Optimal Environment – Appreciating Eretz Yisrael: Holy Land, Holy People #3

18 06 2012

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Mrs. Shoshie Nissenbaum

The Arizal taught that the place where one lives has a spiritual effect. A society builds its unique aspects based on the physical place where it is located. This in turn influences the nation on a spiritual level. Chazal tell us that each land has an officer in heaven that guards it. The officer of Eretz Yisrael is Hashem himself. A Jew who lives in Israel receives his spiritual nourishment directly from Hashem. One who leaves the land is like a fetus straining the cord to move far away from its mother.

Every year when the parsha of Pinchas was read, the Lev Simcha would emphasize the greatness of the parsha, which describes the settling of the tribes in Israel and the different portions of the land that were given to each shevet. Zevulun was allocated territory near Haifa. Yehuda received the area of Yerushalayim and to the south and west. Each tribe received the portion of land that would bring them closest to Hashem.

The Baal Haturim quotes the Sifri, which says that Hashem showed Moshe all of Israel, the tunnels, the caves, and the buried treasures of silver and gold. Why did Hedo this? On a simple level it was to assure Moshe that He would fulfill the promise He made to the Jews to give them a bountiful land. But there’s a deeper explanation. When the Torah mentions treasures it refers to the heart of Eretz Yisrael. Kesef, silver, comes from the root word kisufim – longing. The treasure hidden in Israel is the yearning to serve Hashem.

The Shla Hakadosh wrote that a Jew should have an innate love for Israel and a deep desire to settle there just as a child longs to sit in his mother’s lap. Tisha B’av was given to us because we didn’t appreciate the land. The Jews rejected eretz chemda, the land of desire. The tikun (rectification) is to long for Eretz Yisrael with all our soul. “Ki ratzu avadecha et avaneha.” For your servants desired her stones. To appreciate the land one must yearn to kiss its dust.

Sefer Otzar Hayirah states, all the holiness of Klal Yisrael is in Eretz Yisrael. When a person purifies himself, it is as if he conquers a portion of the land. The evil inclination tells us, “Listim atem,” you are thieves. Israel doesn’t belong to you. Spirituality is beyond your grasp. You can never achieve perfection. Therefore, Hashem begins the Torah with Bereisheet and Rashi says, “The strengths of his deeds he told his nation.” Hashem assured us that the land would be given to us. Israel, and its associated spirituality, is our destiny.

Bilam, Balak, and Amalek attacked the Jews at great personal risk. They knew that if klal yisrael would come into Eretz Yisrael and keep the mitzvot haelyut b’aretz (commandments connected to the land), they would radiate holiness to the whole world, which would affect them too. Therefore, they risked their safety to prevent it.

A person who succeeds in coming to Israel, the source of holiness, has achieved victory over the yetzer hara. He accomplishes this through brazenness and stubbornness. The Shulchan Aruch says a person must be bold to serve Hashem. The Almighty has tremendous joy in us when we stand strong and don’t let anything move us away from sanctity.

The verse in Tehillim says, “Yerushalayim harim saviv la.” Yerushalayim is surrounded by hills. There are constant ups and downs. “V’Hashem saviv l’amo.” Hashem encircles us. He gives us the strength to overcome all obstacles.

Optimal Environment: Appreciating Eretz Yisrael

21 01 2011

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Mrs. Shoshie Nissenbaum

Optimal Environment: Appreciating EretzYisrael Class #1

The first verse in the Torah is, “Bereishet bara Elokim. In the beginning, Hashem created heaven and earth.” Rashi explains bereishit to mean, bishvil reishit. The purpose of creation was Torah and KlalYisrael, who are reishit. He further adds that Hashem specifically began with the story of creation rather than with the first mitzva of kiddush hachodesh to emphasize that Hashem is Master of the world and that the Jews have full rights to Eretz Yisrael. The Torah immediately explores our connection to the land to teach us that we need Eretz Yisrael to fulfill our destiny of being reishit.

Why does the land of Israel play such a critical part in our ultimate purpose? In Parshat Shelach, when the spies returned from their mission, they reported, “Eretz ochelet yoshveha.” It is a land that consumes its inhabitants. The spies noticed many funerals while they were there. Hashem made the natives die so that they would be busy burying their dead and not notice the spies. Why the strange word ochelet? Would it not have been more appropriate to use the term horeget, to kill? The Zohar explains that just as everything a person eats becomes absorbed into his essence, one who enters Eretz Yisrael is immediately transformed and becomes a part of the land itself. Eretz Yisrael changes a person, and the spies were afraid of this. One who ascends to the holy land exchanges his soul for a higher soul. Living on a more elevated plane lends itself to achieving loftier goals. And just as the digestive process involves chewing and breaking down food, attaching oneself to the land involves suffering and hardship.

Hashem commanded Avraham, “Lech lecha m’artzecha, m’moladetcha. Go from your land, from your birthplace.” Rav Nosson explains that to a certain extent everyone feels bound by their physicality. Hashem tells us, go inside yourself, see how you can live without the materialism that holds your soul in its grip. Similarly, people are branded by the society they live in. When the holiness of the land consumes a person, he is given wings to fly. New vistas open up, enabling him to come closer to Hashem. Hashem tells Avraham to go the land “asher araeka, that I will show you.” When we go to the Land, Hashem will show us how great we can become, what latent potential is hiding within us waiting to be developed.

The Sefer Hayirah writes that one who wants to ascend to the land needs azut d’kedusha and akshanut gadol, boldness, bravery, and great determination. This desire to grow, of never being complacent, can be drawn mainly from Eretz Yisrael. The entire avoda of a Jew is dependent on this. Indeed, the first halacha in Shulchan Aruch is, “Be bold as a leopard…to do the will of Hashem.” The Orchot Tzaddikim writes in Shaar Haratzon that the people who will merit to sit next to Avraham in the World To Come will be those with the iron will to come close to Hashem. Eretz Yisrael gives us this power of desire.

The Midrash says that when Sarah was taken to Pharoh, she cried that Avraham came to the land with the promise that he would grow into a great nation, while she only came with the strength of emuna. Immediately, Hashem sent an angel to strike Pharoh ten times. Later Hashem struck the Egyptians with the ten plagues. As Sara left the king’s house, the Jews eventually left Egypt. This is the meaning of the statement, “In the merit of righteous women our forefathers were redeemed, and in their merit we will be redeemed.”

Mashiach will come in the zechut of emuna. Indeed Tehillim tells us, “Trust in Hashem and do good, dwell in the land and live emuna.” Just as every seed has the potential to grow, every Jew has the power to come close to Hashem. And just as all vegetation needs the right sunshine, soil, and climate to flourish, the Jewish people need Eretz Yisrael to blossom and bring out their hidden strengths. There is no greater place for a Jew to grow than in the holy land. The mitzva of challa connects all Jews to the land. It is the only mitzva of the seven gifts given to the kohanim that is practiced outside Eretz Yisrael. At the moment of separating the dough, you can mentally bring yourself to Eretz Yisrael and pray to be zoche to come back again.

May we merit to live the verse, “Shechon eretz u’reah emuna..,” to dwell in the land with true emuna.