Thursday, July 2, 2009

Arutz 7 – The Next Best Thing to Being There

by Tzvi Fishman

Yesterday, we saw that a Jew can only achieve optimum spiritual and mental health in the Land of Israel, though the higher attachment to Clal Yisrael and to Hashem that the Land of Israel affords.

In the continuation of his essay, Rabbi Kook explains:

"Revelations of holiness, on whatever level, are clean in Eretz Yisrael, according to their value; while outside the Land of Israel, they are mixed with abundant dross and Kleipot."

In an earlier essay in the book, “Orot,” Rabbi Kook explains that there exists a general universal kedusha (holiness) outside the Land of Israel which sustains the rest of the world (“Orot,” 1:3). The environment there, however, is spiritually polluted, and even halachically impure (Shabbat 14B; Nazir 54B, Tosefot beginning, “Eretz…”).

Someone on a high spiritual level can actually experience the spiritual pollution as well.

When kedusha (holiness) descends into the world in Chutz L'Aretz (outside the Land of Israel) it is immediately attacked by the impure “kleipot” and forces of evil which reign there. The Hebrew word סיגים which Rabbi Kook uses, refers to the dross that forms on the surface of molten metal. “Kleipot” is a Kabbalistic concept, translated as shells or husks. It refers to shells of impurity and evil which surround and imprison sparks of exiled holiness. The nations of the world are the “kleipot” of the Nation of Israel, just as “Chutz L'Aretz” is the kleipah of Eretz Yisrael. “Kleipot” such as the lower celestial beings which Hashem has set to rule over the gentile nations create barriers to holiness. Forces of evil are given free reign, creating the impure cultures, religions, and governments which dominate world history.

America's stars - Spiritual and moral pollution

For example, what is the cultural world of America? Mickey Mouse, George Washington, Billy Graham, baseball, Christmas trees, Barbie dolls, comic books, Hollywood, Wall Street, slam dunks, marijuana, abortions, and Aids. Where is there holiness? Where is there something Jewish?

Outside of the Land of Israel, holiness is mixed up with polluted forces. The result is mixed dating, mixed marriages, and a mixed-up orientation to Torah. The Gemara says that because a Torah scholar in Chutz L'Aretz lives in a place of darkness, he speaks dark confused words (Pesachim 34B). In the Diaspora, one cannot be sure whether inspiration is true or false. For this reason, the Gaon of Vilna refused to receive the celestial messengers who visited him. Divine emanations outside the Land of Israel are polluted, not because they descend in that manner from heaven, but because they become contaminated upon contact with the dross and kleipot in the air of the nations. And even if they were to be pure, the thinking and imaginative faculties of a Jew in Chutz L'Aretz are not pure enough to receive them. Thus, Avraham Avinu is commanded to leave Haran and journey to Eretz Yisrael; Moshe Rabainu is commanded to bring the Jews up from Egypt to the Promised Land; and the celestial “Magid” tells the “Beit Yosef” to go to the Holy Land before their Divine conversation can continue, as we saw in yesterday’s blog.

"However, according to the magnitude of an individual's yearning for and connection to Eretz Yisrael, his contemplations become clear due to the foundation of the air of Eretz Yisrael which hovers over everyone who desires to see her."

What is "the foundation of the air of Eretz Yisrael which hovers over everyone who desires to see her"? This is a concept which Rabbi Kook explains in greater depth in essay six of “Orot.” The special "air of Eretz Yisrael" refers to a Gemara which states that "the air in Eretz Yisrael causes wisdom" (Baba Batra 158B). Not only is the Land of Israel holy - the air is holy too. The atmosphere of Israel is pure, without the polluted kleipot and polluted husks of the galut (exile). In Eretz Yisrael, the connection between the individual Jew and Hashem is direct, as the Torah testifies: "The eyes of the Lord are upon it from the beginning of the year till the end" (Devarim, 11:12). The purity of this direct attachment brings wisdom. And the beginning of this wisdom is to understand that life outside of the Land of Israel is detrimental to the spiritual health of a Jew.

