Digital library (illustrative)
Digital library (illustrative)Arutz Sheva photo database

The Machon Meir Yeshiva in Jerusalem has announced the inauguration of the “Torat Eretz Yisrael Digital Library” as a new addition to their website in an effort “to spread the unique light of Torat Eretz Yisrael to the English-speaking world.”

Torat Eretz Yisrael is the name given to the special outlook on Torah as lived in the Holy Land, inspired and developed by Rabbi Avraham HaCohen Kook, Israel's first Chief Rabbi, famed Torah luminary and icon of Religious Zionism.

Often considered the baal tshuva counterpart of the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva, Machon Meir was founded almost 50 years ago by HaRav Dov Begon who still serves as Rosh Yeshiva. The well-known Torah institution offers learning programs for Israelis with divisions for English-speakers, French, Spanish, and Russian.

Israel National News spoke with the writer and movie director Tzvi Fishman, one of the initiators of the Digital Library which houses hundreds of articles on Torat Eretz Yisrael in English and which, he says, will include a wide assortment of creative films in addition to the hundreds of filmed Torah lessons already available for viewing.

Presently featured on the yet unfinished “library-in-construction” are articles on Purim and on the teachings of Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, zt"l,whose yahrtzeit falls on Purim.

Some of the bookis (now digitalized) on Torah Eretz Yisrael
Some of the bookis (now digitalized) on Torah Eretz YisraelCourtesy

Machon Meir’s plan is have the complete multi-media webpage completed by Rosh Chodesh Nissan, the first day of the Hebrew Month in which Passover occurs.

Fishman explains:

“The Sages of the Midrash inform us that there is no Torah like the Torah of the Land of Israel, and there is no wisdom like the wisdom of the Land of Israel.’ In our era of Redemption there is a great need to explain this all-encompassing vision of Torah which HaRav Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook and his son HaRav Tzvi Yehuda strove to illuminate in the minds and hearts of the generation of renewal and national rebirth.

"This old/new understanding became especially important as the Nation of Israel fled the darkness of Exile in foreign lands to return to its promised Homeland and to take its proper place as the future leader of the world community of nations. HaRav Tzvi Yehuda Kook emphasized that without learning the Torah of Eretz Yisrael – the original national Torah given to us at Sinai – a Jew cannot fathom the great events of our times and the vital need to play an active part in this historic process of Redemption which we are witnessing in Israel every day.”

Fishman says that the national aspect of Torah is missing throughout the Diaspora precisely because Jews exiled in Gentile lands lack their own Jewish Homeland, the basis for national Jewish life. In its place, Jews of the Diaspora have become accustomed to a life punctuated with the private individual commandments which can still be performed outside of the Land, something which Fishman calls “the truncated Torah of Exile.”

“As Rabbi Kook makes clear in his book seminal work ‘Orot’ the neglect of the true national aspect of Torah leaves a Diaspora Jew disconnected from the deepest aspects of Judaism and he or she no longer feels a need for his own Jewish government, Jewish army, Jewish society, Hebrew language, and a national calendar centered about the holidays of the Torah, to name just a few of the advantages of living in the Land where the Torah was meant to be kept.”

In addition to full biographies of Rabbi Kook and his only son, HaRav Tzvi Yehuda, written by Fishman and HaRav Shlomo Aviner, site-goers will discover commentaries on Rabbi Kook’s classics “Orot” and “Orot HaT’shuva.” Also present in full is the popular book “Torat Eretz Yisrael” by HaRav David Samson, which was the first book in English to explain the teachings of HaRav Tzvi Yehuda Kook, the spiritual father of the settlement movement in Israel as well as Rosh Yeshiva at Mercaz HaRav. The colorfully illustrated Torat Eretz Yisrael Digital Library also abounds with essays by HaRav Dov Begon, HaRav Shlomo Aviner, HaRav Yisrael Tzvi Tau, HaRav Eliezer Melamed, HaRav Haim Drukman, HaRav Yaakov Filber, HaRav Moshe Kaplan and a scorecard of Torah Scholars steeped in the deep love for all the Jewish People, the Land of Israel, and the State of Israel, an encompassing love which characterizes the teachings of Rabbi Kook.

“Other websites, like the website of Yeshiva Bet El for example, have excellent material in English designed to introduce viewers to the Torah of Eretz Yisrael,” Fishman states. “A big difference at the Machon Meir Digital Library is that once a seeker of greater Torah illumination and wholeness is interested in exploring Judaism in a deeper fashion, Machon Meir has a dormitory room waiting for him and a warm and welcoming landing place, together with Jews from Israel and around the world where he can live in the yeshiva’s special atmosphere of the ingathering of the exiles, ‘kibbutz galiot,’ while undergoing the difficult but joyous transformation which every baal t’shuva feels in his soul.

"This is the essence of the term ‘aliyah’ - the great physical and spiritual transplant that a newcomer to the Holy Land is obligated to experience in order to become a new oleh. While scholarly learning is a basic, it is merely an introduction. A caring, first-person relationship with teachers and Israeli families and old-time olim associated with Machon Meir in the Kiryat Moshe neighborhood is a must in order to give the novice Torah student in Israel the encouragement and support he needs during his spiritual awakening and journey. That’s what Machon Meir was for me when I arrived in Israel 40 years ago, and we hope that the Torat Eretz Yisrael Digital Library will be a beacon of inspiring light to attract and educate seekers from all over the world.”