Shabbat Parashat Terumah| 5764
From the works of Hagaon Harav Shaul Yisraeli zt”l - The Sanctity of Eretz Israel - Part II - From Perakim B’Machshevet Yisrael, pg. 402
[We saw last time that there are two elements to the sanctity of Eretz Yisrael: the revealed, halachic element and the sublime, spiritual one. Some Jewish thinkers have stressed one, while others have stressed the other.]
Eretz Yisrael also has a spiritual, healing element. R. Yehuda Halevi says that we should look at the cessation of prophecy during the Second Temple period as a punishment for the insufficient response of the Babylonian exiles to return to Eretz Yisrael at that time. In kind, the future, final redemption must be preceded by the nation reawakening to return to its land. Only then will the nation be able to return to its spiritual health, using the Land’s curing powers.
The two approaches to the sanctity of the Land have found expression in regard to the modern phenomenon of the Return to Zion. Some put the stress on the practical mitzvot of the Land and the ability to reach clear, spiritual heights in Eretz Yisrael. This applies to a small cadre of holy people or, at most, those who will properly keep the mitzvot. Being in Eretz Yisrael, they felt, is spiritually dangerous for those who don’t carefully keep all mitzvot, those who are overly involved in the mundane elements of the life on the Land, and certainly those who use it as a stage for actual violations. Therefore, there were those great rabbis who opposed the modern Zionist movement.
Other Torah giants took R. Yehuda Halevi’s positive approach to the nation’s renewed attraction to Eretz Yisrael, even when motivated, in part, by external factors [like global anti-Semitism] and by segments of the Jewish people who were far from a spiritual life. They saw the situation surrounding the modern Zionist movement as a revelation of Divine Providence to begin a slow process of connection to the Land, which would bring on a flow of spirituality that will cause a return to Hashem.
With this outlook, Rav Kook z.t.l. felt an obligation to encourage aliyah from all groups and to deal with those who lagged behind spiritually with care and sensitivity. One must be realistic in his demands on those stragglers and calmly explain to them the special essence of Bnei Yisrael. When “secular,” agricultural settlements would be neighbored by religious ones, living examples of proper use of the Land, matters would improve sooner or later.
Some continue to oppose Rav Kook’s approach and point to the deterioration of the secular element of society as proof that he erred. However, they ignore two important points. Firstly, the religious community did not, to a great extent, answer the call to cooperate with the movement to return to Zion, and thus missed the opportunity to breathe life into those elements of our people. Secondly, it is still too early to judge the full outcome of the unfolding historical processes. It is not unrealistic to hope that the sparks of resurrection and increased soul-searching of much of the nation will turn into a powerful force which will march the nation toward renewing the covenant with its G-d, the G-d of the World and the G-d of the Land.
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