By appreciating every aspect of our holy homeland, we secure our hold on Eretz Yisrael.
In effect, every day of our lives could be termed a day of thanksgiving, provided that we do what we’re supposed to. When a Jew wakes up in the morning, he or she should sing out,Modeh ani lefonecha
… We thank Hashem, for giving us back our souls and enabling us to live another day. Those of us that have had to look death in the face at one point or another in their lives don’t take this wonderful first utterance of the day for granted.
Three times a day during the prescribed prayers of Shacharit, Mincha, and Maariv, we thank Hashem profusely in the Modim prayer. During the Grace after Meals, we say Nodeh Lecha, and once again profusely thank Hashem for every morsel of abundance. The foundation of hitbodedut, our personal prayers, is thanking Hashem for the past and crying out for the future.
Gratitude is vital to our very survival, both as Jews in general and as Jews in the Land of Israel in particular. The Hebrew word for Jew – Yehudi – is derived from the root word hodaya, which means “thanksgiving.” When we fail to thank Hashem for what we have, we're not only ingrates, but we're not doing our job as Jews. All of us - especially those of us fortunate enough to be here in the Land of Emuna - should be thanking Hashem for gift of Israel every single day of our lives. There's a law of spirituality - appreciation strengthens your soul connection with whatever you appreciate, and vice versa. People lose what they don't appreciate. By appreciating every aspect of our holy homeland, we secure our hold on Eretz Yisrael. Our love for our holy land is a flame that burns bright in our hearts - the bigger the flame, the faster we thaw out the threat of a new building freeze.
Lately, many of our concerned brothers and sisters in Judea and Samaria (yes, we’re all brothers and sisters, sons and daughters of our beloved Father in Heaven) have been asking me about the current building freeze and the lurking threat of their losing their homes and beloved land, Heaven forbid, in the so-called peace process. I answered them with the following parable:
Rebbe Sar Shalom of Belz, the first Belzer Rebbe of saintly and blessed memory, awoke at 4 AM to the ringing clank of the blacksmith’s hammer and anvil from next door. “What, the blacksmith is already awake shoeing horses and I’m still prostrate in bed, not yet serving Hashem? How intolerable!” He decided to wake up a half hour earlier the next morning.
On the morrow at 3:30 AM, Rebbe Sar Shalom could already see the light of the blacksmith’s lantern in the window and hear the clanking of hammer and anvil. Again, he scolded himself and promised to wake up at 3 AM the next day. Sure enough, the blacksmith was already hard at work. By the end of the week, when the Rebbe woke up at 2:00 AM, he finally succeeded to begin his daily service of Hashem before the blacksmith began to work.
A day later on Shabbat, the diligent blacksmith returned his soul to his Creator. Rebbe Sar Shalom of Belz then understood that the blacksmith’s tikkun, his mission in life and soul correction, was to set an example of diligence for the Rebbe. By virtue of the blacksmith, the Rebbe began to serve Hashem with even more dedication than his already extraordinary prior service of Hashem. Once the blacksmith’s task was accomplished, he did not have to tarry on this earth any longer.
At 3:30 AM, all across Judea and Samaria, one hears the muezzins’ calls to prayer reverberating from minaret-based loudspeakers all across the hills. Our Arab neighbors clamor to pray way before sunup, praising Allah’s Holy Name. Although we know that their spirituality is dark-side, since it’s based on bloodshed and the sword, they’re still beating us to the punch. In my humble opinion, the threat of losing our homes and our land, Heaven forbid, is merely a wakeup call to arouse us from our spiritual slumber. Tanks and guns will never defeat grade-95 dark-side spirituality. Grade-96 holy-side spirituality will. We should be flying out of bed in the wee hours eagerly anticipating to pour our hearts out to Hashem, to recite Tikkun Chatzot, and to learn a page of Zohar and Gemarra before praying at sunrise. We should run like gazelles to the mikva in the morning, and then pour our entire being into every word of the morning prayers. Rebbe Nachman of Breslev teaches us that with this kind of prayer and service of Hashem, Moshiach will conquer the world without firing a single shot.
If the holy soil of our ancient and beloved homeland is saturated with the tears of our joy, gratitude, and personal prayer, it won’t be saturated with our blood. Our service of Hashem, based on peace and holiness, has to be stronger than that of our dark-side bloodthirsty neighbors. Once it is, Hashem won’t need them as a disciplinary rod to chide His beloved children.
It’s no joke – our survival as Jews, especially as Jews in the Land of Israel, depends on our service of Hashem, particularly our gratitude as expressed in our prayers and blessings. Now’s the time to get our spiritual act together, so that we’ll all see the true redemption of our people and the rebuilding of our Holy Temple speedily and in our days, amen.