I just returned to the Holy Land after being in America for two weeks. Israel is a small country, but it has everything. As I was flying across the sky, I looked out the plane window and saw how big the world is. Israel is so simple and small in comparison.
Here in Israel, the cars are smaller and less fancy, the houses are smaller and less fancy, the buildings, the fields – everything here is smaller than in America. Yet, in this small and simple land, everything comes to life and feels so real. It’s like seeing a beautiful painting of a flower or some other pretty object that takes your breath away – and then seeing that exact same object right in front of you.
Gazing out the window of the plane, I almost felt that I understood the argument all the mountains had with G-d when He wanted to give the Torah to mankind. Every tall and great mountain wanted to have the Torah given on it, but G-d chose Har Sinai, the smallest and simplest of them all. Its simplicity and modesty were perfect for the Torah, our recipe book for breeding holiness and continuity in the Jewish people.
Like Har Sinai, the Land of Israel was chosen by the Almighty. It was chosen as the dwelling place for His holy house of worship. A place for all the Jews of the world to serve Him.
Life in this special land can be difficult. Sometimes what makes it so hard is not so much the physical work but the mental and spiritual work. If someone is guarding a precious stone, the physical work might not be great, but the pressure and responsibility is tremendous. So too if one is an assistant to a great scholar. He might do nothing more than accompany him from place to place, but he must be on guard every moment to behave properly. That in itself is very hard work.
Work all around the globe is hard, but here in Israel there is the added responsibility of living in the King’s quarters, and that brings tension. It’s expressed sometimes by heated political issues or religious wars between different groups.
In Israel there is an underlying responsibility, more than anywhere else in the world, to behave as a proper Jew. A Jew represents the king wherever he goes. All the more so in the king’s own backyard. Therefore, Jews living in Israel must be on guard mentally and physically at all times, even if only on a subconscious level. The land demands from each and every one of us living here to work harder and be more responsible, not only on a personal level, but on a collective one as well.
This hard work doesn’t mean we don’t have pleasure in our lives. However, when people constantly have more responsibility on their shoulders, they tend to feel more tension more often. The more in tune we are to our connection with G-d and the responsibility He has placed on our shoulders by giving us the commandments and allowing us to live in Israel, the more we are also filled with a great sense of joy and pleasure that we are serving the Almighty in such close quarters, almost like the kohanim and levi’im in the Holy Temple.
As I returned to the Land of Israel, I really felt the difference. A Jew returning to Israel is like a student at the top of his or her class returning to school after a break or vacation; he immediately resumes his or her special status and the extra hard work it brings.
May we enter these days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur with awe and trepidation, and may all our prayers be heard and fulfilled. May we merit anointing Hashem as King of the world once again, and may we be written in the book of life, happiness, health, and wealth together with all of Klal Yisrael.
L’shana tova techatevu, v’techatemu, l’alter, l’chaim tovim, u’l’shalom.