<I>Lech Lecha</I>: Go to Yourself

Two hundred years ago, students of the Baal Shem Tov, led by Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk, repeated the Avram journey and made aliyah. The Rebbe of Vitebsk described the spiritual and physical journey in his book Pri Ha'aretz.

Rabbi Dr. Aryeh Hirsch

Judaism לבן ריק
לבן ריק
INN:AH
"Lech" - Go - "lecha" - to yourself.... Go to find your true self. Go to develop yourself to its utmost. Go where? To the land that I will show you. To the place of the origin of Man's body and soul. Because I, the Lord, am giving you this land for the two advantages that it offers: one spiritual and one physical. For as long as you are in chutz la'aretz, you cannot appreciate the identity of your soul, whose source is from Mount Moriah, nor appreciate even your physical self, which also was formed from there; not until you come to the Holy Place, the place uniquely fit for the identity of Man.
So begins the Kli Yakar in his explanation of the Almighty's command to Avram to "make aliyah," to go to Canaan, the Land of Israel. Further on (Breishit 13:14-17), the Kli Yakar continues:
The spiritual advantage is acquired merely by seeing, by looking at Mt. Moriah, the site from which all universes, spiritual and physical, were created. He who looks at the Place immediately is clothed in a spirit of purity and holiness, ennobled by the Presence of the Lord, the Shechinah. This phenomenon was enshrined for eternity in the mitzvah of Aliyah L'Regel, the mandatory pilgrimage to the Temple on the holidays of Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot.
The physical blessings promised to Avram were to be acquired only by physical occupation of the Land, by kum hithalech ba'aretz, get up and walk the entire Land, its length and breadth. And this physical kinyan, acquisition, will not be forever and unconditional, and is the first, spiritual one; and so verse 15 says, "the Land which you see is yours forever," but verse 17 says, "Go walk the Land, for I will give it to you," but it does not say "forever".

Two hundred years ago, students of the Baal Shem Tov, led by Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk, repeated the Avram journey and made aliyah. The Rebbe of Vitebsk described the spiritual and physical journey in his book Pri Ha'aretz. Included in that book are letters by Reb Avraham of Kalisk, who, in describing the difficulties of absorption, writes:
Many upsets, tribulation and happenings, long periods of acclimation occur to all olim until they become accustomed to the land; times when the oleh's very mind becomes deranged, as he ascends heavens one minute, and descends to depths the next, as in a storm-tossed boat, until finally, 'Your servants take pleasure in her stones and love her dust,' [Tehilim 102,15] and love the ruins of Judea more than the palaces of chutz la'aretz, and a diet of dry bread there more than the good life elsewhere.
Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook discussed the writings of these Chassidic Rebbes. The Chesed L'Avraham wrote that the first night one is an oleh la'aretz, one is given a new, higher soul. As explained by Rabbi Tzvi Tau (Emunat Iteinu,volume 2, pages 79-92), Rabbi Kook said that the spiritual advantage of Eretz Yisrael of which the Kli Yakar wrote is like the neshama yeteira, the second soul, which every Jew receives on Shabbos.

Some righteous individuals are prepared to receive this higher soul, but others are not, each according to his life experiences and natural inclination. Those least prepared, and who may even not want the advantage, know not what to do with it. This soul seeks its expression in these people with actions more or less destructive, again, depending on the nature of the individual. This can be likened to the adolescent maturity process, which for some, can be likened to the storm-tossed boat. And not only for individuals. We are a nation of olim, going through this adolescence. Even the very Zionist motivations that brought us here to Israel, once they meet the avira d'machkim (atmosphere) of Eretz Yisrael, "could never have been of long-term viability, for chul [chutz la'aretz, lower level ideologies and thought processes] could in no way ever lead to chayei netzach, eternal Life.

And so, we are living through the adolescent growth pains of a young country. As my friend, clinical psychologist Dr. Rick Kramer, says, this nation is like a teenager who, because it can be done, will drive 180 kilometers an hour or swallow Ecstasy. Because it could be done, we, with no thought of future consequences, brought the PLO here from Tunis and armed it, and even contemplate giving it a state from which to kill us.

The practical upshot of all this? Rabbi Kook again:
The consciousness of this inner process of renewal will lead us to a true appreciation of all these crises that we face, so as not to despair. And we will rise above all the superficial, imaginary barriers that seem to divide us, to the core of our unity, which is strong in the sureness of our victory, and the true Source of our salvation.
One last thought on this parsha. Despite the fact that Avram deliberately distanced himself from his nephew Lot, in a time of crisis, Avram put family love first. Avram unhesitatingly acted to save Lot when he was in danger. I contrast this to what this country did to the Jews of Gush Katif: when push came to shove, Israel turned Gush Katif into its "fall guy", its scapegoat.

It has even come to my attention that Religious Zionists of America has sent Rabbi Yehuda Gilad around the US on a speaking tour about the Disengagement. Rabbi Gilad comes from Meimad, a political party that belongs to the leftist Labor party. As such, he has been spreading mental and spiritual "chloroform" wherever he has spoken: "Maybe some good will come from this Disengagement.... [I]n the name of unity, don't fight against a democratic decision made by sincere people." The fact is, most evil tyrants are "sincere", including Hitler and Stalin. And as far as not fighting: Rabbi Tau describes those olim who ultimately fail, who don't gird themselves "with strength to continuously battle upwards, but who despair halfway through the journey."

As a 16-year oleh, I know very few successful olim who don't know that aliyah is a "high-wire act", a real challenge at the heights, with one end of the string seemingly suspended in thin air, held up by nothing but the oleh's emunah (faith) and by the God of Avraham Himself, the "source of salvation" of olim. May we all soon see the end of the journey.




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