Shabbat Parashat Shemini| 5767
From the works of Hagaon Harav Shaul Yisraeli zt”l - The Torah of Eretz Israel - A Yahrtzeit Address for Harav A.Y. Kook z.t.l. - From Dabar L’dor pp. 37-39
We learn of the influence of a place on Torah and decisions of halacha from the pasuk: “Should something be unknown to you in a matter of judgment between blood and blood … matters of dispute in your gateways, you shall get up and come to the place that Hashem will choose” (Devarim 17:8). The scholarship of Eretz Yisrael (=EY) is referred to as: “The gold of the land is good” (Bereishit Rabba 16); Bavel’s is called: “In the darkness” (Sanhedrin 24a). EY’s scholars are called “pleasantness” and Bavel’s are described as “damagers.”
These descriptions are not meant to denigrate the scholars of Bavel, whom we cherish so much. Rather, they demonstrate how the “spring” from which Torah’s light and power are drawn differs from place to place. Each power has a place where it is dominant over other powers. For example, idol worship’s place is outside Israel (see the story of the Kuttites - Melachim II, 17), because the content of idol worship is to see matters in a disjoint manner. Similarly, in the Diaspora, one learns even Torah in a manner of negation. The gemara (ibid.) describes how one scholar would present an idea and another would reject it. So too, the Diaspora was the setting for the major, factional disputes between Hasidism and the Mitnagdim, the Mussar movement and its detractors, and the “combatants” over Zionism.
EY has the power to implant a foundation of unity in people’s hearts, which enables them to see a full picture. In that way, one who sees a very different approach does not instinctively deny it totally but can see the positive and extract a fitting use from it. Chazal learn the praise of EY, “there is nothing missing in it,” that it has peppers (Berachot 36b). The significance of peppers is that it is not an independent food but is used to enhance other foods. This is characteristic of EY.
This may be why authentic semicha is only in EY, for Sanhedrin rules based on the majority opinion after all have considered everyone’s opinions, a trait which is more prevalent in EY. Elsewhere, the minority does not fully hear and accept the majority’s view and cannot articulate its view to the majority. This inability to accept another’s view is hinted at by, “matters of dispute in your gateways” and is symptomatic of the Diaspora’s atmosphere. Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel disagreed but maintained peace and brotherhood between them. When the Torah tells one with an unsolved question to go up to the place that Hashem chooses, it is assuring that in that place there is a foundation of mutual respect which allows the proper spirit for resolving the dispute.
Rav Kook represented in our generation the Torah of EY. He had broad knowledge of all elements of Jewish scholarship throughout the generations. He digested vast knowledge with an approach of integration, not negation of others’ views. This does not happen simply by entering the Land; one must prepare. R. Zeira fasted 100 fasts to forget the Torah of the Diaspora and accept the Torah of EY (Bava Metzia 85a).
“He gives a soul to the nation on it [the Land]” (Yeshaya 42:5). One has to ready himself to receive the “extra soul,” which is available in EY and also on Shabbat. Its content is to take the physical, which the soul usually rejects and can only be used by the body (see Rashi, Beitza 16a). It enables the spiritual to find spirituality in the physical. In the Diaspora, Jews survive by stressing the spiritual at the expense of the physical. A Jewish child is not encouraged to strengthen his body. In EY, one can develop the body in a way that it complements his spirituality.
Rav Kook was able to include all of the elements of Klal Yisrael, even the “peppers.” Even that which does not have independent value can add flavor to the “pot.” We should learn from him to treat everyone with the respect and to have a connection with the broad experiences of life in Israel and to infuse them with the fragrance of Torah.
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