Dear Diaspora Op-Ed Readers,
Firstly, on behalf of all Op-Ed readers in Israel, I would like to thank you for your unending stream of insightful and erudite essays concerning Jewish life in Israel and Israel-Diaspora relations. You, and lovers of Israel like you, who wake up in the morning and rush to click on Israel National News in order to see what is happening “ba’Aretz,” are so deeply connected to the Eretz Yisrael and the Israelite Nation that you are like a native resident yourself.
Rabbi Kook sheds light on this connection in his book, “Orot.” He writes that the special spiritual treasures and wisdom of Eretz Yisrael "hovers over everyone who yearns to see her," (“Orot,” Eretz Yisrael, Ch.4). You do not have to be in Israel to be graced by its charms. Every Jew who yearns to live here has a share in its secret treasures. By yearning to be united with her soil, and through a deep personal involvement in what goes on here, a Jew attaches himself to the soul of Clal Yisrael – the soul of the Nation in Israel - and is uplifted in its magnified light and holiness.
In his or her attachment to the Land, the Diaspora Jew is freed from the dark celestial forces which hold sway in Gentile lands. His soul ceases to be a private Diaspora soul and is transformed into the transcending, Divine soul of the Israelite Nation in Zion.
The meaning of yearning to see Eretz Yisrael is when a person truly longs to be here. If a Jew prays in the morning for the ingathering of the exiles, and does not think about Israel again until the next time he opens a prayer book, chances are that he is not really yearning. If, on the other hand, his desire to live in Israel is an active, constant passion that he would act on if he could, then he merits to share in the Land's special blessings.
Rabbi Kook tells us that the ability to share in the Land’s unique illumination "hovers" over everyone who yearns to see her. The word "hovers" denotes something of a temporary nature, something which lacks permanence, something which comes and goes. A lifeline to Eretz Yisrael exists in the Diaspora, but, needless to say, it is not as permanent and lasting as being in Israel itself.
Rabbi Kook ends his essay with a verse from the prophet Isaiah: "Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all you who love her." Jerusalem is the meeting point between Heaven and earth. It is the place of the Shekhinah, G-d's Presence, and the eternal capital of Clal Yisrael. Not only those who reside in Jerusalem are able to experience her joy, but also all those who love her and seek her well-being with all of their hearts. The Jew who mourns over the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of the Nation is the one who can participate in her great joy when her banished children return, (Isaiah, 66:10. Taanit 30B).
In Chapter Seven of “Orot,” Rabbi Kook develops this understanding in further depth, explaining that a fervent involvement with Jewish life in the Land of Israel, even for a Jew who lives outside of the Land, nourishes and fortifies the building blocks of independent Israeli life which constitute the depth of our essence and being, increasing our inner spiritual growth. This phenomenon is expressed in the Talmudic teaching, “One who is born in it, and one who yearns to see it,” (Ketubot 75A).
It is also manifest, Rabbi Kook teaches, in the duplication of the word, “man,” in the verse, “And to Zion it shall be said, a man, and a man who is born in it; and He will establish it in exaltation, the L-rd will count in the writing of the nations, this one has been born there, Selah," (Tehillim, 87:5-6).
Rabbi Kook tells us that not only by being in Israel can an exalted Israeli life be achieved, but that the Diaspora Jew who longs to be in Israel, but can’t for whatever justifiable reason, invigorates his or her soul with increased holy greatness through the yearning to live in Israel, through the attachment to Eretz Yisrael and to the aspirations of Clal Yisrael.
This applies not only to Op-Ed readers and writers, but to all pro-Israel Rabbis, members of Young Israel and OU congregations, graduates of YU, Israel philanthropists, and all ardent lovers of Israel.
What is the Litmus test to see if you are a part of this elite group? If you encourage your children and grandchildren to make Aliyah, even if you yourself can’t. In doing so, you raise yourself high above your private concerns and set the eternal life of Clal Yisrael over your personal finite existence. When you encourage your children to live in Israel, you set Jerusalem above your fondest joy.
Let your children go!