The Land of Israel is Indivisible

The most unbelievable example of Avraham’s loyalty to the Kadosh Barukh Hu is universally understood to be the episode of the Akeidah. Here Avraham is commanded to bring his son Yitzḥak to the future Temple Mount and slaughter him there as an offering to HaShem. It is difficult to imagine a person prepared to sacrifice the son for whom he had waited his entire life. But it is precisely here that we clearly see the Hebrew patriarch submit his entire will to his love for – and dedication to – HaShem’s Ideal for this world.

Our Sages question, however, why the Kadosh Barukh Hu would even command the Hebrew patriarch to perform such an act – an act that would not only cost Avraham his son but also undermine the message he had been promoting for decades. In a society rife with idolaters sacrificing children to false gods, the repudiation of child sacrifice was central to the Hebrew creed. Why was it necessary for HaShem to put His most loyal and passionate servant through such a painful test?

With the Akeidah, Avraham performed a profound act of tshuva m’ahava(return/atonement from love). This tshuva was necessary for his transgression of forging a covenant with King Avimelekh of Grar. In that treaty, Avraham had agreed to cede portions of Eretz Yisrael to a foreign people in exchange for a number of generations free from conflict.

“And it happened after these things that G-D tested Avraham and said to him, ‘Avraham,’ and he replied, ‘Here I am.’” (BEREISHIT 22:1)

According to the Rashbam, the phrase “after these things” refers to the events of the previous verses. Avraham’s agreement with Avimelekh was in opposition to HaShem’s plan because the Land of Israel had been specifically designed for Avraham’s offspring, who would later be commanded to free it from foreign rule. The descendants of Avimelekh would ultimately use Avraham’s treaty in order to thwart the Hebrew Nation’s conquest of Eretz Yisrael (see Rashi on SHMUEL II 5:6). Therefore, the Kadosh Barukh Hu aggrieved our patriarch (rendering nisa as “aggrieved” instead of “tested”) with so distressing a trial as if to say “You became haughty because I gave you a son, and you went so far as to make a treaty between your descendants and theirs. Now sacrifice that son and see what value your treaty will have.”

In Mesillat Yesharim, Rabbi Moshe Ḥaim Lutzatto concurs with the Rashbam’s understanding, explaining that the binding of Yitzḥak was an act of tshuva for the transgression of relinquishing portions of Eretz Yisrael. Avraham’s appropriate response to this sin was his readiness to sacrifice that which was most precious to him in accordance with HaShem’s command. With this Avraham proved his complete loyalty to the Kadosh Barukh Hu.

“Now I know that you are a G-D fearing man, since you have not withheld your son, your only one, from Me.” (BEREISHIT 22:12)

Our Sages teach, “How great is repentance out of love, for even intentional sins are transformed into merits.” Indeed, once Avraham repented at the Akeidah (Yoma 86b), he merited for HaShem to swear:

“Because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only one, that I shall surely bless you and greatly increase your offspring like the stars of the heavens and like the sand on the seashore; and your offspring shall inherit the gate of its enemy. And all the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your offspring, because you have listened to My voice.” (BEREISHIT 22:16-18)

While a deep understanding of events allows us to appreciate how Avraham’s transgression provided the opportunity for him to ascend incredible heights through an unbelievable act of tshuva, it is also important to recognize that Avraham had only the purest intentions when consenting to the treaty with Avimelekh of Grar.

Peace is a treasured ideal that the descendants of Avraham must continuously strive for, both in our personal lives and in our collective national life. Israel is destined to be HaShem’s instrument in leading mankind to an era of Shalom – a goal so lofty that it is even included as one of G-D’s Names. In order to lead the world to Shalom, however, Israel must first understand what this goal actually is and how to practically bring about its complete realization. It therefore becomes necessary to shed the superficial contemporary definitions of peace in order to properly learn the Torah concept of Shalom.

True Shalom cannot be obtained through egoistic motivations of honor, wealth or self-interest (as would be the case in defining it as the mere absence of war). Nor can it be achieved through people who seek to impose their will on others (such as an oppressor nation forcing its values on indigenous populations at the expense of that population’s traditional culture). True peace can never be acquired by rejecting the claims of other peoples. It can only be achieved when leaders are motivated by altruistic goals firmly rooted in Emunah that allow them to recognize the unique beauty and truth within all of the differing opinions and movements so that they can all be elevated as crucial components of HaShem’s ultimate design for the world.

