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July 4, 2015 / 17 Tammuz, 5775
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Don’t Ask What Israel Can Do For You – Ask What You Can Do For Israel


Rav Kook

Rabbi Kook tells us that at the core of the bond between the Land and the Nation is an inner Segula, a unique spiritual holiness granted by God which the Land and the Nation share in common. The concept of Segula is usually translated into English as “a special treasure.” The Torah tells us that the Jewish People are to be God’s Segula among the nations. “You shall be My own Segula from among all of the peoples.” This Segula is expressed in Israel’s Divine chosenness, in being God’s special treasure amongst the other nations of the world. Our distinction as God’s chosen people is manifest in our Kedusha, our eternity, and in our prophetic potential. We are the bearers of the word of God in the world.

The inner Segula of Clal Yisrael is also shared by Eretz Yisrael. A special Divine chosenness unites the two in an inseparable holy bond. For instance, in our daily morning prayers, in the section of Pesukei D’Zimrah, we say, “For the Lord chose Zion, He desired it for His habitation,” and in almost the same breath, we continue, “For the Lord chose Yaacov as His own, Israel as His Segula.” Both the Land and the Nation of Israel are chosen. “For Hashem will not cast off His people, nor will He forsake His heritage” (Tehillim, 94:14). God’s heritage is the Land of Israel, as we learn from the verse, “Then He established it for Yaacov as a statute, for Israel as an everlasting covenant, saying, `To you I shall give the land of Canaan, the lot of your heritage'” (Tehillim, 105:10-11). The Nation and the Land are eternally intertwined in God’s plan for creation. Even their names are the same. Yisrael refers to both the Land and the nation.

Thus, Eretz Yisrael is much more than a means. It is of supreme value in itself. The Kedusha of the land does not evolve from the mitzvot performed there. Rather, the unique mitzvot of the Land stem from the inherent holiness of the Land. This is why they are called “the mitzvot that depend on the Land.” The Land is holy by itself.

Rabbi Kook tells us that the specialness of the Land and of the Nation is something above the general, rational understanding of man. For instance, one of the most outstanding aspects of the Segula of the land is prophecy. Just as the Jewish people are the people of prophecy, the Land of Israel is the place of prophecy on earth. Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi, in his book, The Kuzari, explains how prophecy distinguishes Israel from all other lands. In the same way that one country may have an abundance of oil, and another vast resources of gold, Eretz Yisrael holds the monopoly on prophecy. It occurs only in the Land of Israel, or pertaining to the Land of Israel.

Prophecy is one way in which the Land of Israel facilitates the culmination and adulthood of the Jewish people. Only by living in Israel can the Jewish People attain their true and maximum potential, and be a kingdom of prophets as in the days of King Saul when prophets roamed the Land. For Divine truth to be revealed in the world, the Jewish People need to be in Israel. Thus Rabbi Kook writes:

“The thought regarding Eretz Yisrael that it has merely a peripheral value to facilitate the subsistence of the unified Nation; even when it comes to fortify the concept of Judaism of the Diaspora, in order to preserve its form, and to strengthen the belief and fear of Hashem, and to strengthen the performance of the commandments in a proper fashion – this orientation toward Eretz Yisrael is not worthy of lasting fruition, for its foundation is rickety in light of the towering, unshakable Kedusha of Eretz Yisrael.”

Here, Rabbi Kook returns to re-emphasize his original teaching that the Land of Israel is not something secondary to Judaism and to the Jewish Nation. He is addressing an erroneous belief that the Jewish People can live fully without Eretz Yisrael. This viewpoint asserts that the Judaism of the Diaspora is an end in itself, and that Jewish life in the galut is a positive goal. In Rabbi Kook’s eyes, this philosophy lacks foundation when compared to the towering Kedusha of Jewish existence in Eretz Yisrael. Like the exile itself, this weltanschauung of galut lacks lasting value and the fruitfulness to insure its continued existence.

About the Author: Tzvi Fishman was awarded the Israel Ministry of Education Prize for Creativity and Jewish Culture for his novel "Tevye in the Promised Land." A wide selection of his books are available at Amazon.

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One Response to “Don’t Ask What Israel Can Do For You – Ask What You Can Do For Israel”

  1. Reading Fishman declaring that "Arabs don't read books" is very disappointing. Imagine how indignant he would be if someone wrote a negative comment about Jews. Right wing religious Jews in Israel, probably from North America, are among the most openly racist and bigoted people around. It is disgraceful.

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Tzvi Fishman, author of the Jewish Press blog Felafel on Rye and author of more than a dozen books.
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