Be a Cyrus!

March 15, 2024

Meeting with a Jewish group at the Jewish Theological Seminary following his presidency, Harry Truman boldly declared “I am Cyrus!” With this statement, Truman was drawing a parallel between the Persian emperor’s decree to allow the Jewish exiles to return to the land of Israel and rebuild their Temple, and Truman’s pivotal role in recognizing the modern State of Israel.

This momentous Cyrus Declaration was not just a political declaration, but the fulfillment of prophecy.

How do an ancient Persian king’s decree and a mid-20th-century American president’s bold stance converge to fulfill a biblical prophecy, and what does this intriguing historical connection mean for us today?

As the verse in Ezra states clearly, the historic declaration by Cyrus wasn’t merely political; it was the manifestation of a prophecy Jeremiah had spoken many years before:

In his prophecies to the people of Judah who were about to be conquered and exiled, Jeremiah promised that their servitude to the Babylonians would last 70 years, but that afterward the Jewish people would return to their homeland:

This connection between the decree of Cyrus and Jeremiah’s words underscores a timeless truth: God’s hand is always at work, shaping the course of history. As it says in Ezra 1:1, “The Lord roused the spirit of King Cyrus of Persia to issue a proclamation.”

Fast forward to the 20th century, and we find modern parallels that resonate with the story of Cyrus. Just as he facilitated a pivotal return from exile, figures like Truman stepped into roles that shaped the establishment of the State of Israel. The miraculous birth of Israel in 1948 and the ongoing return of Jews to their ancestral home are nothing short of the fulfillment of divine promises—a narrative that continues to unfold today.

Harry Truman’s decision to recognize the State of Israel followed the example set by Cyrus’s ancient decree. Both acts were steps in the fulfillment of biblical promises in which God gave the Land of Israel to the Jewish people and assured their return. These promises, which guarantee their redemption, stretch from the Book of Genesis to the final prophets, highlighting God’s steadfast commitment to his people.

This historical backdrop challenges us to see the divine orchestration in the contemporary return of the Jews to Israel. It challenges us to ask: How can we support Israel and the Jewish return to their homeland today? Whether through advocacy, education, or direct support, each of us can play a part in this epic story, embodying the spirit of Cyrus in our actions and intentions.

However, Rabbi Meir Soloveitchik cautions that our support for Israel must be vigilant and unwavering. He reflects on the challenges faced during the time of Cyrus, when those who opposed the return of the Jews and the rebuilding of the Temple bribed members of Cyrus’s court and lied about the motivations of the Jews in order to stop them (Ezra 4). Soloveitchink reminds us that we can never take support for Israel for granted, and that leaders who were once inspired by the word of God can be convinced otherwise. While support for Israel may be strong, it requires constant nurturing to ensure that it continues.

Today, we are witnessing a troubling rise in antisemitism and wavering global support for Israel. Just as there was a movement protesting the Jewish right to Jerusalem 2,500 years ago, more and more people continue to buy into the lie that the land of Israel does not belong to the Jews and should be given to the Palestinians, “from the river to the sea.” The imperative is clear. Jews and Christians alike must stand firm in support of Israel, championing the values of truth and justice found in the Bible.

Let us draw inspiration from the leadership of Truman and the ancient decree of Cyrus. Let’s embrace our role in supporting the State of Israel and the Jewish people in their historic return to their homeland. It’s time to stand up, to show courage and conviction, and to take part in the ongoing fulfillment of God’s promises. Encourage your leaders, engage your communities, and be a beacon of support for Israel. In doing so, we all can be a Cyrus in our own right, playing a part in the grand narrative of return and redemption that continues to this day.

Stand up and be counted. Be a Cyrus.

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Shira Schechter

Shira Schechter is the content editor for TheIsraelBible.com and Israel365 Publications. She earned master’s degrees in both Jewish Education and Bible from Yeshiva University. She taught the Hebrew Bible at a high school in New Jersey for eight years before making Aliyah with her family in 2013. Shira joined the Israel365 staff shortly after moving to Israel and contributed significantly to the development and publication of The Israel Bible.

Shira Schechter

Shira Schechter is the content editor for TheIsraelBible.com and Israel365 Publications. She earned master’s degrees in both Jewish Education and Bible from Yeshiva University. She taught the Hebrew Bible at a high school in New Jersey for eight years before making Aliyah with her family in 2013. Shira joined the Israel365 staff shortly after moving to Israel and contributed significantly to the development and publication of The Israel Bible.

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