Rabbi Tobias (Tuvia) Geffen delivered the following sermon at Congregation Shearith Israel on Washington Street in Atlanta on Shabbat on May 15, 1948 (6 Iyyar 5708), the day after Israel declared its independence. The parshah that Shabbat was Kedoshim (Leviticus 19:1-20:27), and the haftarah was from Amos.
“In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old.”
Thus prophesied the holy prophet Amos thousands of years ago. And thus have his words been fulfilled, for in this year, on the 6th of Iyyar, 5708, we read Amos’ prophetic words in the haftarah this week. Indeed, the prophet’s words are fitting for this day, the day on which it was decreed that the Jewish people has gained its independence.
This is the day when the renewed emergence of the Jewish people has been proclaimed after so much suffering and torment, after so many victims have fallen — the best children of the nation. Finally our prayers have been answered, and our deeds have been found acceptable.
We know that the birth pangs of the Messiah have not ceased. Much water still must flow before we are privileged to see the kingdom of Israel rise upon its foundations. But, as in the past, now, too, we have seen the miracles and wonders along every single step of the way.
Before our eyes the miracles of the Hasmoneans are repeated: the miracle of “many into the hands of the few and the impure into the hands of the pure.”
While we are full of joy, we also pray to the Guardian of Israel that He might preserve and protect the courageous Jewish youth standing in the Judean Hills and the Galilee and battling against the enemy with devotion.
Our words are penetrated with deep sorrow and dreadful pain for the millions of pure and holy people who died as martyrs. May G-d take vengeance before our eyes for His servants’ blood, which has been shed.
Indeed, ours is a miserable generation, which has seen the dreadful destruction. However, we also bear in our heart a deep feeling of consolation that this very generation has been privileged to see the revival of the nation and the establishment of the Jewish state.
At this festive hour, when the Jewish heart is overflowing with worry and joy, it is the duty of all Jews from all our strata and varieties to help bear the historical responsibility and to perform the greatest task in the history of the Jewish people.
Let us not rest until the security of the Jewish state is assured as it is attacked from within and without, as is the Yishuv in the land of Israel. Indeed, we here must also mobilize all our forces and be prepared to offer our souls and our property for the mighty mission: the establishment of the Jewish state for the Jewish people.
For hundreds of generations the Jews have hoped and prayed for this sacred hour, but to our great sorrow they did not attain it. Thanks to Divine Providence, we have been privileged to see with our own eyes the beginning of the kingdom of Israel and the state of Israel. Let us give praise and thanks to the Creator of the world, who has kept us alive and sustained us and brought us to this time!
Let us also pray that we shall be strong enough to withstand all the trials we can expect in the path of the Jewish state. May the Jewish state in the land of Israel live! May the sun shine again upon the kingdom of Israel! Long live our holy Jerusalem!
May we all merit full redemption with the advent of our Righteous Redeemer.
And may the prophecy that we have read this morning be fulfilled immediately: “In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old.”
Rabbi Geffen delivered this sermon in Yiddish. Dov Levin, a Geffen family cousin, translated it into Hebrew. Rabbi David Geffen commissioned Jeffrey Green, a professional translator, to translate the Hebrew into English.