The Hebrew Nation is Divinely commanded to be sovereign over the entire Land of Israel. It is through this earthly political sovereignty that HaShem’s blessing flows into our world, nourishing and uplifting all of existence as we know it. For the sake of mankind and the fulfillment of our destiny, Am Yisrael must safeguard our connection to Eretz Yisrael. Any infringement of Hebrew sovereignty over our borders would essentially be a war on HaShem’s Will for Creation. If another people were to insist on fulfilling its national aspirations in Eretz Yisrael, that people’s spiritual compass would be off course and its conscious national will not yet aligned with HaShem’s. As Rashi explains regarding the first verse of our Torah, the Kadosh Barukh Hu assigned the Land of Israel to the Nation of Israel. While one of Israel’s key functions in this world is to ultimately assist each people in expressing its inner essence and reaching its full potential in harmoniously contributing to the international community, it is crucial to remain aware that any national aspirations that contradict our Torah are actually external to that people’s inner essence and not a legitimate expression of its historic purpose.

It is Israel’s mission to bring our world towards the recognition of HaShem as the timeless ultimate Reality without end and the active Force behind all nations, movements, ideologies and events. By recognizing the Divine inner fabric of existence, Shalom can be achieved through aligning all of Creation with the Kadosh Barukh Hu’s all-encompassing plan. As the heart of humanity, Israel is to direct all nations and movements so that each may be uplifted to find its proper place, expression and function within HaShem’s Divine blueprint for the story of man. Shalom is achieved, not by suppressing parts of the whole, but rather when all the various forces that seem to contradict are allowed to express their fullest and purest inner essence, all under the unifying canopy of a more inclusive Divine Truth.



“Abraham went out to battle…”

As the Torah introduces the greatness of Avraham, we find the Hebrew patriarch striving to discover Divine truth in a hostile and idolatrous world. He leaves everything he had ever known in order to come close to HaShem in an unknown land. And although he is tested time and again, he continues to be strengthened by each new challenge. It fills us with a sense of overwhelming pride to learn the epic birth of the Hebrew Nation. When we see how Avraham lived and breathed compassion and kedusha in every field of endeavor – how he challenged the prevalent worldview of his era and devoted his whole life to bringing the entire human race to the awareness of HaShem, we cannot help but stand in awe of Avraham as not only the father of our people but also as history’s original revolutionary, who – unsatisfied with human civilization as it existed – rebelled against the social order and struggled to elevate mankind beyond its perceived limitations.

As individuals, none can come close to the greatness of Avraham. It is only as the collective Nation of Israel that we can continue his legacy of bringing Creation to perfection through the knowledge of HaShem as the infinite Whole in which we all exist. But in order to fully appreciate what the Hebrew Nation represents as a collective, we must first come to identify with Avraham as an individual.

More than any other figure in history, Avraham epitomized the trait of human kindness. And this kindness manifested itself through several, sometimes seemingly contradictory, channels. The same Avraham who serves as the yardstick of compassion for humanity led a small group of followers into a furious war against the four most powerful kings of his time. When the four allied kingdoms defeated five local armies and abducted his nephew Lot, Avraham took his students out to battle.

 “And when Avram heard that his kinsman was taken captive, he armed his disciples who had been born in his house – three hundred and eighteen – and he pursued them as far as Dan.” (BEREISHIT 14:14)

Avraham’s small guerrilla force succeeded in defeating the four mightiest kingdoms of his day. This miraculous victory occurred despite the doubts of even some of his fighters. The Midrash relates:

“He led forth his trained men, etc. R’ Yehuda said: It was they who turned a wrathful countenance upon Avraham, saying, ‘Five kings could not defeat them, yet we are to defeat them?!’ R’ Neḥemiah interpreted it: He turned a defiant face (horiku panim) to them and exclaimed, ‘I will go forth and fall in sanctifying the Name of the Holy One, Blessed be He.’” (Bereishit Rabbah 43:2)

Avraham went out to war with no guarantees of success. There was no prophetic certainty that he would even survive. But survival and success were less important to our patriarch than the principle at stake.

