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Good News for Diaspora Jews

By Tzvi Fishman
1/9/2012, 10:01 PM

As we have pointed out many times, Jewish life can only be complete in the Land of Israel. As the universally respected book, “The Kuzari,” teaches: “The Land of Israel is especially distinguished by the G-d of Israel. Many of the Torah’s laws concern only those who live there. Heart and soul are only perfectly pure and immaculate in the place which is specially selected by G-d” (Kuzari, 5:23).

However, there is good news for Diaspora Jews. A person who truly yearns to live in the Land of Israel can also share in the treasures and blessings of the Land.

(We are dedicating this learning toward the speedy recovery and refuah shelema of a sweet and precious Jewish soul, Erica Grau (Chava bat Elisheva), who is battling for her young life in a hospital in far far away from Jerusalem. May her great love for the Torah, for the Jewish People, for the Land of Israel, and for the Almighty, arouse the light of G-d’s healing compassion to restore her health and bring her to a joyous wedding and new life in the Holy Land).   

The potential to form a living bond to the Land of Israel exists in every Jew, no matter where he lives. If he comes to purify himself, to journey inward on an honest path of self- discovery, to peel away klipah after klipah, shell after shell, Diaspora after Diaspora, foreign culture after foreign culture, to journey generations backward through his family's history to uncover his original homeland and roots – if he is courageous, and determined, and fortunate enough to make this holy connection, then, with G-d's help, he will come to experience an estrangement from his Diaspora life and feel a fervent longing for Zion.

The awakening from galut to a new life in Israel resembles the journey of repentance which a person experiences when he turns to a new life of Torah. At first, he feels estranged from his old way of life. He senses its impurity and longs to break away from his previous lifestyle and surroundings. He no longer identifies with the life he once lived. Many of the things he once enjoyed, now seem to possess no lasting importance. He seeks out a new community, new values, new goals and ideals.

In truth, a person who returns to a life of Torah without forging a deep bond to Eretz Yisrael has only returned part of the way. It may be that he was not exposed to the deeper teachings of Torah; it may be that the challenges and problems of moving to Israel were simply too great; whatever the reason, even though he has found a new life of Torah, he has not yet found inner wholeness. For the meaning of t’shuva is to return to the place one belongs, not only in deeds, but to the place where the deeds are meant to be performed (Ramban on the Torah, Vayikra, 18:25; Kuzari, 5:23).  This is true for the individual and for the nation as a whole.

If a Jew is not actively yearning for Israel, then something is wrong with his spiritual life. If he identifies with being a Jew, and takes pride in his Jewishness – his contentment in exile indicates that he is still detached from the Jewish ideal. For the truest expressions of Judaism and Jewishness are a devotion to G-d, to Torah, to Am Yisrael, and to Eretz Yisrael. None of these can be complete without the others (Siddur Beit Yaacov, introduction).

The yearning for Israel leads to a desire to be there, to live there, to walk through its Biblical valleys and hills, to gaze upon Jerusalem and touch the stones of the Kotel, to build a life in the land which G-d cares for with a special, direct, loving care.

It is the very strangeness one feels in galut which deepens the yearning for the Land. The intensity of the feeling depends on the depth of a person's love and connection to Eretz Yisrael. It depends on an individual's inner attachment to the exalted segulot of the Land. Like a lover far away from his beloved, he should feel a passionate desire to be reunited.

This is the reason that our Sages prescribed that a Jew should recite the 137th Psalm after every weekday meal. The Psalm is a reminder about how we should feel in the exile: "By the rivers of Bavel, there we sat down, yea, we wept when we remembered Zion... How shall we sing the Lord's song in a foreign land? If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand lose its cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy" (Tehillim, 137:1-7).

The feeling of foreignness which a Jew should experience in the Diaspora is a positive feeling. All too often, however, this Psalm goes unrecited, and its message is not learned. Instead of being thankful for his feeling of alienation in a strange land, the Jew longs to belong. Throughout many epochs, this was simply not feasible – the Jew was an outcast, hated wherever he fled. But in the last few hundred years, movements of national emancipation presented an opportunity to escape from the ghetto. Suddenly Jews could be citizens. Suddenly the Jews could belong to a country without being chained to their Biblical past. The Revolution in France and the Reformation in Germany not only led to widespread assimilation, but to a national disconnection from Eretz Yisrael. When the Jew stopped setting Jerusalem above his chiefest joy, he forgot who he was. When his parents and grandparents were all born in Germany, he grew up believing that he was a German too.

