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.