May 13, 2024
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May 13, 2024
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Yearning for Eretz Yisrael

It seems like an unfair request, almost cruel in a way …

As Am Yisrael stands at the border of Eretz Yisrael and begins to make final preparations for entering the land, God commands Moshe to go up to Har Ha’avarim and view Eretz Yisrael from a distance. Upon doing so, he should then prepare for his imminent passing — as he will not merit entry into the land due to his sin at Mei Meriva.

Why would God command Moshe to go up and see the land — isn’t that basically teasing him? Moshe’s entire life’s mission has been to lead the Jews into Israel — a dream that he did not merit to realize. Seeing the land and its beauty would only intensify his desire to enter and increase his sadness over the fact that he would not personally merit entry. Why would Hashem seemingly add salt to the wound by commanding him to glimpse the beauty of the land, and then deny his continued pleas to enter?

A number of answers are offered to this question — I would like to share with you an answer that I recently heard that deeply resonated with me:

Perhaps, Hashem’s request that Moshe view the land from afar was specifically intended to heighten Moshe’s yearning for Eretz Yisrael. The purpose of this experience, however, was not to increase Moshe’s pain. Instead, by amplifying Moshe’s yearning for Eretz Yisrael, Hashem sought to embed within Am Yisrael — as a whole — the significance and importance of “drishat tzion — of yearning for Eretz Yisrael.”

After 40 years of wilderness wandering, Am Yisrael were finally on the cusp of entering the land — and yet, perhaps, they didn’t fully appreciate what they were about to experience. It was expected; this next stage of their journey. By witnessing the intense yearning that Moshe had to enter the land, perhaps Am Yisrael would gain a greater appreciation for the journey upon which they were about to embark.

Moshe’s example, however, was meant to strike even further…

Thousands of years later, the Jewish people would be uprooted from the land, not knowing when they would return. Future generations would be challenged to preserve their individual and national desire to return to the land — to create strong and vibrant Jewish communities in the Diaspora while also keeping “drishat tzion” foremost on their consciousness. Throughout this journey, Moshe Rabbeinu would model for his people what it means for a Jew to long for Eretz Yisrael: “Maaseh avot siman lebanim.” By heightening Moshe’s yearning before his death, God urges future generations in exile to heighten their own yearning as well.

Moshe’s intense yearning and love for Eretz Yisrael, thus, serves as a model for us today — a yearning and a love that we must develop and cultivate within ourselves and our children, as well.

Lest I be misunderstood, this is not meant to be a simplistic message pushing aliyah. While aliyah is certainly a wonderful thing, I fully realize and appreciate that there are many valid and important reasons why a person may choose, or need to stay in chutz la’aretz. As an oleh myself, I am also well aware of the myriad of challenges that one may encounter when making aliyah. It is a decision that must be made thoughtfully and carefully.

Rather, “drishat tzion” is less about where a person lives, and more about a person’s mindset and mentality. A person can live in chutz la’aretz and display intense and profound drishat tzion — and a person could live in Eretz Yisrael, yet display a lack of drishat tzion, by failing to appreciate what is in front of their very eyes.

Yearning for Eretz Yisrael means reflecting deeply upon the tefillot we say three times a day- “V’yerushalayim ircha b’rachamim teshuv … — and to Jerusalem, Your city, with mercy You should return,” and “V’techezena eineinu b’shuvcha l’tzion b’rachamim, —And let our eyes bear witness as you return to Zion with mercy.” It means viewing the land of Israel and Medinat Yisrael as not simply a place to visit and vacation, but as home. It might be that one has another home as well, where he/she currently resides — but Eretz Yisrael is home as well.

And it also means having a deep longing and desire to — somehow and at some point — make Eretz Yisrael one’s permanent home as well. It may not happen for a long time — or perhaps not at all —for valid practical or personal reasons, but the dream and ambition should never die.

And for those of us privileged to live in Eretz Yisrael, it means moving beyond the day-to-day stresses of our lives, in order to truly appreciate the gift we have been given, and continually strive to make things better.

Drishat tzion should always be at the forefront of our consciousness.

And it should be prioritized as a value that we impart to our children as well. Our children should not view Eretz Yisrael as simply a vacation destination, or a place to learn about and sing about in school. It must be a place that they see as central to their religious worldview — a land that is ours, given to us by God and a land that we all strive to return to. It is our communal and national home. Whether we live in Eretz Yisrael or not, we must make discussions about the centrality of Eretz Yisrael, and the issues facing medinat Yisrael today, a part of the discourse in our homes. Of course, as with most things, our children will absorb these messages most profoundly and deeply, if they see them as foundational components in our own worldview as well.

As Rebbe Nachman famously said, “Kol makom she’ani holeich, ani holeich l’Eretz Yisrael —every place I go, I am going to the land of Israel.” This inspiring image sets the tone for each of us as a “doresh tzion,” wherever we may find ourselves. For some of us, the path to the land of Israel is direct and short — for others, it may be roundabout and take much longer. For even others, the journey may never be completed. But the common denominator between us all is a deep yearning and longing that defines our journey, and the destination. Thousands of years ago, God commanded Moshe Rabbeinu to ascend the mountain overlooking Eretz Yisrael, in order to intensify his drishat tzion. Generations later, we are tasked with keeping that same flame alive.

Wishing everyone a Shabbat Shalom!

Rav Yossi Goldin is the menahel tichon at Yeshivas Pe’er HaTorah, rebbe at Midreshet Tehilla, and placement advisor/internship coordinator for the YU/RIETS Kollel. He lives with his family in Shaalvim and can be reached at: [email protected].

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