Everyone is talking about the significant milestone of Israel reaching its 70th anniversary of its birth, and we were wondering if there’s any Jewish significance to the number 70 in relation to this event.
— Marsha and Nathan W.
Dear Marsha and Nathan,
As a citizen of Israel with three children and five grandchildren (k’na hora) living there, this time means a lot to me and my family. (Especially since I’m landing there at 8 a.m. Yom HaAtzmaut morning to see a new grandson.)
This is truly a celebration of the Jewish spirit — that against all the odds, this tiny nation has grown, in such a relatively short time, to become a world power of significance far, far beyond its size in myriad areas. Medicine, sciences, psychology, computer technology, communication, irrigation and defense are some of the most significant, but only a few of the areas in which Israel has risen to the world stage, attracting the world’s most powerful and savvy investors into its market, purchasing its many startups, providing R&D dollars and more.
Of course, it goes without saying that Israel is at the forefront of the spiritual world, boasting many tens of thousands of rabbinical students and children involved in full-time Jewish education.
Sadly, Israel is also at the forefront of battles both physical and spiritual in nature. Despite its many accomplishments, Israel is probably the only country in the world in a constant state of high alert — for those who threaten its very existence. Just as fierce as battles have been, and continue to be, fought over the essence of its spiritual existence; in this case the battle is ,sadly, among fellow Jews.
The deeper side of these facts is that due to Israel’s elevated spiritual nature, its close proximity to the Al-mighty, there’s little room for the “middle of the road” in nearly any arena, no place for mediocrity. It almost fosters the fertile ground for extremism, both religious and secular, in a way that we don’t often observe in the diaspora.
The number 70 in Jewish history has always been a very significant one, such as the prophetic vision — which was fulfilled precisely — for the Jews to sojourn in Babylon for 70 years subsequent to the destruction of the Temple. At the end of those 70 years, the Jews were granted permission by the ruling monarch to return to Israel to rebuild the second Temple. After a long period of starting and stopping, and not without enemies and detractors standing in their way, it finally was rebuilt, ushering in a new period of Jewish history.
The number 7 connotes the fullest sense of the physical world: 7 days of the week, 7 musical tones, etc. The number 70 is the expanded sense of 7, the world with a sense of completion. The source of the Jewish nation was the 70 Jews who went down to Egypt. They were the seeds of Jewish eternity, as the Torah relates at the beginning of the Book of Exodus.
We only hope that this current 70, which is, in a way, a celebration of a rebuilding after the most recent destruction of Europe, will also usher in a new period in our history. Current events in Syria and the surrounding area certainly spell out the many prophesies of the final war, “Gog Umagog,” when the superpowers of the world are meant to battle around Israel, and suddenly realize it’s all about Israel, and the final battle will be turned to her, eliciting God’s own response, ushering in the final chapter of history and the messianic revelation. The headlines surely sound a lot like the prophetic teachings these days, in a scary but exciting way as we watch events unfold. I wish we could know the significance of these events with certainty, but, alas, we no longer have prophecy to know for sure (as I have said before, since the cessation of prophecy we have become a non-prophet organization.)
On one hand we look forward to that time we have long been waiting for; on the other hand, it is meant to be a very unpleasant pre-time of great war. The Sages ask, “How does one save himself from the ‘heat’ (preceding) the Messiah? Through the involvement of Torah study and performance of acts of kindness to fellow Jews.” (Talmud Sanhedrin 98b)
May we use this special time to fulfill the Talmud’s words. And may we soon merit to see the final redemption and ingathering of our people — once and for all — to our beloved homeland, with peace and love amongst all Jews.