Latest update: September 3rd, 2012
Last night, The Jewish Press was first up with the warning: the destruction of Migron was hours away. Then, Knesset member, Aryeh Eldad called for people to come to Migron to protest the evacuation scheduled for five in the morning. I woke up at 3:30 a.m. and loaded some protest posters I had made into my car – a picture of Ariel Sharon with the caption, “BIBI, THINK TWICE!” In the wee hours of the morning, Netanyahu still had the ability to stop the tragic and senseless act.
My 20-year-old daughter came with me. She’s friendly with the wife of Dror Weinburg, of blessed memory, a brave army commander who was killed in Hevron a few years ago in a terrorist ambush, may Hashem avenge his murder. Many times, my daughter has gone to Migron to help his widowed wife with her young children.
A bright moon lit the way toward the small hilltop settlement, a short drive north of Jerusalem. The roads were empty. For long stretches, there wasn’t a car in sight. No army jeeps, no bulldozers, no helicopters, no riot police. Just the sound of the wind over Biblical mountains.
The newly built Migron Bet stood on a nearby hillside like a ghost-town, waiting for its displaced residents to arrive. On the ascent up to the outpost, we reached a roadblock – two army jeeps and a few soldiers. They told us that only residents of Migron could continue up the road. One of them was a young Ethiopian. I asked if the eviction was scheduled for the morning. He lowered his head in embarrassment and said that he didn’t know – his orders were to close off the road.
Parking my car by the side of the road, we got out and stood waiting for more protestors to arrive, but it didn’t look like any crowds were hurrying to get there. As usual, Moetzet Yesha (the Council of Judea and Samaria) was impotent in mounting a battle. There were no Knesset members, no activists from the Land of Israel faction of the Likud, none of the Ministers from the special Settlement Committee which Netanyahu had formed to make it seem like he really cared.
It was 4:30 in the morning when a few photographers and reporters showed up. A van stopped a little ways down the road, and a group of teenagers climbed out and skirted up the rocky hillside on foot, making a detour around the blockade. Other than shining their searchlight on them, the soldiers did nothing to stop them. Apparently there were other roadblocks along the way closer to the yishuv. When it became clear that there wasn’t going to be any meaningful protest at all, my daughter and I returned to the car and headed back to Jerusalem.
HOW CAN IT BE that in this clear time of Redemption, when millions of Jews have returned to the Land of Israel from the four corners of the world, in the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy, and when the reborn State of Israel has been miraculously transformed, through the blessing of God, into a world superpower in a matter of decades, stunning mankind with its achievements in every field of endeavor, and once again becoming the Torah center of world Jewry – how can crises and setbacks like the evacuation of Migron still occur?
I will try to give an answer, based on the teachings of Rabbi Tzvi Tau, Rosh Yeshiva of the Har HaMor Yeshiva in Jerusalem, and one of the foremost Torah scholars on the teachings of Rabbi Kook.
The Talmud teaches that three precious gifts were given to the Jewish People and they all require suffering to obtain: the Torah, the World to Come, and Eretz Yisrael (Berachot 5A). For example, it invariably happens that a person comes on aliyah and finds himself confronted with difficulties. He or she finds it difficult to learn Hebrew, to adjust to the Israeli culture and way of life, or to find work. While they were “somebody” in their former communities, and knew how to get around, their egos often take a bruising when they come to Israel – they don’t know many people; they have to establish their identities from scratch; status symbols that meant something in the past and former positions of honor are meaningless now.
Sometimes the difficulties and shock of absorption is so great that they fall into decline and despair, and all too often pack up their bags and head back to the Diaspora before this frustrating stage of transition has run its course. What the crestfallen oleh doesn’t realize is that this process was all for his benefit, in order to transform him into a true settler and possessor of the Land, and that with just a little more patience, perseverance, and hard work, he would have ultimately been graced with the Land’s special treasures.
Rabbi Tau bases his explanation of the letters of Rebbe Avraham from Kalisk, a student of the Baal Shem Tov who came on aliyah nearly 200 years ago. In one of the letters, Rebbe Avraham takes care to warn students who are contemplating following his path to the Land of Israel of the unique challenges in making aliyah, and the many difficulties involved, stemming from the exalted nature of the Land and its special holy character.