Avraham went out to battle because it was the right thing to do regardless of the outcome. His nephew Lot had been deliberately taken prisoner as a direct provocation to Avraham and as a challenge to the Kadosh Barukh Hu (Oraḥ Ḥaim 306:14 teaches that one must wage war to save a kidnapped Jew, even on Shabbat). Avraham had an obligation to rescue his relative and understood that even if he fell, he would die for a purpose, displaying Mesirut Nefesh (self-sacrifice) for the sanctification of G-D’s Name (how HaShem’s Divine Ideal is perceived by humankind). Giving his life for a higher cause was to Avraham a much sweeter alternative to standing idly by as G-D’s Name was profaned through Lot’s abduction.

Avraham’s family and students were the whole of “Israel” at that time and, according to Torah Law, Avraham constituted their king. He recognized that any nation rising up against Israel is automatically waging war against Israel’s G-D. The situation was therefore a milḥemet mitzvah (war obligated by the Torah) and required from Avraham a willingness to give his life. But once Avraham had emerged from the battle victorious, he saw the blood on his hands and began to fear he had sinned.

“After these events, the word of HaShem came to Avram in a vision, saying, ‘Fear not, Avram, I am a shield for you; your reward is very great’.” (BEREISHIT 15:1)

“Avraham was afraid and said, ‘Perhaps the population that I killed possessed a righteous, G-D fearing man.’ Yet it is like the person who passed the king’s orchard, and, seeing a bundle of thorns, went in and removed it. The king looked and saw him, and he began to hide. The king asked him, ‘Why are you hiding? How many workers would I have needed to gather those thorns? Now that you have done it, come and take your reward.’ Just so, G-D said to Avraham, ‘The population which you have killed were like cut thorns.’” (Bereishit Rabbah 44:4)

Avraham was concerned that during his war to save Lot, he might have inadvertently killed innocent people. HaShem then reassured him that there was no reason for concern. The Torah teaches two fundamental principles here. The first is that Israel should never fear to shed the blood of the wicked. It is a mitzvah that “rids the garden of thorns” (this is clarified more explicitly in the second chapter of Pesikta Rabatiwhere the true reason King David could not build the Temple is revealed).

The second principle taught here is that although there might be some righteous people within a nation of evildoers, Israel cannot be overly concerned for their safety when going out to war. In truth, it is their responsibility to remove themselves from the larger society. Rather than remaining among the wicked, they should either rebuke the community or separate themselves from it. A clear example of this can be seen when King Shaul was preparing to wage war against Amalek.

“Shaul said to the Kenite, ‘Go, withdraw, descend from among the Amalekite, lest I destroy you with them; for you acted kindly with the Children of Israel when they went up from Egypt.’ So the Kenite withdrew from among Amalek.” (SHMUEL I 15:6)

The Kenites were descendents of Moshe’s father-in-law Yitro – a saintly man whose righteous offspring were allied to the Hebrew Nation. Yet Shaul would still not suspend his war on Amalek due to concerns of inadvertently killing innocent Kenites. He instead made it clear that the Kenites should take it upon themselves to get out of his way or risk being slaughtered together with their iniquitous neighbors. Shaul understood that by safeguarding potential innocent casualties in enemy territory, he would be placing Hebrew lives in danger and transgressing the prohibition against murder.

The same holds true in relation to Avraham. HaShem reassured him that through going out to war against the four kings, he had performed an act of kindness to the whole of mankind. Those who rise up against Israel are in truth rising up against HaShem’s Ideal for this world as expressed and manifest through the Jewish people in history. Such antagonists represent a necessary virus in Creation and often exist for the purpose of forcing Israel to remove them. Like a doctor extracting cancer cells from the body of a patient, true kindness involves removing evil from this world. It is precisely Avraham’s valiant behavior in battle that proves the authenticity of his compassion to all of HaShem’s creatures, presenting a model of true kindness for the Hebrew Nation to uphold.

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Getting Passed the Flood

“Noah, with his sons, his wife and his sons’ wives with him, went into the ark because of the waters of the flood.” (BEREISHIT 7:7)

Rashi comments on this verse that Noaḥ was a man of inadequate faith. He believed yet at the same time did not believe that the flood HaShem warned of would actually come about. He therefore hesitated to enter the ark until the waters had come and forced him inside.

