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Holy Genes and The Secret of Eretz Yisrael

By Tzvi Fishman
10/18/2007, 12:00 AM

America is the land of the dollar. France is the land of perfume. Russia is the land of vodka. And Israel is the Land of Hashem.

Avraham Avinu’s foremost craving was to serve Hashem. To fulfill this desire, he searched for the place where he could achieve an intimate closeness to the Almighty. The Zohar relates that with his Ruach HaKodesh (Divine Inspiration) Avraham was able to make a radar sweep of the globe and get a read out of the spiritual character of each location in the world. He discerned that Hashem had appointed a different celestial minister to rule over each country.

America's Angel

But when Avraham fixed his gaze on the central point of the world, and tried to zero in on its character, his spiritual radar failed. He couldn’t get a reading. The ruling influence over this one place was recondite and hidden. This zone was so exalted and remote, no matter how fervently he concentrated, he could not fathom the origin of the providence ruling over that place. He understood that this was the very place he needed to reach, since all other lesser celestial powers emanated from there, and the power that ruled there, ruled over all other spheres. When Avraham attained this recognition, Hashem said to him, “Lech lecha – get thee forth from thy land to the Land that I will show thee” – to this unique and secret place.

The Zohar explains:

“When Hashem perceived Avraham’s efforts and desire, he straightaway revealed Himself to him and said, ‘Get thee forth,’ so as to know thy true self; ‘from thy land,’ from that side of the world to which thou was attached up to now; ‘and from thy kindred,’ from that wisdom that that you relied on from the calculation of stars; ‘and from thy father’s house,’ that you not heed the father’s house, even if thou could hope to receive from thy father’s house prosperity in the world – therefore get thee gone from this wisdom and this consideration…. And I shall show thee that which thou was not able to discover, the power of that recondite and obscure Land” (Zoher, Lech Lecha, 78a).

Immediately, Avraham Avinu set forth on the journey without knowing where he was going, without waiting for a free ticket, without knowing if there were already built Jewish communities there with synagogues, mikvahs, yeshiva day schools, vacant villas, and kosher gyms, like there are in Israel today. He went without questioning if it was dangerous, or  if he and his children would have to serve in the army. He didn’t even bother to ask if he would be able to make a decent living. He went forth, without even Nefesh B’ Nefesh to help him, simply trusting in Hashem.

Land of Hashem

Of course, the recondite power that rules over the Land of Israel is Hashem Himself, and not any celestial angel, as the Torah attests, “The Land that the eyes of Hashem are upon it from the beginning of the year to the end.” This is the understanding behind the halacha brought down in the Gemara, Ketubot 110B:

“In all generations and times, a Jew should live in Eretz Yisrael, even in a city where the majority of residents are idol worshippers, and not live outside of the Land, even in a city where the majority of residents are Jews. For everyone who lives outside of the Land is like someone who has no G-d, as it says, ‘To give you the Land of Canaan to be your G-d’ (Vayikra 25). Can it be that everyone who does not live in the Land has no G-d?  Rather, it comes to teach that everyone who lives outside of the Land is like someone who worship idols. This is why David said, ‘For they have driven me out this day from being joined to the inheritance of the L-rd, saying, Go and serve other gods’ (Shmuel 1, 26:19).  Did someone actually tell David to go and worship other gods? Rather this comes to teach that anyone who lives outside of the Land is like someone who worships idols.”

This is because Hashem has appointed celestial ministers to rule over the countries of the world. As the Ramban explains, outside of the Land, the prayers of a Jew and the Torah he learns are carried up to the celestial minister who rules over that land, and not straight to Hashem. This gives strength to the angel, and thus to the foreign land and culture which the angel personifies. In this sense, serving Hashem outside of the Land is like serving other gods, ie, serving the angels who preside over the lands of the gentiles. Only in the Land of Israel can a Jew serve Hashem directly without having to contend with any intermediary powers (Ramban on the Torah, Achrei Mot, 18:25).

This is the reason that Avraham Avinu wanted to come to Israel, so that he could worship Hashem directly without intervening celestial messengers. Because we are the children of Avraham Avinu, we have inherited his genes and his spiitual strengths. As the Ramban explains, the deeds of our holy forefathers are signs for us to follow. Just as Avraham went forth to the Land of Israel, trusting in G-d, we all can too.