Sharona Margolin Halickman

Appreciating Israel

Photo Courtesy Yehuda Halickman

The Talmud, Brachot 21a asks “From where in the Torah do we derive the obligation to recite Birkat HaMazon, the Grace After Meals?”

The answer is in Parshat Ekev, Dvarim 8:10:

You shall eat and be satisfied and bless your God for the good Land that He gave you.

Rabbi Shaul Yisraeli, who was one of the leading rabbis of religious Zionism taught (Eretz Chemda 1:1:15):

We find in the Torah an obligation to thank God for the Land of Israel in Birkat HaMazon…Thus, we are obligated to be grateful to God for giving us the Land as an inheritance. And one may infer the negative from the positive. Just as we are commanded to be grateful for the Land, we are forbidden to be ungrateful for it and to disregard God’s gift…

There has been a lot of talk recently by Israelis who are not happy with the political situation in Israel saying that they are looking to leave. They claim that they would rather “relocate” to another country.

Just as a person makes a choice to make aliya, go up to the Land of Israel, so too a person has a choice to make yerida, leave the Land of Israel. If that is what they want to do, then that is their choice. However, they are missing the point. Our connection to the Land goes much deeper than the political situation.

Every time that we eat bread, we are reminded of the Land of Israel and how we must appreciate it. Even when we eat a meal without bread, we conclude with the Bracha Me’ein Shalosh, the Three-Faceted Blessing known as Al HaMichya where we mention the “good and spacious Land…”

In addition, we face Jerusalem three times a day and pray for the Jewish people’s return to their homeland as well as prosperity, justice, the building of Jerusalem and peace.

The Land of Israel is a gift that must be appreciated. If someone does not appreciate the Land, then that is their loss.

Now that Israel is 75 years old and people are comfortable here, they are not conscious of the miracle of a Jewish state and they take it for granted. They forget what a sacrifice it was for people to make aliya and build up the Land.

Rabbi Shaul Yisraeli understood first hand how much of a blessing it was to immigrate to the Land of Israel. He was born in 1909 and he studied in underground Yeshivot in communist Russia. In 1933, after his requests for an exit visa from Russia were denied, he illegally crossed into Poland and was about to be sent back to the Russian authorities probably for a death sentence. Rav Avraham Yitzvhak HaKohen Kook and his son, Rav Tzvi Yehuda intervened and he was granted permission to immigrate to Eretz Yisrael.

Rabbi Yisraeli studied at Mercaz HaRav and then became Rabbi of the religious Zionist moshav Kfar HaRoeh where he helped combine the values of Torah and agriculture and was involved with practically applying the Mitzvot HaTluyot BaAretz, the Agricultural Mitzvot of the Land of Israel with life in Eretz Yisrael.

Today, it is so easy to fly in and out of Israel that many forget about the yearning that people had to come to the Land, the obstacles that they overcame and the drive that they had to build up the Land to make it a better place.

If someone chooses to be ungrateful for the Land, then nobody is forcing them to stay. If they can get permission to get into another country and find work there then that is their choice. But from my experience knowing Israelis living abroad, you can take an Israeli out of Israel but you can’t take Israel out of an Israeli.

About the Author
Sharona holds a BA in Judaic Studies from Stern College and an MS in Jewish Education from Azrieli Graduate School, Yeshiva University. Sharona was the first Congregational Intern and Madricha Ruchanit at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, NY. After making aliya in 2004, Sharona founded Torat Reva Yerushalayim, a non profit organization based in Jerusalem which provides Torah study groups for students of all ages and backgrounds.
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