The Holy Arizal and Eretz Yisrael

Today is the yahrzeit of the revered Kabbalist whose work on the Zohar and spiritual way of life are legendary. How he saw the Holy Land.

Tzvi Fishman ,

Tzvi Fishman
Tzvi Fishman
Jeni Klincovstein

Today, the fifth day of Av, marks the yahrtzeit of the Ari’zal (1534-1572), acronym for “The G‑dly Rabbi Isaac of Blessed Memory.” The Ari'zal, Rabbi Yitzhak Luria Ashkenazi, also often known as HaAri HaKadosh, is buried in Tzfat (Safed) where he lived. He taught us to see and to understand the spiritual reality behind all existence.

Though he only lived for 38 years, the Ari'zal possessed a phenomenal soul, and all secrets of the creation were open to him. While the Arizal himself never wrote any books,all his words were faithfully recorded by his foremost disciple, Rabbi Chaim Vittalm, in what is called Kitvei Ari, the “writings of the Arizal.”


To use a metaphor to help explain the difference, the lands of the Gentiles are like the six days of the week. In contrast, Eretz Yisrael is like Shabbat.
Let us take his thoughts about the Land of Israel for an example:

The Land of Israel is not just a geographical location composed of trees, mountains, and valleys like any other place. When the Almighty created Eretz Yisrael, the Land of the Jews, He created it with a unique holiness. People who have a deep attachment to the Land of Israel experience a striking spiritual descent if they have to leave the Land to visit the Diaspora. In the lands of the Gentiles, there is no holy atmosphere like there is in Eretz Yisrael, the “Land which Hashem watches over from the beginning of the year till the end.”

To use a metaphor to help explain the difference, the lands of the Gentiles are like the six days of the week. In contrast, Eretz Yisrael is like Shabbat.

Often, when Jews in the Diaspora reject the Torah commandment to live in Israel they see only the revealed side of life in the Holy Land, and they say, “I am not making Aliyah because the State of Israel is traf, the government is secular, religious people are ill-treated, the police are like cossacks, immodesty is everywhere," and a long list of other complaints. Seeing only the physical aspects of Eretz Yisrael, they miss the point completely. They resemble the Jews who perished in the Plague of Darkness in Egypt for not agreeing to make Aliyah to the Chosen Land, the unique Holy Land which Hashem created especially for His People.

Aliyah has nothing to do with the State of Israel. Long before there existed a State of Israel, Hashem commanded the Jews to live in Israel. We make Aliyah to the Land not to the State. We make Aliyah even if the Land is filled with savages and idol worshippers as in the days of Avraham and Joshua.

Of course, there is a place for physical considerations, like those which influenced the Tribes of Gad and Reuven, who didn’t want to help conquer the Land. People have to work and eat, of course. But the main motivation in living in Israel is spiritual. Are the “arms” of Hashem too short to provide for His children?

The Torah commands us to have faith. We make Aliyah to Eretz Yisrael because of its holiness and because it is the only place in the world that Jews can live as their own sovereign Nation and not as a minority in the impure lands of the Gentiles, which Hashem gave to them not to us. It is the only place in the word where we can erase the terrible Chillul Hashem of the Exile.

The holiness of Eretz Yisrael beckons us behind the smokescreens of material existence. The Shechinah cries out in anguish and weeps, “When will my children come home?” The Arizal teaches us to open our eyes to see the true eternal reality, to reach out and grasp at the holy. May his memory be for a blessing.

Tzvi Fishman was awarded the Israel Ministry of Education Prize for Jewish Culture and Creativity. Before making Aliyah to Israel in 1984, he was a successful Hollywood screenwriter. He has co-authored 4 books with Rabbi David Samson, based on the teachings of Rabbis A. Y. Kook and T. Y. Kook. His other books include: "The Kuzari For Young Readers" and "Tuvia in the Promised Land". His books are available on Amazon. Recently, he directed the movie, "Stories of Rebbe Nachman."

Tzvi Fishman books
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