is with Medinat Yisra’el and the liberated territories.
The reason Medinat Yisra’el did not – and has not yet – asserted sovereignty over the liberated territories has to do with separate, but interrelated issues of demographics and an erroneous application of the provisions of Medinat Yisra’el’s founding documents.
Regarding demographics, Medinat Yisra’el is concerned, as it has continually been concerned since its founding in 1948, that Israeli-Arabs will someday become a majority, rather than a minority, in Medinat Yisra’el. Were that demographic shift to occur, Medinat Yisra’el, through its democratic elections, would cease to be a Jewish state.
Medinat Yisra’el’s founding documents provide that Medinat Yisra’el is both a Jewish state and a democracy. Since its founding in 1948, Medinat Yisra’el has assumed that Israeli-Arabs must be granted the same political rights (e.g., the right to participate in the political process through voting and the ability to hold public office) as Jewish Israeli citizens. This irrational, indeed schizophrenic, assumption has led to the present situation wherein the Jewish government is literally afraid to do what is in the best interest of the Jewish state, for fear of antagonizing its Arab residents.
The only way Medinat Yisra’el can hope to be both a Jewish state and a democracy is for the democratic rights of citizenship to be reserved solely for its Jewish citizens, to the exclusion of all others. To some, this idea might sound outrageous. The question that should be posed to these individuals is, simply: What Arab state allows Jews to vote?
There is no historical precedent of two peoples, both of whom claim a legal right to a particular geographic area, to live together peaceably on that land for any prolonged period of time. Medinat Yisra’el (the State of Israel) is no different.
The second sin which requires teshuvah is the failure of the Jewish people, through their elected government officials in Medinat Yisra’el, to adopt a legal system based on the Torah and to encourage non-Jews who claim a right to the lands of Medinat Yisra’el, through financial and political incentives, to emigrate from Medinat Yisra’el to other countries.
May we, the Jewish people, do teshuvah for our national sins; receive atonement for those national sins; and be written and sealed in the Book of Life.
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Menashe Sasson is a Sephardic rabbi and American lawyer who resides in Jerusalem, Israel. Rabbi Sasson received his rabbinical ordination from Rabbi Haim Ovadia, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Torah VeAhava. Rabbi Ovadia, who was born and raised in Jerusalem, was ordained by Hakham Mordechai Eliyahu, Chief Rabbi of Israel (1983 – 1993), and is a descendent of the renowned kabbalist Hakham Yehuda Fetaya Z”L.