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Holy Roller

By Tzvi Fishman
4/21/2010, 12:00 AM

As usual, after the traditional Yom HaAtzmaut barbecue with the family, I went rolling in the Holy Land to demonstrate my love for the Land. Sometimes, its rolling down the sand dunes in Ashdod, sometimes in the desert of Judea or the Negev, sometimes in the aromatic cattle fields of the Golan. Yesterday, I lovingly embraced a verdant lawn in Ashkelon.


The sanctity of the Land of Israel is often misunderstood. Some people think that the holiness of the Land derives from the special commandments concerning the Land which are only performed in Israel. Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook would explain the error of this way of thinking. He emphasized that Eretz Yisrael is holy, in and of itself. As the classic book, “The Kuzari,” makes clear, for this reason alone, every Jew should long to live here:


“Your Forefathers chose it as their abode in preference to their birthplaces, and lived there as strangers, rather than as citizens in their own country. They did this even at a time when the Divine Presence was not yet visible, and when the country was full of unchastity, impurity, and idol worship. Your Forefathers, however, had no other desire than to remain there” (Kuzari,2:23).


Because of the holiness of the Land there are special commandments that apply to it, and not visa versa (See also, “Chatam Sofer, Responsa,” Yoreh Deah 234).


In the Talmud, at the end of tractate “Ketubot,” the love of the Land by the Sages is expressed:


“Rabbi Abba kissed the stones of Acco, and Rabbi Chia Bar Gamda rolled himself in its dust” (Ketubot 112B).


They did this to actualize the verse, “For your servants desire her stones and cherished her very dust” (Tehillim, 102:15).


Notice that Rabbi Abba did not kiss the ground, over which the special commandments of the Land are performed. He kissed the boulders to emphasize the inherent holiness of the Land itself, even its stones.


Because of the confusion and lack of understanding surrounding the mitzvah of living in Israel, we will take advantage of the next few blogs to review fundamental matters which are often misunderstood in the Diaspora because of the incompleteness of the learning there.


Without any criticisms or putdowns, may our eyes and hearts be enlightened to the holiness, richness, and completeness of Jewish life which can only be achieved in the Land of Israel.