Rav Tau explains that while the subject of the letter centers on the difficulties that an individual faces in making aliyah, nevertheless, the principle that is expressed in the letter, explaining the unique properties and demands of the Land, is a general foundation which applies to everyone. From this, we can extrapolate and learn about the difficulties of absorption which face the general Nation in its return to Eretz Yisrael, when myriads of Jews have returned to settle in the Land after nearly 2000 years of oppressive and traumatic exile.
The letter begins:
I have set it upon my heart to reply to all of the honored souls who question me concerning their desire to settle in our cherished Holy Land, in order to make known to them the unique nature of this Land.
Rav Tau explains,
First, it is necessary to know the special nature of this Land! Not in a geographical, botanical, or zoological sense, but rather to know about the inner meaning, specialty, and towering holiness of the Land – and from this deeper contemplation, to understand our unique connection with it, and to be aware of the different stages of challenge and transformations that we must undergo as a Nation in becoming true possessors of the Land, the Land of the Israelites, until we are fitting members of the Palace of the Holy King.
Rebbe Avraham explains to his students that making aliyah to the Land of Israel is no simple matter, as they apparently thought. Even if they had attained an advanced standing in the Diaspora, reaching an established level of prayer, Divine worship, Torah study, and perfection of character traits, here, in Eretz Yisrael, everything is destined to undergo change, to encounter difficulties and crises, and, stemming from this, to be reformulated and renewed on a completely different and higher level. He [R. Avraham] writes:
“Behold, how many changes, reversals, reincarnations, and dramatic upheavals await. Every newcomer to the Land will undergo refinement after refinement until becomes settled in the Land, and he will come to ‘take pleasure in her stones and embrace her very dust’ and love the ruins of Eretz Yisrael more than the palaces of the Diaspora, and love it’s dry bread more than great feasts of foreign lands….”
Rav Tau explains:
“When a Jew from the exile comes to the Land of Israel, he is filled with many expectations, hopes, and dreams of a Land flowing with milk and honey in its material richness, and of a Land graced by the light of the Shechinah in its spiritual blessing. And behold, upon his arrival, he is confronted with ‘dust, stones, and ruins,’ with problems of survival, conflicts between communities and the hostile outsiders who live in the Land, and even with spiritual difficulties. From the abundance of changes, reversals, reincarnations, and dramatic upheavals’ which he encounters, he can even come to despise the Land, God forbid. In this situation, he needs to undergo ‘refinement after refinement,’ until he will finally come to the level of love for the Land which Hashem demands from all those who are privileged to live here, all for our own good, in order to raise us up to the exalted level of the Land to share in its bounties. Then, he will cherish its very stones and dust, as they are, in their present form, when they still need great labor and creativity in order to bring out the inner blessings of the Land and transform it into a Gan Eden on earth. Now, in his elevated state, the oleh once again loves the Land, but no longer just in his imagination and dreams, but rather with a deep and true love which brings him to recognize that a piece of dry bread in Eretz Yisrael is indeed more praiseworthy than all of the banquets and delicacies of foreign lands.
This proper, fundamental orientation to Eretz Yisrael, coming to recognize its transcendental holiness and value, both in its material and spiritual facets, is built and revealed precisely in this fashion – and without this transitional process of difficulty, crisis, inner refinement, and change, a person cannot be truly adapted into the Land, and he will lack true love and attachment to her.
This the transformation does not take merely a day or two, not merely a month or a year, but rather unfolds over a course of many years until the process of absorption in the Land is complete – just like a seed which is planted in the earth must first disintegrate, and only through this, begin to grow, this is the process every oleh must experience in order to become a true Israelite in the Land. First, a newcomer to the Land must be willing to nullify all of the previous conceptions and worldviews which composed his identity and guided his life until now, even if they were grounded in holiness and his worship of God. Everything must be nullified and made subservient to the process of absorption he must undergo, and only in this fashion can his identity and world outlook be shaped anew. As the Talmud teaches, ‘When Rav Zera went on aliyah to Eretz Yisrael, he fasted for 100 days in order to forget the teachings he had learned in Babylon.’ Certainly, in the Land of Israel, his learning came back to him once again, but now in a completely new and reconstructed format, in the higher and all-encompassing format of Torat Eretz Yisrael, as our Sages teach, ‘There is no Torah like the Torah of Eretz Yisrael’ (Bereshit Rabbah, 16:4). This is the Torah of Clal Yisrael, the much higher Torah of the Nation in our own Land, as opposed to the small, truncated Torah of the individual Jew in foreign lands.
