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Major League Judaism

By Tzvi Fishman
9/2/2007, 12:00 AM
Just as the new Israeli baseball league is a poor imitation of Major League baseball, the Judaism of the Diaspora is a poor imitation of the Judaism of Eretz Yisrael.
Step up to being a Major League Jew in the Land of the Jewish Giants.
For example, this coming year in Israel, every religious Jew will be busy with the mitzvah of Shmittah, the Sabbatical year when the Land must rest from labor. This countrywide mitzvah will influence the food that we buy, where we will buy it, from whom the purchases will be made, what housewives will do with the discarded peels of the Land’s holy fruit, what homeowners can do in their gardens, farmers in their agricultural fields and the like. All of these things don’t exist for the Jews of Chutz L’Aretz (the Diaspora). They will continue practicing their minor league Judaism unaffected by this gigantic, national mitzvah.
The Torah potion, “Ke Tavo,” that we read yesterday on Shabbat begins, “When you come to the Land….” The Torah doesn’t say, “If you come to the Land….” The Torah takes it for granted that a Jew will come to the Land because that is where a Jew belongs, that is where G-d decreed that the Jews keep the Torah.
The Torah portion goes on to describe all of the bountiful blessings the Jewish People will receive if we properly express the gratitude and joy we should rightly feel over the great gift of the Land. In contrast, if we scorn this unparalleled gift of Eretz Yisrael, terrible curses will come upon us, curses that have indeed plagued our history as a people because we “did not serve the L-rd your G-d with joyfulness and with gladness of heart for the abundance of all things (Devarim, 28:47).
In a letter, Rabbi Kook writes:
“The source of the moral baseness which continues to darken the world stems from the lack of recognition regarding the value and wisdom of the Land of Israel. Thus the sin of the Spies, who spoke derogatorily about the pleasant Land, remains uncorrected. To rectify this, the Land’s praise, splendor, holiness, and honor must be declared to all the world” (Letters, Vol.1, 112-113).
Our Sages have long ago noted the exalted level of Eretz Yisrael in saying, “There is no Torah like the Torah of Eretz Yisrael” (Bereshit Rabbah,16:7). There is so, not only because over two-thirds of the Mishna deals specifically with Jewish life in Eretz Yisrael, and because of the many mitzvot which can only be performed here - the Judaism of the Land of Israel is immeasurably more elevated because the Jewish people possess true national vitality only in the Land of Israel. Outside of the Land, Jews can excel as individuals in all fields of endeavor; including great Torah scholars, but the light of G-d cannot appear in its intended NATIONAL format. Only in the Land of Israel can the Jews be a KINGDOM of priests and a holy NATION (Shemot, 19:6). The Zohar emphasizes that the Jews can be a nation only in Israel, and not outside of it, where we are minorities in other people’s lands. (Zohar, Vayikra, 93B). Prophecies of Redemption all involve the return of the Jewish People to the Land of Israel and the restoration of Jewish sovereignty over the Land. The Jewish people’s unique prophetic talent is dependent on being in the Land of Israel (Kuzari, 1:95; 2:8-24). The Temple can only be rebuilt on the Temple Mount, and the full revelation of G-d’s Presence is exclusive to Eretz Yisrael, as the prophet teaches, “For Torah will go forth from Zion, and the word of the L-rd from Jerusalem” (Isaiah, 2:3).
For the world to reach perfection, G-d decreed that the Jewish People must live a life of Torah in Israel. G-d’s first commandment to Abraham is to go to the Land of Israel in order to serve G-d in the most complete way. Afterwards G-d commands Moshe to bring the Jews out from Egypt to Eretz Yisrael. Over and over, the Torah repeats that the Jewish people are to live their unique Torah life in the Land of Israel. When the holy Jewish nation lives a holy life of Torah in the Holy Land, the vessel is formed to bring the light of G-d to the world. The nation of Israel becomes an international beacon, an example and light to all of the nations (Isaiah, 42:6). It follows then that a Jew who is able to return home to the Land of Israel, yet chooses not to, is holding up his part in the Geula.
At the time of the Second Temple, when we failed to uphold the high moral standard demanded of us by the Torah, we were punished and exiled from the Land. G-d’s worldly vessel was shattered. Israel was conquered, Jerusalem was razed, the Land was laid waste. G-d’s Chosen People were scattered and debased. Like the Jews, G-d’s Presence went into exile (Megillah, 29A). His light in the world became hidden. In effect, mankind was cut off from G-d, given rise to many false religions like Christianity and Islam. To rectify this tragedy and return the entire world to G-d, the Jewish people must return to their previous spiritual stature, including a national life in Israel, the only place in the world where the Torah can be observed in all of its wholeness because of the many commandments unique to the Land (Ramban, Vayikra, 18:25).
On an even deeper level, each Jew has a bit of the Shechinah, or the Presence of G-d, within him. When a Jew returns to the Land of Israel, he is, in effect, bringing the Shechinah back with him (Rashi, Devarim, 30:3). This is the Kabbalistic concept of “raising up the buried sparks of holiness from the kelipot.” Since the soul of a Jew is infused with the light of the Shechinah, when the Jewish people return en masse to Israel, the light of G-d in the world returns with them.
Look at the big picture
A visual illustration will help us envision this global spiritual revolution that is gradually unfolding in our time. To raise ourselves to an all-encompassing, history-spanning perspective, imagine being in a spaceship orbiting the earth. Down below, scattered all over the globe, are tiny, little lights. These lights are the Jews, in their lands of dispersion around the world. Slowly, lights begin to travel to a certain point on the globe — the Land of Israel. More and more lights begin to congregate there. From all over the world, the scattered lights begin to unite in Israel. Lights that do not make the journey begin to flicker and disappear. Gradually, a great beacon of light is formed in Israel, sending out rays of light to all the world. These rays are the lights of t’shuva, summoning mankind back to G-d.
Already, the eyes of the world are turned to Israel. Headlines about the tiny country of Israel fill news reports on a day to day basis from all over the world. In just a few decades, Israel has become a world leading in science, medicine, agriculture, computer technology, and a gamut of other fields. Israel has become by far the world center of Torah and boasts the greatest concentration of Torah giants and students. To be a Jew in Israel is to be a part of a world-leading nation, soon to be #1 in the world, and not just the member of the community shul.
Make no mistake, my good friends. When it comes to Judaism and true Jewish life, Israel is the Big Leagues. Anything else is the minors.