“Rabbi Yoḥanan said, ‘Noaḥ lacked Emunah. Had the waters not reached his ankles, he would not have entered the ark.’” (Bereishit Rabbah 32:6)

Even Noaḥ, a man whom the Torah describes as “a righteous man, perfect in his generations” (BEREISHIT 6:9), was capable of lacking complete Emunah. Rashi therefore calls him one who “believed and did not believe.”

The Hebrew word Emunah denotes something significantly greater than what is generally implied by the English term “faith.” It is an absolute certainty beyond rational thought and a wisdom that must be diligently studied in order to deepen our understanding and elevate our consciousness. The study of Emunah infuses us with the vision to see history’s ultimate goal as well as the confidence that we will succeed in bringing this goal to fruition.

Far from misleading us to rely on miracles or to alleviate ourselves from responsibility to achieve progress, the certitude of our ultimate triumph, as well as the awareness of HaShem’s unity and mastery over all, includes the knowledge that we were specifically placed into this world in order to succeed according to the natural order of Creation. True Emunah entails not only token human effort but also initiative planned out and strategically executed according to the laws of nature established for our world. Even the greatest heroes of Israel’s past, who walked in G-D’s ways and led our people to great victories, devoted serious time to planning out their efforts according to sound military strategies, geo-political realities and other earthly considerations. But the knowledge that we all participate in a story authored by HaShem and that the Nation of Israel represents His Divine Ideal in this story empowers us with the confidence and determination to overcome all fears and prevail over seemingly impossible odds.

Noaḥ’s complex of “believing and not believing” is completely incompatible with the authentic Hebrew worldview and causes Jews to drift away from our ideal Divine state. It was this very lack of complete Emunah that had caused the Kingdom of Israel to split in ancient times. When King Shlomo married the daughter of Pharaoh, with the intention of forging a political alliance with Egypt, HaShem admonished him, saying “Since this has happened to you, and you have not kept My covenant and My decrees that I have commanded you, I shall surely tear away the kingship from you and give it to your servant.” (MELAKHIM I 11:11)

King David prophetically writes in the first verse of TEHILLIM 127: “A song of ascents for Shlomo. If HaShem will not build the house, they labor in vain that build it.”

Rashi teaches that “David dedicated this psalm to his son Shlomo, who Divine Inspiration informed him would construct the Temple and wed Pharaoh’s daughter on the same day… He therefore sang this psalm, meaning, ‘Why, my son, should you build a Temple and turn away from G-D? Since G-D has no desire of it, its builders labor in vain.’”

For Shlomo’s transgression of marrying Pharaoh’s daughter, the Israeli Kingdom was split in the days of his son Reḥavam. But hope still existed to reunite the Hebrew Nation. HaShem declares “I shall afflict the descendants of David for this – but not for all time.” (MELAKHIM I 11:39)

Yalkut Shimoni quotes Seder Olam on this verse, stating: “Our sages said, ‘The monarchy was destined to return in Asa’s day had he not sinned.’”

Rashi explains this as “‘I will afflict David’s seed for this’: This corresponds to the thirty-six years Shlomo was married to Pharaoh’s daughter. He wed her in the fourth year of his reign, and it was due to her that the verdict was decreed for David’s Kingdom to be divided. It should have been reunited in the sixteenth year of Asa’s reign, but Asa sinned by sending a bribe to the king of Aram rather than relying on G-D.”

Radak supports this understanding and writes: “In Asa’s day it was destined to be restored, but Asa sinned: ‘In the thirty-sixth year of Asa’s reign, King Baasha of Israel went up against Judea’ (DIVREI HAYAMIM II 16:1). It was only the sixteenth year of Asa’s reign, but thirty-six years after the reign of Shlomo, when the kingdom had been fated to be reunited. Yet because Asa sinned and relied on the king of Aram, it was not restored.”

The consequence for Shlomo’s transgression was that the Davidic Kingdom was divided for thirty-six years – the length of time Shlomo was married to Egypt’s princess. Therefore, the kingdom should have been restored and Israel should have been reunited in the sixteenth year of Shlomo’s great grandson Asa.

