Last night I took my youngest kids to the beach for a picnic. At that hour, you beat the heat and the bikinis. Around the fire, I told them a little about Greece and Rome across the sea. I told them how America was the continuation of the empire of Rome and how terrible I had felt growing up in a gentile land. When I started to roll in the sand, they asked me what I was doing. So I told them about some of our great Talmudic Sages. The Gemara relates that when Rabbi Abba would reach the border of Eretz Yisrael, he would kiss its stones, due to his tremendous love for the Land (Ketubot 112A and B). Rabbi Chiya bar Gamda, in his great love for the Land, would roll around in its dust to fulfill the verse: “You will arise and have mercy on Zion: for it is time to favor her; for the set time is come. For your servants hold her stones dear, and cherish her very dust” (Tehillim, 102:14-15).
So they rolled in the sand alongside me. Then we all jumped into the cool ocean waves for a refreshing mikvah. Rolling in the dust of Eretz Yisrael is a mitzvah, as the Rambam writes: “The great Torah scholars would kiss the borders of Eretz Yisrael, and embrace her stones, and roll in her dust, as the verse says, “For your servants hold her stones dear, and cherish her very dust” (Laws of Kings and Their Wars, 5:10).
I’d post a photo, but my photo poster on the blog still isn’t working.
Then I told them about two great Talmudic Rabbis who were on their way to the Diaspora. When they reached the border of Israel, they broke into tears and declared: “The settling of the Land of Israel is equal in weight to all of the commandments in the Torah” (Tosefta, Avodah Zara 4,3; Sifri, Reah, 53).
On the way back to Jerusalem, when we approached the Ben Gurion Airport, I pulled off to the side of the road. Every time I pass by the airport, I thank G-d that I’m not on one of the planes leaving the Land. I got out of the car, fell down on my hands and knees and kissed the ground. I felt so thankful to be in Israel. My sons didn’t bother to ask what I was doing – they’ve seen me do the same thing many times before. How happy I was when they climbed out of the car and kissed the ground too, just like our Sages of old!