Accordingly, Rabbi Kook writes:
The inner renewal which accompanies the life of every Israelite soul, of every Jew who comes to Eretz Yisrael, appears not only in the private life of individuals, but even more so in the life of the congregation of every group that arrives in Israel, and in our general ingathering of all the Nation together.
Rav Tau explains that if every individual Jew who comes on aliyah to Israel must undergo “changes, reversals, reincarnations, and dramatic upheavals… until he becomes a regular part of the Land” – what can we say for the entire Nation, with all of its differing levels and groups, in its return to the Land after an absence and exile of nearly 2000 years? What can we say about a Nation that returns to life after horrible sufferings of murder, persecution, and ridicule, after terrible psychic and spiritual confusion, which caused it to become more and more distant from positive feelings of self-value and worth, and from the connection to its Land? What can we say about a Nation that returns to its Land, not in order to seek out its exalted holiness and spiritual treasures, but rather out of general world values and theories of nationalism borrowed from the gentiles, and through an ingathering, not “on eagles wings” in some miraculous fashion, but through a natural, down-to-earth, historical unfolding, through the slow, gradual stages of world wars, international treaties, dependence on foreign powers, and led by national leaders whose goals were distant from all Divine ideals?
If every individual who strives toward transcendental holiness of Eretz Yisrael must undergo stages resembling the life of a child, including a state of nullification in the mother’s womb, like pregnancy, then a stage of nursing, and the period of childhood and maturity – a long and gradual process – ‘not a day or two days, not a month, nor a year, but only after many years until the days of his absorption will pass’ – what can we say regarding a Nation that must be born anew? Behold, the birth of an entire Nation which returned to its Land from the terrifying graveyard of galut, certainly this metaphorical process of pregnancy, labor, nursing, childhood, and maturation is a long and complicated process demanding years and years, if not generations, until the reborn Nation settles down to its true, ideal self, living the pure and holy, Divine life of Eretz Yisrael, a life of Torah and loving allegiance to the commandments of God.
Where do all the difficulties come from which the Nation must endure on its way to renewal? As with the individual, so too with the Clal – it all stems from the greatness and towering holiness of Eretz Yisrael, and from the greatness and holiness of our national Israeli soul which is renewed with our reunion with the Land. With the ingathering of our exiles, and the return to our Land, we undergo profoundly deep and meaningful changes, revolutionary in character, and long processes of birth, revival, and renewed creativity which are accompanied by many dangerous side effects.
We experiment with Socialism, Communism, Secularism, Zionism, and Post-Zionism. Social, cultural, political, and psychological upheavals threaten to uproot us on all sides until we find our way to the new yet ancient look of our Nation that suits us in our Holy Land, until we will follow the laws of the Torah and not the rulings of a secular supreme court which uproots thriving Jewish communities like Migron from their Biblical hillsides every time a leftist or Arab makes the flimsiest claim of injustice.
There is a natural law of nature inherent in this. Just as a person must be prepared to encounter changes when he enters a different climate, or dives under the sea, the same is true here. When we come back to Eretz Yisrael, we find ourselves in a different situation, no longer scattered individuals and small communities in foreign lands, but a holy Nation in a Holy Land, something which demands, above and beyond our will, a journey of national strengthening, development, and transformation, until we are completely merged with the special properties of the Land, and with our new national Clal-Yisraeli soul.
We are in the middle of this great national transformation today. With patience, perseverance, a lot of hard work, and God’s help, we will emerge the holy Nation of Israel that we are destined to be. May it be soon!
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. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of The Jewish Press
If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.
Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.
If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.