King Asa of Judea is described at the start of his reign as having done “what was proper in the eyes of HaShem, like his forefather David” (MELAKHIM I 15:11) but by his sixteenth year he appears to lack the necessary Emunah to merit the kingdom’s reunification. When attacked by King Baasha of Israel, Asa did not put his trust in HaShem and go to war (as he had done earlier against even mightier forces). Nor did he attempt to make peace with his fellow Hebrews. Instead, he sent a bribe from the Temple treasury in Jerusalem to the king of Aram. Rather than act with confidence according to his people’s values, he bribed a foreign king to help him war against Israel.

Because of this lack of Emunah – “believing and not believing” – HaShem’s Divine Ideal was profaned amongst the nations while Judea and Israel remained tragically divided. Instead of rectifying the misdeed of his great grandfather Shlomo, Asa augmented it by subjugating himself to a foreign ruler.

Asa was by and large a righteous king who had frequently put his trust in HaShem, winning miraculous victories against overwhelming enemy forces (DIVREI HAYAMIM II 14). But Asa suffered from the “Noaḥ complex.” Like Noaḥ, Asa believed in HaShem but at the same time lacked the Emunah required to successfully lead his people through difficult times. It could be that with age the strength of his inner certainty had depleted, demonstrating that it takes great courage and deep understanding not only to attain Emunah but also to maintain it in the face of future challenges. The story of King Asa teaches that it is not enough to have once been a great hero. A leader must constantly strive to maintain a level of greatness and not merely live off the merit and glory of past deeds. Only with a complete devotion to the Kadosh Barukh Hu and to the Jewish people’s national aspirations can one have the inner strength and fortitude to persevere against seemingly impossible odds. But in order to reach such a level of Emunah, it is necessary to internalize the meaning of the word “One” in the eternal declaration of “Hear O Israel, HaShem is our G-D, HaShem is One!”

The declaration “HaShem is One” does not merely assert that He is the only deity and none others exist but also that He is the very Source and Context of all existence. Because all of Creation is unified and actually exists as part of the greater ultimate Reality we call HaShem, the Kadosh Barukh Hu’s domain cannot be confined to what many refer to as the realm of “religion.” Attempting to restrict HaShem’s relevance to a house of study or prayer is actually an act of heresy as it denies His Oneness over all. As the timeless and boundless ultimate Reality without end, HaShem encompasses everything in Creation and beyond.

The Western model of separation between “religion” and “state” has absolutely no foundation in Israel’s Torah, which possesses no such concept as “giving unto G-D what is G-D’s and giving unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.” The notion that a human ruler could possess independent power is actually a form of intellectual idolatry and to attribute any power to an idol is to essentially deny HaShem’s Divine Oneness over all.

There is a political misconception that Israel’s survival in modern times depends on the approval of gentile nations. This psychological subordination to foreign powers is one of the basest contemporary forms of idolatry responsible for preventing Israel from actualizing our full potential as the nation entrusted to manifest HaShem’s Ideal and shine the light of His Truth to mankind. Recognizing and embracing our unique historic role will empower us to confidently walk with the Kadosh Barukh Hu in implementing the most sensible and effective policies to advance our national aspirations and the collective Hebrew mission.

When we arrive at a solid understanding of “One” there becomes no room for the “Noaḥ complex” to exist. The learning of Emunah grants us the holistic perspective to recognize the challenges currently confronting our people as merely serving to better flavor this incredible chapter of Jewish history. The demand by foreign powers that Israel relinquish portions of our homeland is merely a means of testing – and ultimately strengthening – our vision and certainty in the righteousness of our cause and in our ultimate victory.

It is the responsibility of Israel’s Sages to guide the Hebrew Nation in overcoming the “Noaḥ complex” and understanding there to be absolutely nothing outside of the Kadosh Barukh Hu. It is with the deeper wisdom and higher consciousness acquired from the study of Emunah that Israel will succeed in advancing history forward, illuminating HaShem’s Oneness to all of Creation and bringing mankind to a future of unparalleled blessing.

Peace Depends on Israel’s Return to its Land and Kingdom

“Fortunate are you, O Israel: who is like you! O people delivered by HaShem, the Shield of your help, Who is the Sword of your grandeur. Your foes will try to deceive you, but you will trample their haughty ones.” (DEVARIM 33:29)

These were Moshe’s last words to Israel. After warning and chastising the Hebrew tribes at length, the prophet now expresses his true feelings for his people. His final message is one of optimism, love, praise and encouragement. As history can attest to the many hardships Moshe warned of, we can be certain that these words of reassurance will reach fruition.

