The Torah reading for this week introduces the idea of the special relationship between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel. Abraham is commanded by G-d to leave his former home, his father’s house, to go to the unique land that has inherent holiness.
Rabbi Moshe Alshich, in his commentary, describes how Abraham is told that in this land, he will be transformed into a new personality. In Israel only, will he thrive. The Shechina, or Divine Presence, rests only in Israel. Abraham is told that qualitatively he is not the same person in Israel as he was outside of the land.
It was in Israel that Abraham made a covenant with G-d that this land was promised to the Jewish people. He was also promised that the Jewish people would live forever. It all began in the merit of Abraham and his intense faith.
This was also the beginning of the special role that the Jewish people were to have in the world. We were to teach about monotheism and how to act in a kind and just way. Because Abraham personified these qualities, he is told, “Those who bless you will be blessed and those who curse you will be cursed.
As Abraham travels throughout the land, he senses that this is not like any place on earth. The Rabbis say, “the air of the Land of Israel makes one wise.” One is able to reach his complete spiritual potential in Eretz Yisrael. For this reason, there is a natural yearning to connect to this land.
So many people describe their first visit to Israel. It is often difficult to put their feelings into words. They know in their souls that they are in a place that arouses emotions that they never felt before. For many, there is an instant feeling that, “I am home.”
The first Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, wrote a great deal about this passionate connection between the Jew and the Land of Israel. He went as far as saying that one who does not see and feel this special attachment, has only a superficial understanding of Judaism.
The time when the Jewish people have flourished and will again flourish, is when they are all living in Israel. There was such a period during the reign of King Solomon. There was peace, holiness, and Israel was fulfilling its role of being a “light unto the nations.” This is what we pray for when we ask to return to the “days of old.” It all began with our Father Abraham. He was introduced to the dream of his children returning and living peacefully in our land. May this dream be realized speedily in our days.