Rabbi Kook writes:

וְעֹמֶק תְּשׁוּקַת_הַקֹּדֶשׁ שֶׁל חִבַּת צִיּוֹן, שֶׁל זְכִירַת הָאָרֶץ, שֶׁכָּל חֲמוּדוֹת בָּהּ קְשׁוּרוֹת, כְּשֶׁהִיא מִתְגַּבֶּרֶת בִּנְשָׁמָה, אֲפִלּוּ יְחִידִית, הֲרֵי הִיא עוֹשָׂה פְּעֻלַּת נְבִיעָה מַעְיָנִית לְכָל הַכְּלָל, לְרִבְבוֹת נְשָׁמוֹת הַקְּשׁוּרוֹת עִמָּהּ.

"And the depth of the holy yearning of the love of Zion, of remembering the Land to which all the good things of life are bound – when this valorously increases in the soul, even in one individual – behold, it acts like an overflowing spring to all of the Clal, and to the myriads of souls which are bound up with him...." (Orot, eretz Yisrael, 1:6).

Here, Rabbi Kook reveals a very deep secret of the Redemption. The awakened yearning for Zion does not only influence the life of the individual who longs for the cherished Land, it also influences his surroundings and the Jewish people as a whole. One person's yearning awakens the yearning of other Jews for Zion. Because each Jewish soul is connected to every other soul of Clal Yisrael, the yearning of one soul for Redemption has a positive influence on them all. Like a stone cast into a pond, the yearning of one Jew for Israel causes waves of yearning to spread out in circles which grow bigger and bigger until they reach the shore.

Following this scenario, when a leader of a Zionist youth group in New York decides to move to Israel, the spiritual waves caused by his yearning find their way to Australia. Suddenly, a Jew sitting on a beach in Sydney discovers himself dreaming about Israel. The next day, he buys a book on modern Zionism. Little by little, he finds his thoughts more and more focused on Israel. Now his mornings begin with Arutz 7, to see what’s happening “b’Aretz.” He His interest transforms into an active yearning to see the Land itself, and his longing sets off spiritual waves which find their way to Russia where a family is suddenly granted a visa to Israel after a long, seven-year wait. How are we to understand this mystical chain reaction?

When a Jewish soul is filled with a longing for Eretz Yisrael, this triggers a chain reaction through all of the nation. An invisible bombardment of longing is set off in the soul-pool of Clal Yisrael, where all souls exist together, without separation, in one spiritual unity. Because of the Clal's inner oneness, an individual's yearning for Eretz Yisrael affects all Jews. Not every Jew will rush to purchase a ticket to Israel, but the chain reaction created by the yearning for Israel paves the way for Redemption.

Also in the book “Orot,” Rabbi Kook explains that our souls are made up of Hebrew letters. The mitzvot of the Torah are also filled with Hebrew letters, and when a Jew comes to fulfill a mitzvah, a chain reaction is triggered as the letters of his soul unite with the letters of the commandment. When this occurs in the Land of Israel, the Land of GIANT HEBREW LETTERS, a chain reaction is set off of atomic proportions, far greater than the mitzvah power found outside of the Land. Interestingly, this holy fusion has an effect on the letters of the soul of a person who longs to be a part of the Land. Rabbi Kook explains (Orot, Eretz Yisrael 7):

הַצִּפִּיָּה לִרְאוֹת בַּהֲדַר אֶרֶץ חֶמְדָּה, הַשְּׁקִיקָה הַפְּנִימִית לְאֶרֶץ_יִשְׂרָאֵל מַגְדֶּלֶת אֶת אוֹתִיּוֹת הַקֹּדֶשׁ, אֶת אוֹתִיּוֹת_ הַחַיִּים הָעַצְמִיּוֹת הַיִּשְׂרָאֵלִיּוֹת שֶׁבִּפְנִימִיּוּתֵנוּ וְעַצְמִיּוּתֵנוּ, הִיא מַגְדַּלְתָּם גִּדּוּל רוּחָנִי פְּנִימִי, "אֶחָד הַנּוֹלָד בָּהּ וְאֶחָד הַמְצַפֶּה לִרְאוֹתָהּ"

"The yearning to see the glory of the cherished Land; the inner longing for the Land of Israel, increases the letters of holiness, the letters of independent Israeli life that are at the depth of our essence and being; it increases their inner spiritual growth. `One who is born in it, and one who yearns to see it'” (Ketubot 75A).

Not only by being in Israel can this heroic life be achieved, but also a person who aspires to live in Israel is invigorated with increased holy energy. The Jew who sincerely yearns to be in Israel is influenced by its greatness. In yearning to link himself with the Land, he too is like someone approaching a mitzvah, running to embrace his beloved. His pulse quickens, and the letters of his soul expand to receive a giant new infusion of life. He grows spiritually bigger in his attachment to Eretz Yisrael and to the aspirations of Clal Yisrael, the Israeli nation in its rebuilding. Both "One who is born in it, and one who longs to see it," both of them share in her blessing; both attain wholeness by living the maximum life of a Jew.

(Portions excerpted from the book "Eretz Yisrael - The Teachings of Rabbi Kook")