Perhaps no man in history has surpassed Moshe in his unyielding love for the Children of Israel. The patience he exhibited in the face of our shortcomings through all of the decades together in the wilderness is a testament to his stature as our greatest national leader. It is precisely this patience for the whole of the Hebrew Nation that we must all strive to emulate – to learn from Moshe that all of Am Yisrael is holy and deserving of our love.

Genuinely experiencing this love for every Jew becomes considerably easier once a person attains a heightened awareness of Israel’s true inner essence. The Hebrew Nation is not the sum total of every individual Jew but rather one colossal spirit that manifests itself in this world through millions of bodies in space and time. While human beings each possess a personal soul, Israel shares one massive national soul – like a giant tree of which each Jew is an individual branch.

Rabbi Avraham Yitzḥak HaKohen Kook teaches that the highest attainable level of Ahavat Yisrael (love for Israel) results from obtaining the belief, knowledge and deep understanding of Israel’s true inner essence. It involves far more than merely loving individual Jews because they may be smarter, stronger or more pleasant than some gentiles. This is obviously not always true and is certainly not what makes Israel unique. The Segula of Israel is the collective national essence that precedes the individuals. It is the inner Divine light planted within the Israeli soul and revealed in human history through the Jewish people. Rather than attempt to love each and every individual Jew, one can learn to recognize and love the source of Israel’s essence – theSegula – which then allows this love to flow out to every distinct piece of that national collective.

A man who loves his son does not simply love the sum total of each limb. He loves his child as a single person and therefore loves every individual piece of that person. He can see each finger, leg and ear as a unique expression of the single entity he knows to be his son. Similarly, Knesset Yisrael is one giant spiritual organism revealed through individual Jews scattered in space and time. And the attainment of true Ahavat Yisraelnecessitates a conscious awareness and appreciation of Israel’s collective spiritual essence.

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Moshe’s greatest legacy was his being the man elected by the Kadosh Barukh Hu to lead Israel out of slavery in order that we receive His Torah, establish His Kingdom and bring all of Creation to perceive His Divine Oneness. Israel now completes the yearly cycle of reading the Torah and celebrates the event with great national festivities.

On Simḥat Torah, every Hebrew male is offered the chance to be called up for analiyah to the Torah and recite the blessing “asher baḥar banu mikol ha’amim v’natan lanu et Torato” – “Who chose us from among the peoples and gave us His Torah.” This is what Israel celebrates, filled with joyful exhilaration from the incredible reality that HaShem – with an extraordinary love – fashioned us unique among the peoples of this world in order to make us worthy of manifesting His Ideal. Israel celebrates the fact that we are the nation specifically created to bring HaShem’s light to mankind and to elevate existence to a level where every creature will acknowledge its Divine Source and fully actualize its unique potential in this life. Only by internalizing our Divine election and mission as the national expression of HaShem’s Ideal for this world can we hope to appreciate the Torah’s full splendor.

There are people – even great scholars – who mistakenly regard our Torah as merely a guide for performing dry rituals, devoid of any metaphysical world-altering significance. Some view the Torah and the practice of its “religion” as mere prayer, holidays, dietary laws and study, without recognizing the Divine Ideal shining through each of these details. This fundamental misunderstanding stems from a fragmented view of Torah that cannot succeed at recognizing Israel’s national purpose and true revolutionary function in this world. And it is precisely this error that prevents many of our people from rising up to the challenges confronting Israel today.

The foundation of Israel’s Torah is not merely some holidays and disjointed ritual precepts but rather the Divine Ideal from before existence placed into this reality for the sake of elevating our world beyond its current limitations. The Israeli Nation – through a sovereign kingdom in the borders stipulated by HaShem – is the vehicle meant to free mankind from the spiritual shackles of the world’s current state in order to usher in a new era of universal fulfillment. Because the Hebrew mission can only be achieved through a holy nation – as Am Yisrael and not as a collection of individual Jews, Israel must unite on our native soil and establish a kingdom that will reveal the inherent kedusha in all material aspects of national life and realize the lofty goals for which we received the Torah in the first place.

