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September 27, 2016 / 24 Elul, 5776
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“Why Should I Live in Israel? America Has Everything I Need”


Rav Kook close up

What are the exalted Segulot which Rabbi Kook refers to? We mentioned in the first essay that the concept of Segula is not something which can be defined by rational terminology. The usual English translation, “treasure,” refers to something special, something of great value, something hidden. In this light, the Segula of Israel can be understood as the highest specialty of the Jewish People, as its inner uniqueness, the trait most exclusive to the Jewish People which only the Nation of Israel possesses. Certainly Israel’s Divine election is unique to the Jewish People alone. Israel, and only Israel, is the Nation chosen by God to reveal His Kingship in the world.11

This Divine Kingship is only revealed in the world when the Jewish People are living a full Torah life in the Land of Israel. In Kabbalistic terms, the Kingdom of God is known as Malchut. The Nation of Israel is also a manifestation of Malchut. And the Land of Israel is a manifestation of Malchut as well. They all go together in one unified whole. Thus, when the People of Israel are exiled from the Land of Israel, Malchut is shattered and the Divine Presence retreats from the world.

For a king to rule he needs a nation. So too, Hashem needs a Nation for His Kingship to appear in the world. Obviously, to be a nation, you need your own land. God’s Presence doesn’t shine on the Jews when they are a minority in someone else’s land. We need our own Land. We are to be a Divine Clal, and not simply an amalgamation of Jews.12 We are a holy NATION and not merely individual holy Tzaddikim. This is a pivotal understanding. Among the gentiles, individuals can achieve levels of saintliness according to their deeds.13 But in Am Yisrael, the whole Nation is holy, possessed with a Divine National Soul.14

When we understand our Segula in being a holy Nation, we can readily understand the need for a particular Holy Land. But, by being alienated from the deep Kabbalistic formulas which express the inner workings and foundations of Jewish life, the individual will be estranged from this understanding, and from the highest and most precious aspects of God which appear in the life of the Nation. These highest Segulot are expressed by our connection to Am Yisrael, to Eretz Yisrael, to the Torah in all of its depth, to the Kingdom of Israel, and to the yearning for Salvation, for the Temple, the Sanhedrin, for prophecy, and for “all of the aspects of the nation in its rebuilt form.” Our identification with these National foundations is what infuses the Jewish soul with its most potent force and expression. Thus the most outstanding heroes of Judaism are those Tzaddikim who have the greatest love for Clal Yisrael, and who most fervently yearn for Jerusalem and the nation’s upbuilding.15

In contrast, someone who understands only the superficial level of Judaism will feel nothing lacking if he lives far away from the Land of Israel, in a foreign country, in a gentile land, under a gentile government. He is estranged from the deeper levels of Judaism and the more lofty aspirations of the Clal. He is satisfied with the individual obligations which he feels he can perform just as well in Chutz L’Aretz, and thus the exile finds favor in his eyes. He does not feel a need for his own Jewish Land and government, nor for a Jewish army, nor for any of the other foundations of National Israeli life. His focus is on Shabbat, Kashrut, and Tefillin. To perform them, he does not need Eretz Yisrael. He may go to shul every morning, and learn a page of Gemara each day, but he does not miss living in Israel. The opposite is true – he enjoys the galut. He enjoys his work, his community, the education he can give to his children, and the opportunity he has to experience the best of both worlds – his Judaism and the gentile world around him. If there is an inner, esoteric need to live in Israel, he doesn’t feel it. To his way of thinking, the concept of Nationhood has nothing to do with Judaism, or with being “Frum.” But the Torah does not separate religion from the state. In the Torah, religion and the state are one. Many Torah commandments deals with the Israeli kingship, the Israeli army, and the Nation’s judicial branch as well.

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.

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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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