We have seen that the return of the Jewish People to the Land of Israel is a necessary stage in the t’shuva of the individual, and redemption of the Jewish Nation as a whole.
Still only half the way home.
It follows that a Jew who becomes a baal t’shuva (a penitent who returns to a life of Torah) in Brooklyn, Los Angeles, or Toronto, has only returned a part of the way home. While his personal character and behavior have been purified by the light of the Torah, he has traveled only half of the journey. The “t’shuva train” is continuing on to Israel. The final stop is Jerusalem. Every Jew needs to bring his little light home to the Holy Land where it can join the great flame. He has to raise his private, individual life, to the higher life of the “Clal” (the entire Jewish community in all of its generations), by merging his personal goals with the goals of the Nation (Orot HaT’shuva, 4:7).
To rectify the blemish caused by galut (the exile from the Land of Israel), he has to stop living in foreign lands and join the ingathered in Israel. He has to actualize the words of his prayers, “And gather us together from the four corners of the earth” (Amidah prayer). This is the ultimate meaning of the word t’shuva – to return. By bringing our bodies and souls back to where we belong.
Thus, Rabbi Kook writes that the true t’shuva of the Jewish people is in our return to Eretz Yisrael. Again and again, in his letters and speeches, he called the Jewish people to return home to Zion. One public proclamation, sent out all over the Diaspora, years before the Holocaust, was entitled, “The Great Call.”
THE GREAT CALL
“To the Land of Israel, Gentlemen, To the Land of Israel! Let us utter this appeal in one voice, in a great and never-ending cry.
“Come to the Land of Israel, dear brothers, come to the Land of Israel. Save your souls, the soul of your generation, the soul of the entire nation; save her from desolation and destruction, save her from decay and degradation, save her from defilement and all evil — from all of the suffering and oppression that threatens to come upon her in all the lands of the world without exception or distinction....
“Escape with your lives and come to Israel; G-d’s voice beckons us; His hand is outstretched to us; His spirit within our hearts unites us, encourages us and obliges us all to cry in a great, powerful and awesome voice: Brothers! Children of Israel, beloved and dear brethren, come to the Land of Israel - do not tarry with arrangements and mundane matters; rescue yourselves, gather, come to the Land of Israel...
“From the time we were exiled from our Land, the Torah has accompanied Israel into exile, wandering from Babylon to France, Spain, Germany, Eastern and Central Europe, Poland, Russia, and elsewhere. And now, how happy we would be if we were able to say that she has returned to her first place, to the Land of Israel, together with the People of Israel, who continue to multiply in the Holy Land.
“And now, who is so blind that he does not see the L-rd’s hand guiding us in this, and does not feel obligated to work along with G-d? A heavenly voice in the future will cry aloud on top of the mountains and say, ‘Whoever has worked with G-d, let him come and receive his reward’ (Vayikra Rabbah, 27:2). Who can exempt himself from doing his part in bringing additional blessing and swifter salvation; from awakening many hearts to return to the Holy Land, to the L-rd’s legacy, that other Jews may become a part of it, to settle it with enterprises and buildings, to purchase property, to plant and sow, to do everything necessary for the foundation of life of a stable and organized settlement....”
BANNER OF JERUSALEM
Another public proclamation was addressed to Orthodox communities to urge their aliyah to Israel. In establishing a movement called “The Banner of Jerusalem,” Rabbi Kook called upon all religious Jews to come to Israel to rebuild the nation’s spiritual life, just as the secular Zionists were rebuilding the physical:
“Jews! We call you to the sacred task of building our Jewish Nation in our Holy Land, in Eretz Yisrael. Come to us, rally together under the ‘Banner of Jerusalem’ which we now raise aloft before the whole Jewish religious public.
“We all know the ‘Banner of Zion’ which unites a certain portion of our brethren on the basis of our Jewish secular interests in the Land of Israel. But there are many who have not joined the union of those who bear the Zionist flag, and a great many who feel it impossible to do so. We simply record the plain fact that this is so, without questioning its veracity.
“Yet it cannot be that the largest, most natural, and earnest portion of Jewry, the majority of the Jewish religious public, should remain indifferent to the wonderful events of the present, and not lend a hand in the holy task of building our nation on our sacred soil because of so-called objections....
“Jews, all the loyal believers in the Jewish faith, there can be no doubt that the Divine power is now manifesting itself in us amidst the great world events. We are certainly called to return to our ancient home in the Land of Israel, there to renew our ancient holy life....
“We religious Jews must all profoundly know and believe that the Divine hand is now leading us openly to our high, ideal destiny. We must make known to the whole world, the true meaning of the present wondrous happenings, whose purpose is so clearly the hastening of our redemption and salvation, from which alone will also spring forth the redemption and salvation of all mankind.
“With the flaming, illuminating, Divine faith, with all the luster of our holy Torah, with the vitality of all of the most refined and devout Jews, we shall carry our flag, the ‘Banner of Jerusalem’ by which alone the ‘Banner of Zion’ will also be properly hoisted. For the value of Jewish secular power will be demonstrated to the world only in the light of our holy Jewish spiritual power, emphasized by the uplifted voices of the whole religious Jewish world community, setting with holy enthusiasm to the task of our national construction, of our return to the Land of Israel, by the grace of the Divine and illuminating light, O House of Jacob, come, and let us walk in the light of the L-rd.”
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, lovers of Israel, and dedicated readers of Arutz 7, this year, make your t’shuva complete. Come home! Return to the Land! As Rabbi Kook urges – put all of your reckonings and affairs behind. Return all the way. Give up your love affairs with foreign lands, and return to your roots, return to yourselves – return to the Land of your G-d.