An accurate and holistic understanding of our Torah first necessitates a deep appreciation for Israel’s historic mission in this world. Mankind’s ability to reach the goal of Creation is uniquely built into Knesset Yisrael. Through the Jewish people reclaiming sovereignty over our homeland, we bring the entire world closer to history’s ultimate purpose.

Universal peace and human perfection can only be achieved when Am Yisrael is independently situated in Eretz Yisrael with HaShem’s Temple crowning the city of Jerusalem. Only from Zion can the Torah be fully illuminated – infusing the totality of personal, national and international life with kedusha – and properly transmitted to the whole of mankind.

This conscious awareness deepens our enjoyment during these festive days by permitting us to focus on our deepest national aspirations. Simḥat Torah exhibits how the highest ecstasy we can possibly experience is defined by our service to HaShem as expressed by His Torah. After emerging from the Days of Awe purified and dwelling in the Sukkah (demonstrating a pure reconnection with nature and trust that the greatest protection of all comes from the Kadosh Barukh Hu), Israel is now strengthened to embark on yet another year aspiring to fully express our inner Segula and advance our collective mission of perfecting this world. When Sukkot comes to an end, Israel immediately moves to channel our love for HaShem into a celebration of Torah and loyalty to the Hebrew mission – to establish His Kingdom in the whole of our land and to shine His Divine blessing to all of humanity.


In the Land of Israel Sukkot is Complete

Immediately following the transformative intensity and spiritual cleansing of Yom Kippur, Israel begins preparing for the weeklong festival of Sukkot. These preparations involve an active reengagement with nature, building temporary outdoor huts (sukkot) to move into for seven days and obtaining palm branches, myrtles, willows and citron fruits, paying special attention and care to the details of each.

Although the power of the days spanning from Rosh HaShanah to Yom Kippur create the necessary mindset for atonement, self-improvement and growth, these days also deplete our sense of spontaneity and joy, causing life to be experienced as somewhat rigid and unnatural. Sukkot – “the festival of our joy” – then forces us to reconnect with nature in such a way that infuses us with vitality and a childlike appreciation for life.

“The festival of Sukkot is a holy day whose joy and splendor we can feel only when we live in our beloved land, crowned with clear, turquoise skies pleasing to the eye and a pure, temperate, healing air, which together remind us of the hand of G-D, which brought us to the good and pleasant land of the Carmel, which renews in us strength, life and the hope that Israel will once again flourish upon its open spaces.” (Rabbi Avraham Yitzḥak HaKohen Kook in Kol BeHadar)

The festival of Sukkot takes on an entirely different dimension when celebrated on our native soil. Jews returning to Eretz Yisrael can note the astonishing contrast between the holiday’s observance in the Diaspora and its performance in our homeland. The atmosphere in Jerusalem is one of great anticipation where people everywhere prepare for the weeklong celebration. Many are outside with their families and neighbors building their own unique brand of sukkah. On nearly every corner, children sell the four species with a wide variety of citron fruits to choose from.

Seeing all of the different citrons causes us to appreciate Israel’s current situation in comparison to stories of Jewish life in foreign lands – generations ago – where Jews were sometimes unable to obtain etrogim at all. In such cases a person would not be held liable for neglecting to perform the mitzvah as it was above and beyond anything he could practically do. But during those difficult years, the commandment of taking an etrog on Sukkot never disappeared. As soon as citrons could again be procured, the Jews of that region were once again obligated to perform the mitzvah.

This is comparable to the Torah commandment to live in the Land of Israel. The moment that the mitzvah returns to our hands, it once again becomes our sacred duty to fulfill. When the Hebrew Nation was broken and scattered throughout the world, it was often physically impossible for us to return to our borders and we were not held accountable for neglecting the commandment. But now that there is a sovereign Jewish state over portions of our homeland, Diaspora Jews are left without any excuse for not returning to their true home in Eretz Yisrael.

The central idea of the sukkah is trust in the Kadosh Barukh Hu. The sukkah (whose flimsy construction makes it appear outwardly unfit even to be called a dwelling) is our tower of strength, sheltering us from danger on these sacred days. We must realize that it is not through the flimsy walls but through HaShem’s protection that the sukkah becomes our shield. Our Torah decrees that during these days this structure shall be our dwelling, teaching us that true security lies in our trusting HaShem and knowing that no evil will befall us if we sincerely and wholeheartedly perform His Divine Will.

