As you marched in the Israeli Day Parade, broadcasting your Zionistic pride, did you take a minute to reflect on what religious Zionism is REALLY all about? Did you ponder the way in which YOU will turn age-old theories into practice?
Marching up 5th Avenue with flags is similar to the despised burnt offerings sacrificed in the times of Yirmiyahu. God wants us to get the message instead of blindly performing symbolic acts.
Us, your brothers and sisters at home, are eagerly waiting to embrace you at Ben Gurion Airport when you step off the plane and take a breath of the air that will envelop you and your family as you establish yourselves in our ancestral Land. Only as a proud resident of Eretz Yisrael can you attest to the fact that you are committed to assume your responsibility of being an integral part of the Jewish People.
In the weeks leading up to last week’s Torah portion, Shelach, there have been numerous articles published, debating the topic of modern aliyah. Bold statements on how living in Israel is too big of a sacrifice, claims that Israel is off the radar for many orthodox Jews, and confessions about how living in Israel is extremely difficult; were among some of the positions taken.
We mourn on Tisha Be’av for the Sin of the Spies. Today, we are guilty of the same slander they spoke. It is true that living in Israel is not simple, that there are inconveniences and sacrifices, but that is not all.
In the beginning of parashat Shelach, Rashi asks: what is the significance of the juxtaposition between the lason harah Miriam spoke about Moshe and the Sin of the Spies? He answers that Miriam failed to see the good in her brother. The meraglim failed to learn a lesson from her.
However, an obvious distinction can be made. Miriam spoke against a human being, with feelings and emotions; while the Spies spoke against an inanimate object made of earth and stones. How then were the Spies expected to learn a lesson from Miriam’s sin?
Rav Yisrael Ordman is quoted as saying that the Spies were to learn from Miriam’s sin that one must always see the good in everything, not the bad. Even if Moshe had a fault, it was arbitrary to dwell on it. True, Israel, like any other country, has faults. But is that what we should focus on? Why don’t we share articles about the beauty of Israel, its technological advances, its great Torah institutions, and the country’s rich culture?
Rav Soloveitchik gives a profound answer to the question on Rashi. The essence of Miriam’s sin against Moshe was that she failed to see the segulah quality he possessed. She didn’t comprehend his absolute uniqueness as a prophet and failed to see that he was on a different plane, directly communicating with God.
Similarly, the Spies neglected to appreciate the uniqueness of Eretz Yisrael. Moshe told them to scout the Land and seek out its segulah properties, with an awareness of the great era about to unfold: A segulah prophet was leading a segulah people into a segulah land. They failed miserably because all they could see was the mundane – the giants, the funeral processions, and the unusual fruits.
The miracle of the establishment of the State of Israel is undeniable. Our return from Diaspora after two thousand years is mind boggling! And still we judge Israel the way we would judge any other land. We kvetch about the climate, the shopping, the economy, and the culture. Are we insane?! We rejected Uganda because it doesn’t have holy soil! Israel is not just another country. Rather, it is a segulah country, a gift from God, a holy place, and a land we are REQUIRED as observant Jews to reside in.
Our sour attitude towards the Land lies in our mistaken definition of it. Israel should not be regarded as a “country;” instead, it calls for a category of its own. Comparing Israel to the United States, for example, is simply ridiculous.
Israel’s essence, its intrinsic holiness, and its potential for growth are intangible properties. These cannot be gift wrapped and transferred to chutz la’aretz via Elal. But we forget; we focus on the delectable falafel, the rudeness, and the public transportation. Those are not the unique traits that our Promised Land embodies. And definitely not the aliyah deal makers or breakers.
Let us all reconnect to the Land God entrusted in His Chosen People. Let’s recognize its value. Let’s work on promoting aliyah as a RULE and not as an exception. Let’s accept the gift that God handed us, instead of rudely rejecting it for material comfort and American patriotism. We must internalize the Zionistic values we claim to believe in. And let’s stop prolonging the galut for no good reason.
(The sources quoted are taken from my father’s sefer – Eretz Yisrael in the Parasha.)