According to Jewish Law, every Jew is obligated to study the Torah, whether he be rich or poor, healthy or ailing, youthful or old. He must set aside a definite time during the day and at night for the study of Torah, as it says, “Thou shall meditate therein day and night” (Rambam, Laws of Torah Study, 1:8). In addition, the Torah is read publically in synagogue twice during the week and on Shabbat.
We learn Torah because this is G-d’s will for the Jewish People. Throughout the ages, we have been known as “The People of the Book,” and the Torah is our book. There are a lot of books in the world but the Torah is ours. The only way a Jew can understand what it is to be a Jew is by learning the Torah. If he doesn’t study the Torah, he may think he knows who he is, but he really doesn’t.
The Torah is not a long ago, once-upon-a-time story. The Torah teaches us what G-d expects from us today. The tales of our holy Forefathers are examples for us to follow, as our Sages have taught: “The doings of the Forefathers are signs for their sons.”
As we have previously written, give any ten-year-old child the Torah and let him read about Avraham, Yitzhak, and Yaacov, then ask him where G-d wants the Jewish People to live. Ten out of ten will say, "Israel!" G-d commanded our Forefathers to live in the Land of Israel, they only departed from the Land in time of severe famine, and then returned as soon as they could. To highlight this to his children, when it came time for Yaacov to die, he made Yosef swear that he would bury him in Hevron, so that his children never forget that, no matter how good a life they had it in Egypt, they were strangers in a strange land.
The Graveyard of Diaspora
Our Sages explain that Yaacov wanted to establish for all posterity the principle that Eretz Yisrael was the Jewish People's only heritage. He knew that his burial in Hevron alongside Avraham and Yitzhak would forge an unbreakable bond between his descendants and the Land that Hashem had promised to give them. Yaacov was especially assertive in making Yosef swear because Yaacov saw that his children had become possessed by the foreign land. “Soon,” he reasoned, “they might substitute the Nile for the Jordan, and what began as a temporary sojourn in Egypt would no longer seem to them as an exile” (See, Artscroll, Bereshit, Vol. 6, Pg. 2090).
Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsch summarizes: “This was his motive for so ceremoniously insisting that they should not bury him in Egypt, but that they should carry him to their true homeland. This was the reason he told them, ‘Though you may wish to live in Egypt, I refuse to be even buried here.’ This is why he used his name Israel in expressing his wish – he spoke as Israel, the bearer of their national mission.”
The Children of Israel today in Hevron
Our national mission is to be a holy nation in Israel. Yaacov Avinu’s teaching was not only for his children, but for his children’s children, and for their children after them. His teaching is for us – those of us in Israel today, and those of us who have not yet absorbed the message.
So kids, teenagers, BEWARE! If they tell you that you are American or Australian or Englishmen – don’t believe them! Your parents and rabbis and Federations are lying. You are the Children of Israel. The Land of Israel is your country. Jerusalem is your capital. If your Birthright leader lets you believe that by visiting Israel you are a full-fledged Jew who can continue to live a life of dual loyalty in America, he is lying.
Being a complete Jew means living in Israel. That’s what our Forefathers wanted to teach us. That’s what the Torah tells us over and over again. That’s what G-d wants for His People – to abandon the graveyards of the Diaspora and be living Jews in His Land.