In 1956, a mere eight years after the Jewish people declared their Independence and the State of Israel was born, Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva University and a leading American Rabbi released an essay called, “Kol Dodi Dofek.” The essay was groundbreaking for American Jewry because its central message was that Israel’s Independence wasn’t natural, but an act of Divine Providence and it required American Jewry to respond.
In King Solomon’s Shir Hashirim (Song of Songs) he tells a parable of a lover who knocks on the door of his lover’s home. His lover is tired and tells him to come back the next day. Her lover though gives up and doesn’t return; she searches for her lover but he is not to be found and she has forever lost him because she didn’t answer the knock. Rabbi Soloveitchik, known admiringly as “The Rav” to his students, compares the knocking lover to God and the lover who ignored the knock to American Jewry. The creation of the State of Israel was God’s knock and by staying in America, the Jews of America were ignoring God’s knock.
The Rav’s first knock demonstrating the Divine providence that brought about the creation of the State of Israel was the agreement of the world’s two rival superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union to support the creation of Israel, “This was perhaps the one resolution on which East and West concurred. I am inclined to believe that the United Nations was specially created for this end — for the sake of fulfilling the mission that Divine Providence had placed upon it.” The Rav’s second knock was the IDF’s surprising victories in war, “The tiny defense forces of Israel defeated the mighty Arab armies. The miracle of “the many delivered into the hands of the few” materialized before our eyes.”
God’s third knock was the refutation of hundreds of years of Christian doctrine that used the Jewish exile to prove God had abandoned the Jews and the Christians had replaced them. The creation of the State of Israel refuted their claims, “The theological arguments of Christian theologians to the effect that the Holy One has taken away from the Community of Israel its rights to the Land of Israel, and that all of the biblical promises relating to Zion and Jerusalem now refer in an allegorical sense to Christianity and the Christian Church, were all publicly shown to be false, baseless contentions by the establishment of the State of Israel.” God’s fourth knock was the State of Israel’s ability to draw the assimilated Jewish youth back to their roots, “A seemingly unstoppable tidal wave stood over us and threatened to destroy us. Suddenly, the Beloved began to beckon to the hearts of the perplexed, and His beckoning, the establishment of the State of Israel, at least slowed the process of flight.”
The fifth knock is the message to the enemies of the Jewish people that Jewish blood is no longer cheap and comes at a high price, “Divine Providence has amazed our enemies with the astounding discovery that Jewish blood is not cheap! If the anti-Semites describe this phenomenon as being “an eye for an eye,” we will agree with them.” The final and sixth knock was the availability of Jews from all over to find a place of refuge, “A Jew escaping from an enemy’s land now knows that he can find refuge in the land of his forefathers. This is a new phenomenon in the annals of our history. Up to now, when a Jewish population was uprooted, it wandered in the wilderness of the nations without finding shelter and habitation.”
After delineating the six knocks, Rav Soloveitchik challenged his fellow American Jews, “What was our reaction to the beckoning of the voice of the Beloved, to the munificence of His loving-kindness and miracles? Did we get out of our beds and immediately open the door, or did we continue to rest like the Lover in the story of the Song of Songs, and were we too lazy to get out of our beds?” Rav Soloveitchik answered his own question with a harsh criticism of American Jewry, “Let us admit our own faults and confess to our own derelictions. Among the Jews of America, Orthodox Jews bear the most blame for the slow pace of the conquest of the Land through settlement. It was for us, the loyalistsof Judaism, to heed the call of the Beloved more acutely, and to respond to it immediately with extraordinary effort.”
Rav Soloveitchik held American Jews responsible for the slow pace of Israeli settlement of the land. He felt American Jewry should’ve answered God’s knock and moved to Israel. The Rav wrote this admonition in 1956, as we look back 65+ years later does the Rav’s question and criticism still hold true? Even without a mass Aliyah from America, Israel is largely settled. Jews from Arab lands, Russia and Ethiopia have largely settled the land. Setting aside the need to settle the land, has American Jewry missed the Divine knock of Israel’s creation?
Only American Jews can answer this question, and each American Jew must ask the question themselves. After 70+ years of Israel’s existence, one thing is clear, the gates to Eretz Yisrael have remained wide open. Jews have been able to move to Israel throughout its existence. Even those that maintain American Jewry ignored God’s knocking would have trouble arguing “the lover has left.” Rav Soloveitchik wrote, “I fear that we Orthodox Jews are still enveloped in sweet slumber.” It would seem God is still knocking and His people are still sleeping, but they can arise and answer the knock.