I studied under many teachers when I was attending yeshiva. Some of them were considered the gedolim of the generation. I remember my rosh yeshiva at Yeshivat Kerem B’Yavne, the tzaddik Rav Goldvicht, and the mashgiach, the saintly Rav Hadari, zt”l. I remember my rebbeim whom I was privileged to have learned from when I attended Yeshiva University – Rav Aaron Soloveitchik and Rav David Lifshitz, zt”l, and then for a short period of time when I studied in the beit hamidrash of the great Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, the undisputed gadol hador.
All of these great leaders are no longer with us. During their lifetime I never really appreciated them as much as I should have. I took them for granted. It is only now that they are no longer alive that I value them more and realize the great personal loss of not having them around to talk to or confide in.
I would guess that most of us feel the same way about some special teacher we had or other person we knew. It reminds me of the old adage derived by juxtaposing the names of two portions of the Torah, Achrei Mot (meaning “after the death,” referring to Aaron’s sons) and Kedoshim (“they became holy”). Achrei Mot Kedoshim: It is only after the death of a person – when they are no longer around – that they become holy and appreciated. I would give anything just to speak to my mother who passed away over thirty-five years ago or my father who passed away seven years ago, just to say “I love you” one more time.
I remember sitting in the old city of Yerushalayim, in the Kikar (an open square), seeing children playing and older people walking around, parents leading their children. I realized then that what I was witnessing was the prophecy of the prophet Zechariah and numerous other prophets who predicted that there would be a time when the Jewish people would return to Israel and the land would once again flow with milk and honey.
Each time I wonder: How is it possible that many of our people cannot see what I see – the miracle of the existence of the State of Israel? How is it that they do not realize that in the entire history of our people, never has Torah flourished or been studied so much as in the land of Israel today? It is as if Almighty G-d has transplanted all the greatness of past generations and placed it in Israel.
Israel has never been more alive than it is today. How could anyone deny this open miracle, one that could only be equated with the great miracles of the splitting of the sea or the sun standing still for Joshua?
Our grandfathers and great-grandfathers would have given up everything just to live in Israel today. Yet today, because it is so easy to come to Israel, we take it for granted. Jews buy homes in Jerusalem and fly to Israel for the holidays, always keeping their luxurious palaces in the Diaspora, never really appreciating the real miracle of Israel and their responsibility to make Israel their home.
As we often appreciate our loved ones only after they are gone, and then can comprehend the profound loss that we have endured, I fear that the only way people who live in galut will truly understand the value of this great gift of the State of Israel is if, G-d forbid, it would be taken away from them (and indeed this happened for a period of time during Covid when the Jews the world over were denied entrance to our Holy Land for the first time ever). What a shame – how sad!
People need to step back and appreciate the great miracle of our times: the establishment of our own land, Medinat Yisrael. Israel is the place where Jewish destiny is unfolding – not in America, not in England or any other place in the world. Mashiach will not come to Lakewood or Boro Park or Monsey or any community outside Israel. He will come to Israel and we must all be there to greet him.
Rabbi Mordechai Weiss has been involved in Jewish education for the past forty-six years, serving as principal of various Hebrew day schools. He has received awards for his innovative programs and was chosen to receive the coveted Outstanding Principal award from the National Association of Private Schools. He now resides in Israel and is available for speaking engagements. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 914-368-5149.