Salient Jewish spiritual journeys are always directed somehow to the Land of Israel.
The connection between the Torah and the Land of Israel is unshakable. Indeed, the only two things called in the Torah a “morasha” – an eternal inheritance for each and every Jew – is the Torah itself and the Land of Israel. Deepening our connection to both is the very essence of our mission. It is for this reason that studying Torah in Israel is of pivotal importance. It can achieve this dual purpose of internalizing one’s connection to both Torah and Israel. It is potentially a transformative year of a young Jewish life. It is here where our very connection to these two Jewish values are enhanced and ingrained: the primacy of Torah and the centrality of the Land.
It is for this reason that yeshivot and seminaries in Israel are the great spiritual engines of our success for our collective Jewish future. It is here that many thousands of young men and women each year study in order to deepen this dual connection. In many ways, these institutions are the leadership incubators for the Jewish people in general and the Religious Zionist community in particular.
For this reason, we at World Mizrachi have chosen to invest heavily in the success of these institutions. We are committed to strengthening them through enhancing the subsidy and bursary allocation to deserving students and engaging in broad fundraising campaigns on their behalf. Along with our partners at Causematch, we recently raised together with tens of these schools in our Mizrachi Campaign almost $6,000,000. Their success is our success and is core to our Mizrachi mission.
The two great biblical odysseys mentioned in the Chumash are both journeys towards the Land of Israel. The very first time G-d speaks to the first Jew, Avraham, it is in the form of a command to leave his country, the land of his birth and his parents’ home in order to journey to a distant land that G-d would show him – the Land of Israel. The second great journey was a collective trek for the entire Jewish people, when Moshe told them, in G-d’s name, that the time of their freedom had arrived; it was time to return to the land of their forebears. They, of course left Egypt, received the Torah along the way, and continued the seminal journey in the footsteps of Avraham and Sara.
From the very dawn of Jewish history and from the very first Jew to the first collective journey of the Jewish people, their destination was always Eretz Yisrael. Their spiritual mission has always been inextricably linked to Promised Land. The centrality of the Land is inseparable from the drama of their destiny. Nowhere is this clearer in the Torah than in last week’s parsha of Shlach. Starting this Shabbat, the rest of the parshiyot in the Chumash, take place in the wake of the great sin of the Spies who refused to enter the Land that G-d had designated for them.
Incredibly, the Spies managed to convince the masses that they were incapable of conquering and settling in the Land. It was a land with vast and fortified cites and the size and strength of their defenders made it impossible to overcome. The result: the entire generation who came out of Egypt, with very few exceptions, would be punished with a decree of death in the desert, never to see the Promised Land. This is remarkable in its harshness as compared to the other terrible sin in the desert, the Golden Calf where Moshe’s prayers mitigated their sin. They would be forgiven; the broken tablets would be replaced and somehow repentance would follow. Yet, for the Sin of the Spies and their rejection of the Land, there would be no reprieve. All would perish in the desert and only a new generation could enter. The rejection of the centrality of the Land in the story of Jewish destiny was unforgivable. It was the very destination of their journey; rejecting it is rejecting their destiny.
The future of Jewish destiny is clearly linked to the interplay between the Jewish People, the Land of Israel and Torah. Recent events have shown clearly once again how antisemitism so quickly expresses itself unequivocally in the delegitimization of Israel. It is almost as if those who are smitten with the hatred of the Jewish people – antisemitism – understand succinctly that in this era of Jewish sovereignty in Israel, it is this very connection that needs to be severed.
There is an intrinsic link between Judaism, the Jewish people and our spiritual and historic connection to the Land. It is one of our core Mizrachi missions, particularly today, to ensure that the unshakable bond between Jewish destiny and the Land of our destination, between our Torah values and the centrality of Israel, be strengthened as a core part of the epic journey and drama of Jewish destiny. The privilege of building a Jewish sovereign state as an animating force of Jewish life today and striving to be of a positive moral and spiritual beacon of light is central to our mission today – no matter how much darkness others deceptively disseminate.
Learning Torah and experiencing Israel in the gap year and beyond is a crucial time to achieve this.