Parshat Chayei Sarah

When I look at the Torah as a whole, I come to ask the question, “Why if the Land of Israel plays such a vital role in the Torah, do so many Jews live in Galut today?” To find the answer I looked towards this week’s Parsha. In Chayei Sarah we read about Avraham’s purchase of a plot of land to bury Sarah. We go through a significant amount of trouble to learn that Avraham is burying Sarah. We are told about every detail of the transaction. From the exact location of the burial plot to the exact amount of money Avraham paid and from whom he bought it. Why couldn’t the Torah just say “And Avraham buried Sarah in Chevron”? The Midrash in Breishit Rabbah gives answer to the question, saying, “there are three places about which the nations of the world cannot argue or taunt the Jews and say ‘You stole them’. These are the Me’arat HaMachpeilah, Har HaBayit, and Kever Yosef in Shechem.” These places are listed as such, because they were undisputedly bought by our ancestor and meticulously recorded in the pages of history. Ma’arat HaMachpeilah by Avraham, Kever Yosef by Yaakov, and Har HaBayit by David HaMelech. Each one of these accounts is recorded in extreme detail so as to prevent any disputes about our land. The Iban Ezra provides us with another interesting answer which I think is useful to note. He writes that “Here we are informed of the supremacy of Eretz Yisrael over all other lands.”

To try and understand my original question about the Jews of Galut I looked at an idea brought to us in Mesechet Brachot Daf Hey Amud Alef. It says, “Rebbe Shimon Bar Yochai says, HaShem gave three gifts to Yisrael and he gave them only through suffering, they are: Torah, Eretz Yisrael, and the World to Come. Here we see that HaShem wanted to teach us that Eretz Yisrael is only acquired through suffering. What led me to this is the fact that we learn how our father Avraham acquired the first plot of land in Eretz Yisrael. We see the beginning of Hashem’s promise to Avraham being fulfilled. Avraham, suffering the loss of his wife goes out a buys a plot of land to bury her. Through this suffering he sets his roots into the land. What I mean by roots, is that we may live on a land but one of the only true ways to possess it is through our burial plots. They are a permanent reminder to us and others that this land is ours. Thus we can learn from Avraham, that only through suffering, can we merit Eretz Yisrael.

Why must it be this way? Why must we suffer to get our land? The answer is that Hashem wants us to live in Eretz Yisrael in order for us to get closer to him, in order to live a more meaningful and spiritual life and because it is a mitzvah. That is why the three most important gifts he gives us, the three most important gifts that would make us closer to Hashem come through suffering.

In my opinion, the failure to recognize this fundamental truth about Aliyah is the main reason why so many Jews still life in Galut. What we need to understand is that this is simply the way it must be. No Beit HaMikdash will just drop from the sky. We have to struggle, to truly want, and to sacrifice before we will finally have our redemption. It is on our shoulders. We must understand that in the long run it is for our own benefit. The hardships eventually subside, and pave the way to true happiness and fulfillment.

We the Jews of Galut are running out of excuses for why we are not already on the plane making Aliyah. I believe that our lives here have gotten too comfortable. We have lost sight of what is truly important, getting closer with Hashem. However, I know that we are not too lost. When we, as a nation were hurting the most this summer, we as Am Yisrael, came together for our brothers and sisters in Eretz Yisrael. I saw with my own two eyes how we stood as one nation this summer and said “Am Yisrael Chai” to those who want to annihilate us. Chevre, we are not too far gone.

Rav Kook writes in his sefer, Orot, that Eretz Yisrael is not something external, not an external national asset. It is not as many Jews take it, a means to an end of collective solidarity. It is not just a country or a government and it is not just a symbol to be used shuls, JCCs and schools across the U.S. to fuel their false façade of national unity. While all these things are good, that is not the essence of Eretz Yisrael. Rav Kook explains to us Iban Ezra’s statement of Eretz Yisrael’s supremacy. He writes, Eretz Yisrael is an essential unit bound by the bond of life to The People. The true essence of Eretz Yisrael is impossible to appreciate and actualize the depth of love for Her by some rational understanding and logic. He comes to teach us that it is not something we can explain. It is not the government, or the people or the land. There is a spiritual element of Eretz Yisrael that is bound to every Jew’s soul. We yern to be closer to Hashem and his presence is most concentrated in Eretz Yisrael. As is says in Bereshit, “And Yaakov awoke from his sleep and he said, “Indeed, Hashem is in this place… and this is the gate to heaven.”

So, let us not be the generation that misses the fact that we are currently in the times of Mashiach and the beginning of our redemption. In Eim Habanim S’meicha, Rav Shlomo Teichtal writes as he is running for his life during World War II, “Now, in recent years, thousands and tens of thousands of our Jewish brethren have flowed into Eretz Yisrael from all corners of the Diaspora. This is certainly a sign of the beginning of the redemption… The wars of recent times are also a sign of redemption. There have been constant suffering ever since the outbreak of this war… this coincides with the Kabbalist’s description of the time of redemption and is exactly what has happened today. Therefore, this is a great sign that we are close to our redemption…..” Europe is no longer safe and it is only a matter of time until America follows suit. In Galut, we may die defending our religion, however, in Eretz Yisrael we will defend not only our religion but also our Home. Shabbat Shalom

About the Author
Eliyahu recently graduated the University of Maryland and made Aliyah in August 2015.
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