Skip to main content

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.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Battling the Evil Inclination on all Fronts

Yom Kippur.  When I was growing up, there were three annual events that marked the Jewish calendar: eating matzos on Passover, lighting candles on Chanuka, and  fasting on Yom Kippur.  Major news organizations around the world report on the "surreal" and "eerie" quiet of the streets in even the most secular neighborhoods of Israel.  Yom Kippur.

As you know, I am observant of Jewish law.  Some have even called me "ultra orthodox" (not in a kind way).  Given that, I have a question.  How likely do you think that I would be tempted to eat on Yom Kippur, that most holy day of the year?  Let's make the scale zero to ten, where zero is "as likely as driving through McDonald's on Shabbos and ordering a Big Mac with extra cheese." and ten is "as likely as breathing regularly".  Take your time.  If you answered "zero"; thank you, but -- sadly and penitently -- no.  The answer is more like nine; I'd like to say lower, but i…

Thought for the Day: Using a Mitzvah Object for Non-Mitzvah Purposes

As I am -- Baruch HaShem -- getting older, I am more cognizant of the fact that I'd like to stay as healthy as possible right up the moment I leave this world.  Stuff hurting is not the problem (I am told there is an old Russian saying that once you are 40, if you wake up and nothing hurts -- you're dead), stuff not working, however, is a problem.  To that end, for several years now I commute to work by bicycle (weather permitting, 30 minutes on an elliptical machine when weather does not permit).  I recently took up some upper body weight training.  Not because I want to be governor of California, just simply to slow down loss of bone mass and extend my body's healthy span.  Simple hishtadlus.  I have an 18 month old grandson who is just the right weight for arm curls (yes... I am that weak), so I do about 10 reps when I greet him at night.  He laughs, I get my exercise; all good.  (Main problem is explaining to the older ones why zeidy can't give them the same "…

Thought for the Day: Coming Into This World for Torah, Avodah, and Acts of Loving Kindness

This TftD is so self-serving that I should be embarrassed.  But I am not... talking about grandchildren is always off budget.  I have, bli ayin hara, a beautiful new grandson; born at 6:11 PM CDT last Friday night.  The secular (aka -- by me, anyway -- slave) date is October 20, 2017 CE.  The Hebrew (aka Real) date is certainly Rosh Chodesh חשון/Cheshvan and certainly in the year 5778 since Creation.  The date, you ask... good question!

Sundown on Friday night was 6:01 PM CDT, which means he was born either at the end of the last day of תשרי or the beginning of the first day of Cheshvan; a period know as בין השמשות/twilight.  What's the big deal, you ask... I am so glad you asked.  We all deal quite handily with בין השמשות every week and every holiday; we're just stringent.  We start Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov before בין השמשות; that is, before sundown.  Likewise, we end Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov after בין השמשות; some 42, 50, 60, or 72 minutes after sundo…