Continuing our Israel Book Week survey of top Torah classics, here’s a chapter from the perennial bestseller, Torat Eretz Yisrael.
The teachings of Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, founder of the Gush Emunim settlement movement in Israel and longtime Rosh Yeshiva at the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva in Jerusalem. The chapter is based on a class he gave to Diaspora youth during their visit to Israel. Since the sin of the Spies was in despising the pleasant Land and not wanting to live here, the only way we can rectify their great sin is by doing the very opposite – loving the Land of Israel and making it our home. Instead of building Jewish life in the exile, the tragic mistake of the Spies, each and every one of us needs to do what he or she can in building true Jewish life in Eretz Yisrael. Rabbi Kook stressed again and again that this is what the Torah is all about, as it says, “For from Zion the Torah shall go forth, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” From Zion, and not from Brooklyn or Boca Raton.
Diaspora educators – stop deceiving your students! Jewish mothers and fathers – stop leading your children astray! Tell them the truth that their futures are in Israel. But you don’t have to listen to a simple blogger like me – here’s what one of the greatest and most influential Torah leaders of our times told a group of young Diaspora Jews just like your sons and daughters:
From the book, Torat Eretz Yisrael:
Our connection to Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel) is not solely based on the fact that it is our homeland. There is a reason that it is our homeland. The Almighty created it especially suited to us.
Eretz Yisrael is the land of Clal Yisrael, the land of the nation and community of Israel.
To properly understand our connection to Eretz Yisrael, we first have to know who we are.
We are the nation created by Hashem to proclaim His Name in the world. And just as all other nations belong to a particular land, we belong to a particular land. This is part of the order of Creation that this air, these mountains and hills, these stones and plants in this portion of the globe are uniquely connected to us. Just as Hashem chose us from all of the nations, He chose our land from all other lands, “For the Lord has chosen Zion” (Tehillim, 132:13). The Divinely chosen nature of our nation and of our Land is integral to understanding who we are.
Herein lies the difference between Am Yisrael and the nations of the world. We are a nation brought into existence by the Creator of heaven and earth. Our whole nation is holy. All of our meaning and value is as a holy nation, a holy Clal. And the specifically designated place on this planet for this segment of mankind is here in the Land of Israel.
When Jews meet they customarily exchange “shaloms” and ask, “Where do you come from?” The usual response is, “I come from Belgium, I come from Brazil, I come from Colorado. The Rebbe of Obstrovtza said, “Every Jew is obliged to answer – I come from Eretz Yisrael.” This is a very deep insight telling us that every Jew in his innermost essence belongs to Eretz Yisrael.
Because of our long exile amidst the impurity of the gentile nations, we have become accustomed to think that our life in the Diaspora is normal, and we forget that Eretz Yisrael is our natural, healthy, Divinely-intended place.
Hashem said to Avraham, “Lech Lecha, Get yourself forth…” commanding him to journey to a specific place, “To the land that I will show you.” Even without knowing where he was going, Avraham picked up his family and went to find the place where he was to serve Hashem. There is an expression in Latin – ex orient lux – the light comes from the east. So too, spiritual light comes from the East, from our Middle East. From this spot on earth, Hashem educates mankind. To do this, Hashem wants us here in Israel. We don’t belong in other places. Haven’t we already sufficiently tasted the life in Europe and Auschwitz?