As we saw in a previous blog, the t’shuva of the Nation and the Land of Israel go hand in hand. Phase two is the Nation’s return to the Torah.
During the reign of King Solomon, the Nation of Israel was at its prime. We lived in peace in our own homeland. A Jewish government ruled over the country from the majestic city of Jerusalem. All of the people gathered for the Festivals at the Temple three times a year. Jewish law went forth from the Sanhedrin. Prophets communicated the word of the Lord to the Nation and the world. A powerful Jewish army guarded the country’s borders. Torah was studied in great academies of learning. Hebrew was spoken on the street. The leaders of foreign nations flocked to Jerusalem to pay tribute to the Jews.
When Israel was exiled, however, everything was lost. The country was conquered by enemies. Jerusalem was razed, the Temple destroyed. Prophecy ceased. Jews wandered from country to country. They began speaking strange languages. Instead of being honored by the gentiles, the Jews were disgraced. They became an oppressed minority in alien lands. And while Jews continued to learn Torah throughout their exile, its light was considerably waned (Chagiga 4B). In the face of persecution and assimilation, Judaism lost its once great stature.
As we mentioned in our previous blog, with the commencement of the Zionist movement, the Jewish people began to return to what had been lost. Jews began to return to their homeland. They began to return to their very own Hebrew language. A Jewish government returned to Jerusalem. The city was rebuilt. Once again, Jews were sovereign in their homeland. Jewish soldiers once again guarded its borders. Once again, foreign rulers came to pay tribute to the leaders of Israel. Out from the humiliation of exile, the Nation was resurrected to life. The physical, national body of Israel’s statehood was restored with a newfound Jewish valor and strength. But without the Temple, without the Sanhedrin and prophecy, without the pilgrimages to Jerusalem three times a year, and without a national dedication to Torah, the return is still incomplete. Nonetheless, Rabbi Kook assures us, within the yearning to return to the Land is a deeper, hidden yearning to return to the Torah as well.
Within the inner heart, in its pure and holy chambers, the Israeli flame increases, demanding the strong, brave, constant connection of life to all of the mitzvot of God…. And in the hearts of all the empty ones, and in the hearts of all of the sinners of Israel, the fire burns and blazes in the most inward depths, and in the Nation in its entirety, all of the desire for freedom, and all of the yearning for life, for the community and for the individual, all of the hope for Redemption, only from the source of this inner spring of life do they flow in order to live Israeli life in its fullest, without contradiction or limitation (Orot, Eretz Yisrael, 8).
Under the secular-looking Zionist State is a flaming, raging, engulfing fireball of t’shuva. The Jewish soul is yearning for religion. Like a man dying of thirst in the desert, the voice of the Nation cries out, “Torah, Torah, Torah.” Ironically, it is precisely the spiritual wilderness which brings the great thirst. Rabbi Kook writes:
T’shuva will come (to the Jewish Nation) in several directions. One of the causes will be the deep sorrow felt over the humiliation inflicted upon the great spiritual treasure which our forefathers bequeathed to us, and which possesses immeasurable power and glory (Orot HaT’shuva, 4:9).
Israel’s great spiritual treasure is the Torah, the commandments, the holidays, Jewish customs, traditions, prayer, and the vast sea of Talmudic learning.
This mighty spirit spans over all generations. Its source is the most exalted Divine Source of life. When one looks to it, one finds everything, all beauty and splendor (Ibid).
Rebbe Nachman of Breslov told a story about a poor man from a poor village who was told in a dream to seek out a treasure buried under a certain bridge in a faraway town. The poor man made the long journey and located the bridge. As he was searching around, a policeman accosted him and demanded to know what he was doing. When the poor man explained, the policeman confided that he too had had a similar foolish dream, in which a treasure was to be found in a certain faraway village under the shack of a poor man. When the policeman cited the poor man’s name and village, the poor man realized that the treasure was buried under his very own house! He had to make the long journey to the bridge to discover the secret. Sure enough, when the poor man hurried back home, he uncovered the treasure under the floor of his storeroom.Tzvi Fishman