The redemption of Israel has consequences not only for the nation of Israel, which returns to freedom and to its original identity, it is also important for all the nations of the world. And this is true not only in the political realm but also in the realm of theology. This is clear from this week’s Haftarah: “Rise up! Shine the light! (Note that this is a command.) For your light has come, and the glory of G-d shines on you.” [Isaiah 60:1]. Our return to our land is also the renewal of the spiritual influence of Israel on the world. This will lead to the removal of the influence which competes with Israel – Christianity, which bases its entire claim on the low status of our nation. When Theodore Herzl turned to the Pope for support in establishing a country for the Jews in the Land of Israel, the answer was: “You are asking for something that is opposed to everything I believe.”
The Talmud describes this spiritual tension:
“Rabbi Simlai explained a verse written by the prophet. ‘Woe to those who lust for the day of G-d, why do you consider it the day of G-d? For it is darkness and not light!’ [Amos 5:18]. This can be compared to a rooster and a bat that were waiting for dawn. The rooster says to the bat: I am waiting for light, because it is mine. But you, why do you want the light? And this is similar to what an apostate said to Rabbi Abahu: When will the Messiah come? He replied, He will come when you are all covered by darkness. The apostate asked, Are you trying to curse me? He said, there is a verse, a written text: ‘Behold, darkness will cover the earth and a fog will cover the nations, but G-d will shine over you and His glory will be seen through you!’ [Isaiah 60:2].” [Sanhedrin 98b; 99a].
Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook explains a similar idea. “As the world progresses and the spark of the sanctity of Israel appears in all its greatness, none of the outsiders will have any power to establish an institution that will overpower the light of Israel or to set up a mystical light which is called faith and will be able to exist outside of the reality of this nation, its glory, and the brilliance of its holiness.” [Orot, page 17].
This means that the greatest kindness that can be done for the other nations of the world is not to gloss over the great theological abyss that has opened up at their very feet as a result of the political awakening of the nation of Israel. Rather, it is necessary to reveal to them the Divine truth which has always existed within Israel. In this way they will be able to understand that what they wanted to receive from the Divine light through the Christian myth was in essence the light of the Shechina – the holy presence - that exists in Israel. While this was mostly hidden during the exile it is clearly visible in the formation of the State of Israel.
And that is the great tidings that appear in the Haftarah: “And many nations will follow Your light, and kings will go after the shine of Your glow” [Isaiah 60:3]. Thus, the return to Zion obligates us not only to mend our own ways but also to spread the message of the word of G-d to the entire world. We must teach all of mankind to follow the path of G-d, in line with our daily request in the prayer of “Aleinu.”
Source: “NOTES FROM THE HAFTARAH” – a biweekly column in Shabbat B’Shabbato (Zomet Institute) See: http://www.zomet.org.il/eng – Ki Tavo 5776, issue 1642.