From the Desk - The Israeli Flag
Shalom Friends! What a wonderful Shavuot we enjoyed at Beth Ora! As our guest speaker, Rabbi Raphael Bensimon, noted, the number of people attending our Shavuot night learning program increases every year! Among other successes over the holiday, we were particularly excited to see so many children in synagogue, participating in our special kids’ program. I had the special privilege of telling a Shavuot story to an entire bima-full of children in the Sanctuary on the first day of Yom Tov! The BBQ season has begun and, by the time you read this, we will have enjoyed the first BBQ of the season. Please see our publicity for all the future dates! I’m excited to remind you that our Generations Shabbat is coming up on Saturday June 22nd! On this Shabbat, we are inviting the community to come to synagogue together with members of their families of all generations. There is so much history at Congregation Beth Ora and this will be a wonderful opportunity to experience the bonding of generations at this synagogue which has such an important place in the hearts of so many families. We are looking forward to engaging as many people as possible in this Shabbat program. The engagement of families in the community is something very important to many of you and we hope that you will support us in this outreach initiative. Wishing you all Shabbat Shalom, Rabbi Anthony and Carly Knopf Dovid, Rachelli, Yehuda and Avrami
What’s the Deal with… the Israeli Flag? On Yom Ha’atzmaut, Dovid asked me what is the reason that the Israeli flag has blue and white colours. So, what’s the deal? It’s interesting to note that there is a myth among many in the Arab world that the blue stripes on the flag represent the Nile and Euphrates rivers as the boundaries of the land of Israel, as promised to us by G-d. Those making this allegation insist that the flag “secretly” represents the desire of Jews to conquer all of the land between those two rivers which would involve conquering and ruyling over much of Egypt, all of Jordan and Lebanon, most of Syria and part of Iraq. In reality, this claim is nonsense. The beginning of the process of finding symbolic colours to represent the Jewish People dates back to the late 19th century when Ludwig von Frankl, a Jewish writer from Bohemia, wrote an essay on the subject. In his paper, “The Colours of the Land of Judah,” he suggested that the colours of the Jewish People should be blue and white because these are the colours of the tallit. At a later date, David Wolffsohn, a prominent businessman, was aware that the Zionist movement had no official flag. While Theodor Herzl had proposed a design, it had not gained significant support. Wolffsohn wrote: “We have a flag – and it is blue and white. The talith with which we wrap ourselves when we pray: that is our symbol. Let us take this Talith from its bag and unroll it before the eyes of Israel and the eyes of all nations. By the late 19th century, blue and white had become acknowledged as symbols of Judaism. In 1885, Israel Belkind, the founder of the Bilu movement, flew a flag with a blue Magen David with the word Zion (in Hebrew) in its centre. Above and below were blue stripes. 1897 was the year of the First Zionist Congress. A man named Morris Harris used his awning shop to design a suitable banner and decorations for the reception and his mother, Lena Harris, sewed the flag. The flag was made with two blue stripes and a large blue Magen David in the centre, the colours blue and white chosen from the design of the tallit. The flag became known as the Flag of Zion and was accepted as the official Zionist flag at the Second Zionist Congress in 1898. The State of Israel later adopted the design as the official flag upon declaration of Israel as an independent state in 1948. The 20th century Torah leader and thinker, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, reflected on the deeper significance of these colours on the Israeli flag. The tallit often takes the colours blue and white because these were the colours of the fringes of the tallit. In ancient times, some of the fringes would be dyed blue while some were white. (At some point, this dye was lost and Jews no longer dyed their fringes. According to many, the dye has now been discovered and you may have noticed blue fringes on the corners of some people’s talleisim.) Strings that are white connote clarity – they represent the power of the human mind to innovate. The blue strings, according to the Talmud, are an embodiment of the furthest reaches of heaven itself. These strings symbolize the mysteries of life which our rational minds cannot fully understand. These two spheres are contained within the Zionist story. Zionism was predicated on the ability of the Jewish People to achieve anything if they put their mind to it. Theodore Herzl famously quipped: If you will it, it is no dream. But the miracle of the establishment of the State of Israel is also a sign of the Divine in our lives. The very blueness of the sky, explains Rabbi Soloveitchik, is only due to the distance from which man observes it. As much as the State of Israel is a great human achievement, it also testifies to the hand of God in the modern history of our people.