We spent Shabbat in Ashkelon, visiting my wife’s parents. On Motzei Shabbat, my wife stayed in Ashkelon (in the red glare of the rockets fired from Gaza) so that she could take her mother for a medical treatment in the morning. I drove back to Yerushalayim with my children. Along the way, we passed a stretch of fertile farmland. The heavenly rains that had fallen during Shabbat seemed to have awakened the earth, and the pungent aroma of fresh cow manure wafted into the car. My younger boys started gagging and making jokes, the way children do about such things.
“Sheket!” I told them. “I love the smell of fresh bovine in Eretz Yisrael more than any other smell in the world. To me it’s like perfume.”
“Come off it, Abba,” my 22 year-old Golani commando responded.
I switched on the car blinker and started to pull off the highway to the side of the road.
“What are you doing?” my daughter wanted to know.
“Aahhhhhhh,” my youngest son gagged, as the overpowering smell of manure filled the car. “Are you crazy? Don’t stop here!”
But I wanted to teach them a lesson. After all, they were born in Israel. Sometimes they take it for granted. Having grown up in the Holy Land, they can easily forget that things weren’t always that way, that for nearly 2000 years, we were exiled in impure, foreign lands, and that still today, half of our Nation is wallowing away in gentile countries, not knowing the incredible blessing and joy of living in your own Jewish country, upon your own Holy Land.
“Abba! What are you doing?!” my daughter called out, as I got out of the car and trekked off into the dark field.
The truth is, if my wife had been with us, I probably wouldn’t have done it. She doesn’t like me rolling in cucumber fields. The last time I did it, she stayed angry at me for a week. She said that I ruined my clothes and stank up the car. But like my kids, she grew up in Israel too. Don’t get me wrong. They are all crazy about the country, but what smells to me like Chanel #5, smells to them like just plain and smelly cow doo.
“Abba, come back !”
Happily, I prostrated myself on the Holy Land and started to roll over and over. The earth was still damp from the rain. The soil of the fertilized field stuck to my beard. The most beautiful fragrance in the world filled up my nostrils, more exhilarating than any reefer I ever smoked in the past.
“Yeeech!” my daughter screamed.
“I’m calling, Ema!” my youngest yelled out.
The rain clouds had passed, and stars twinkled in the heavens. The Rambam writes how the greatest Sages of old would kiss the soil of the Holy Land upon reaching its borders (Laws of Kings, 5:10). The Talmud describes how Rabbi Chia bar Gamda would lovingly roll in the dust of The Holy Land in order to actualize the verse of Tehillim, “For your servants desired her stones and cherished her very dust.”
Rabba Abba would kiss the stones of Acco (Ketubot 112B). Rabbi Kook explained that he wouldn’t merely kiss the ground, which is the basis of the agricultural mitzvot dependent upon the Land, but he kissed the boulders to show the inherent holiness of the Land itself. Rashi, in his commentary to the Gemara, duplicates the verse, “For your servants desired her stones,” without adding any new information, to emphasize the holiness of the very stones of the Land of Israel – up and beyond the Land’s holiness because of the commandments that are performed in its soil.
At the very end of the classic treatise on Jewish Faith, “The Kuzari,” when the Rabbi sets off on aliyah for the Land of Israel, he quotes this same verse of Tehillim: “For your servants desired her stones and cherished her very dust,” saying, “This means that Jerusalem can only be rebuilt when the Jewish People yearn for it to such an extent that they embrace her stones and her dust” (Kuzari, 5:27).
That’s how you bring Mashiach – not by singing, “Moshiach, Moshiach, Moshiach,” but by rolling in the dust of the Eretz Yisrael and doing whatever you can to rebuild the our Nation in our Land.