The Essential Return to Holiness
On numerous occasions, God has knocked on the door of Knesset Yisrael to arouse us to return to our Land. If only we had heeded the call of the Gaon from Vilna and his students, who knows how many pogroms and disasters could have been averted? If the masses of Jews who stood facing an abyss of unspeakable persecution and murder had followed the urging of visionaries like the holy Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook, and the political leader, Ze’ev Jabotinsky, who knows how many lives could have been saved? Additionally, the Nation’s connection to the Torah and mitzvot would have remained stronger, for multitudes of Jews would have witnessed how, through the merit of the Torah and its call for a national return to the Jewish homeland, multitudes would have been saved from the horrific persecutions which followed.
The abandonment of the Torah largely stems from the feeling that its adherents are remnants of the past. The entire world is busy building new technologies and innovations, while Judaism seems concerned with mere survival, under increasingly harsh conditions. If only we had dedicated ourselves in redeveloping the Nation in Eretz Yisrael, in line with the grand vision of the In-gathering of the Exiles, then the resettlement of the Land, in accordance with the words of the Prophets, would have filled people’s hearts with wonder and brought drifters back to the fold. All of the talented Jews, who went astray and gave their potency to foreign nations in the fields of science, culture, politics, economics, and art, not to mention marrying out of the fold, would have invested their energies here in the Land of Israel, for the sake of their own Jewish Nation and homeland. The Jewish State would have been established earlier — not due to trials and tribulations, but through allegiance to the Divine instructions of the Torah and the vision of the Prophets. Even the conflict with the Arab population would have been negligible, for had we arrived to the Land in overwhelming numbers, the whole situation of Arab immigration to “Palestine,” which has taken place over the last few generations, would have been forestalled.
After the aliyah (immigration to Israel) of the students of the Gaon from Vilna, the Jews of the Diaspora had a number of occasions to seize the opportunity. While there were those who came, the vast majority tragically remained in galut (exile). Only after the Holocaust did greater numbers awaken to the call of settling the Land. In response, the long-barren wastelands of Eretz Yisrael awakened to those who returned to her, and as if magically, yielded her fruits abundantly to her children who came back from afar.
History has proven that those who were active in the settlement and rebuilding of the Land of Israel over the last few generations, whether religious or not, participated in a miraculous renaissance of the Nation and the Land. From the Heavens, it became increasingly clear that the time had come to return to the Land. The State of Israel flourished in unprecedented ways, while assimilation in the galut swelled to staggering proportions. Many of those who pioneered in the building of Eretz Yisrael merited distinction, despite the fact that they did not always act for the sake of Heaven, and occasionally even placed their pioneering Zionism in conflict with the Torah’s goals for the Nation. As time passed, the words of the prophet, which the Vilna Gaon and his students would constantly mention, became ever more true: “For in the mountain of Zion and Jerusalem there will be a refuge” (Joel 3:5).
Nevertheless, the merit of this precious mitzvah is not eternal. Without faith in God, and adherence to the Torah and mitzvot, we cannot continue to settle the Land with proper holiness and devotion, and calamities are liable to occur. Our teacher, Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah HaCohen Kook, related that on numerous occasions he heard his father, Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook, weep and say, “I fear the words of our Sages are coming to pass concerning the three generations before the coming of the Redeemer, about which it is written, ‘You have grown fat; you have become heavy; you are covered with flesh.’ This implies that due to a lack of devotion to holiness, the spirit of defilement and corruption increasingly grows, and consequently, the calamities of ‘the birth pangs of Mashiach’ come to pass.”
Our prayer is that we be able to return to the holy, Divine Torah command of settling the Land, as was the goal of the Gaon from Vilna, his students, and their disciples, and dedicate ourselves to building the State of Israel in the light of the Torah and its teachings, and thereby merit the final and complete Redemption, speedily in our days. Amen.