One might wonder - if the air in Israel grants wisdom, why are not all Israelis bursting with Torah? Mainly because the Redemption of the Jewish People from the political, cultural, mental, and spiritual bondage of 2000 years of exile amongst the gentiles is a slow, gradual process requiring patience and diligent work. We should remember that in the days of Ezra, the return of the Jews to Israel was plagued with intermarriage and spiritual decline (Ezra, 9:1-2). Only gradually did the returning exiles form into a flourishing Torah society. As the prophecy of Redemption in the book of Ezekiel implies, the spiritual cleansing from the impurities of galut is a process of T’shuva (repentance) which can take generations to complete (Ezekiel, 36: 24-28).

However, one should not underestimate the wisdom of Israel's population, even today. Not only is Israel the Torah center of the world, every ordinary citizen comprehends that the Jewish People need their own sovereign nation and Land. This national awareness is a great understanding. It is a wisdom which elevates a man above his private life to the recognition that he is more than his passing, individual existence, who lives to satisfy his personal pleasures and wants. For this reason, even people on the extreme political left in Israel are prepared to give their lives defending the country.

The wisdom which the air of Israel affords is not only limited to the Jews who live in Israel, but, as Rabbi Kook tells us, it "hovers over everyone who yearns to see her." You do not have to be in Israel to be graced by its wisdom. Every Jew who yearns to live there has a share in its secret treasures (Ketubot 75A, beginning, “But of Zion…” see Rashi there). By yearning to be united with the soil of Eretz Yisrael, a person attaches himself to the soul of Clal Yisrael (the entire community of Israel), and is uplifted in its magnified light. In his or her attachment to the Land, he is freed from all kleipot and lower celestial forces. His soul ceases to be a private Diaspora soul and is transformed into the transcending, Divine soul of the Nation.

Next best thing to being there

The meaning of yearning to see Eretz Yisrael is when a person truly longs to be there. If a Jew prays in the morning for the ingathering of the exiles, and does not think about Israel again until the next time he opens a prayer book, chances are that he is not really yearning (Kuzari, 2:24). If, on the other hand, his desire to live in Israel is an active, constant passion that he would act on if he could, then he merits to share in the Land's special blessings.

This is certainly true of many INN readers who click on every day to see what is happening in Israel. Their bodies are physically in exile, but their minds are bathing electronically in the air of Jerusalem.

Rabbi Kook tells us that the ability to share in the wisdom of Eretz Yisrael "hovers" over everyone who yearns to see her. The word "hovers" denotes something of a temporary nature, something which lacks permanence, something which comes and goes. A lifeline to Eretz Yisrael exists in galut, but it is not as permanent and lasting as being in Israel itself.

Once, as a youth, Rabbi Kook was asked how he enjoyed learning in the famous Volozhin Yeshiva in Russia, under the tutelage of the “Netziv,” author of the "Emek Davar."

"It is like being in Eretz Yisrael," Rabbi Kook answered. It is "like" being in Eretz Yisrael, because of the Rosh Yeshiva's ardent love for the Land of Israel - but it is not the real thing.

Rabbi Kook ends his essay with a verse from the prophet Isaiah:

"Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all you who love her" (Isaiah, 66:10).

Rejoice over Jerusalem....

Jerusalem is the meeting point between heaven and earth. It is the place of the Shekhina (the Divine Presence), and the eternal capital of Clal Yisrael. Not only those who reside in Jerusalem are able to experience her joy, but also all those who love her and seek her well-being with all of their hearts. The Jew who mourns over the destruction of Jerusalem, and over the exile of the nation from Eretz Yisrael, is the one who can participate in her great joy when her banished children return (Taanit 30B).

Thus, if a Jew longs to be closer to G-d; if he wants to be faithful to his thoughts, his talents, his creativity, and full spiritual potential, the place to live is the Land of Israel, at home, ever close to Jerusalem, in the holy Land, absorbing the holy air of our Forefathers, rooted in the higher, Divine life of the Clal.