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September 28, 2016 / 25 Elul, 5776
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God is the Biggest Zionist of Them All



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Zionism



My friends, if you want proof that Eretz Yisrael is the place where the commandments are meant to be performed, just take a look at the holiday of Shavuot.

The holiday of Shavuot has only two Torah commandments, both of which can only be performed in Eretz Yisrael. One is the bringing of the first fruits, “HaBikorim,” as is written: “And you shall take from the first of every fruit of the ground, which you shall bring from your Land”(Devarim, 26:2). Only fruits from the Land Of Israel (your Land), from the seven species indigenous to the Land of Israel, may be brought to Jerusalem on the Festival.

The second mitzvah is the bringing of the two loaves of bread to the Temple, marking permission to use the new crop of grain for sacrificial purposes, as it says: “From your dwellings, you shall bring two loaves of bread for heaving” (Vayikra, 23:17), which can only come from Eretz Yisrael, and not from other lands “(Mishna, Kelim, 1:6).

You can try bringing fruit or bread from Brooklyn, but it won’t be accepted. Not even fruit from Monsey, NY.

While Shavuot in the Diaspora is characterized by the emphasis on Torah study, in Israel, in addition to the intensive all-night Torah study which takes place all over the country, and the glorious mass prayer at the Kotel, the days leading to the holiday are marked by songs of Eretz Yisrael on the radio, agricultural exhibitions in schools, and parades celebrating the new harvest and the fruits of Eretz Yisrael, in the joyous spirit of the pageant-like bringing of the first fruits to Jerusalem in days of yore.

Thus, the Festival of Shavuot is intrinsically bound with the praising Hashem for the agricultural bounty of Eretz Yisrael. This praise and sense of gratitude is highlighted in the speech that every Jew must make to the Kohen when he brings his first fruits to the Temple:

“I profess this day to the Lord thy God that I am come to the country that the L-rd swore to our fathers to give us… and He brought us to this place and gave us this Land, a Land flowing with milk and honey” (Devarim, 26:1-15).

Additionally, the bringing of the Omer, upon which the Counting of the Omer is based between Pesach and Shavuot, can only be brought from Eretz Yisrael, as the Torah commands: “When you come to the Land… and reap its harvest, then you shall bring an omer of your first harvest to the Kohen” (Vayikra, 23:10), meaning only “its harvest” from the Land of Israel. In fact, the Mishna teaches that: “Any mitzvah involving land applies only in Eretz Yisrael” (Kiddushin, 1:9).

The centrality of Eretz Yisrael to Jewish life can also be seen in other aspects of the Shavuot holiday. For instance, in Megillat Ruth, when Naomi’s husband, Elimelech, and two sons, Machlon and Kilyon, abandon the Land of Israel and go to Moav, they are stricken to death in Divine punishment for leaving the Holy Land’s borders.

Also, we honor King David, who was born and died on Shavuot day, by reading from the Book of Psalms. King David was so fervently attached to Eretz Yisrael that he looked upon leaving it as if he were forced to worship idols. When he had to escape to the territory of the Philistines in order to escape Saul, who was pursuing him in murderous wrath, David moaned, “For they have driven me out his day from being joined to the inheritance of the Lord, saying ‘Go serve other gods’” (Shmuel 1:26:19). The Talmud asks, “Did someone really tell David to serve other gods?” In answer, the Talmud states: “Rather, it comes to teach you that anyone who dwells outside the Land of Israel is like someone who worships idols” (Ketubot 110B).

All of this helps us to understand the wondrous happening that occurred in Turkey, 500 years ago, on Shavuot night, in the house of the great Rabbi Yosef Caro, compiler of the Shulchan Aruch. The awe-inspiring incident is recorded in the respected Torah treatise, Shnai Luchot HaBrit, written by the holy Shlah, in Volume 1 on Shavuot. There, one of the Torah scholars who was present, the revered Kabbalist, Rabbi Shlomo Alkebetz, presents a stunning eye-witness account how, during the grandeur of the special night, as a reverent group of Talmidei Chochamin were learning Torah with Rabbi Yosef Caro, also known as the “Beit Yosef,” suddenly the Shechinah began to speak via a Magid through the voice of the holy Rabbi Caro. Filled with Ruach HaKodesh and holy inspiration, the words of the invisible angelic messenger resounded out of Rabbi Caro’s unmoving lips, praising them for their fervent learning, but telling them that if they wanted to continue in probing the deep wisdom of the Torah, and have Ruach HaKodesh remain in their midst, they must immediately make aliyah to the Land of Israel, without worrying about their houses or possessions, but only trusting in Hashem who would surely guard them on the journey and provide for all their needs from the bounty of the good and Holy Land, which “the Lord watches over from the beginning of the year till its end.”

Tzvi Fishman

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. His recent movie "Stories of Rebbe Nachman" The DVD of the movie is available online.

The author's opinion does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Jewish Press.

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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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