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Thought for the Day: Unique Character of Eretz Yisrael and How To Have

One of my favorite digs at religions other than Torah Judaism, is that their mode of interacting with their god is all of their own making.  For example, there is one reasonably well known religion that celebrates the birth of their god by decorating trees, using fancy cups for fast food coffee, and having sales.  I am sure that a god's birthday is at least as important as a grandchild's, so as a grandparent I certainly understand the emotional desire to celebrate.  None the less, while it may perk up their god that people are thinking about him, you certainly cannot claim to be doing his will.  After all, they never even asked him if that would be a good idea.

The Kuzari king actually got started on his quest for Truth by a vision/dream he had that heaven was happy with his intentions, but not pleased with his actions.  The problem was precisely the issue presented above: You can't impose on anyone your idea of what you think they should want; certainly not your god; absolutely not G-d.  The first section of the Kuzari deals with the king's exploration of other religions and determining after much investigation that the only reasonable approach is Torah/Orthodox Judaism.  He and his entire nation therefore convert.

In the second section of the Kuzari, we find the king asking his rav questions to deepen his understanding of -- and thereby improve his behaviors regarding -- his newly adopted religion.  One of his first questions is: what's so special about Eretz Yisrael?  A pretty reasonable question from a nation that already has its own national boundaries, don't you think?

The rav explains that it is really not so surprising.  After all, there are some lands that are better for growing wheat than others, some that are better for growing grapes for wine than others; so too, there is a land which is better for connecting with G-d.  Fascinating!  The Kuzari essentially erases our perception that spirituality and physicality are two completely different concepts, never the twain shall meet.  Rather physicality/nature is one way that HaShem interacts with us, spirituality is another way.  Champagne and Cognac come from France because the soil and air there are best suited for those products.  Prophecy comes from Eretz Yisrael because the land and air is best suited for that product.

With this, we can understand the Chazal (K'subos 110b) that any Jew who lives outside of Eretz Yisrael is like someone who has no "eloka"/G-d.  Chazal are not saying it is as if you have abandoned HaShem, chas v'shalom; rather that the environment is not as conducive to connecting with G-d.  What would do you do if you live in Chicago and wanted grapes for wine?  You build a green house to create a little bit of the essential nature of France that is isolated from the Chicago environment.  What to you do if you live outside of Eretz Yisrael and want to connect with HaShem?  You build a beis medrash and create a little bit of the essential nature of Eretz Yisrael that is isolated from the the secular world.

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