While some may offer seemingly rational justifications for remaining in the exile and ignoring the mitzvah to live in Eretz Yisrael (see Ketubot 110b, Rambam Hilkhot Melakhim 5:12Hilkhot Ishut 13:19, Ramban’s supplement to the Rambam’s Sefer HaMitzvot 4, Shulḥan Arukh Even HaEzer 75:6), these excuses stem from not understanding the core message of Sukkot – that Israel should trust in HaShem and follow His commandments, no matter how seemingly difficult or overwhelming. The mitzvot are the finite vehicles through which we manifest the Divine Ideal and fully express our true inner selves in this world. And although moving home to Israel can be both challenging and frightening, it is also a thrilling adventure that infuses life with meaning and higher purpose. Aliyah remains one of our most central mitzvot as only through our dwelling in Eretz Yisrael can we succeed in living up to our national mission of ushering in an era of total peace and bringing all of Creation to a greater awareness of HaShem as the essence and context of our lives.


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Yom Kippur: Appreciating the Infinite

On Yom Kippur, we attain a glimpse of our lives, our choices and our relationships to HaShem from a Divine perspective that grants us a more holistic view of the larger story in which we participate.

When we experience something positive in our lives, we generally praise the Kadosh Barukh Hu by saying, “Blessed is He Who is good and does good.” When faced with a negative occurrence, however, we say, “Blessed is He Who is a true Judge.” Our Sages teach that in the future we will say “Blessed is He Who is good and does good” even regarding the tribulations we experience. When we look back and see the entire story from a Divine perspective, we realize that every seemingly negative situation – both in our personal lives and in our collective national life – has actually contributed to HaShem’s plan for bringing all of Creation towards a Divine goal of total good. We will ultimately understand how every perceived misfortune and disaster that befell us was actually a necessary point on the road to the future goal in which all humankind will joyfully connect to their deepest and truest selves through the vehicle of a Hebrew Kingdom and Temple in Jerusalem.

This higher understanding of how even the seemingly negative is actually a necessary component of the greater ultimate positive also holds true for every transgression an individual commits. Although we possess the free choice to do other than that which the Torah instructs, we are unable to actually oppose HaShem’s Will or undermine His plan. Even our transgressions are ultimately recycled back into the Divine plan and contribute to the goal towards which history is always moving.

While this could potentially be misinterpreted as a license to sin, it must be clarified and understood that transgressions actually create a feeling of distance from HaShem, causing alienation and spiritual anguish, sometimes even manifesting as physical ailments. But when one sincerely regrets his wrongdoings and resolves never to repeat them, he is forgiven and even his past sins are then put towards future good.

Yom Kippur is a day of spiritual recharge and transformation when the light of the World-to-Come is figuratively shining into our world, turning our darkest deeds from the past into light. By plugging ourselves into the expanded consciousness of Yom Kippur through the proper acts, thoughts and tefillot prescribed for the day, we can receive – and be transformed by – the day’s all encompassing light.

Yom Kippur is essentially a mikvah in time. According to Torah Law, when a person immerses in a mikvah — a purifying ritual bath — there can be absolutely nothing between his skin and the water. The mikvah’s waters represent G-D’s Divine Oneness and when one enters into a mikvah, he is essentially immersing himself back into that all encompassing Oneness, simulating the experience of existing within the greater infinite Whole we call HaShem. In the mikvah, we become one with the waters, completely absorbed, submerged and surrounded. By immersing our bodies in the water, we express our desire to experience our souls merging back into the Oneness of HaShem. We acknowledge that He is our context and essence and that nothing at all can ever separate us from Him.

We exist within HaShem in a similar sense to the existence of an idea within the mind of its thinker. A major difference between our relationship to G-D and that of an idea to its thinker, however, is that a thought has no free choice whereas we essentially do. Yet at the same time any choice we make still remains within the context of HaShem and His plan for this world. While, from our limited human perspectives, we enjoy freedom of choice, the Kadosh Barukh Hu still remains in absolute control. We are free to disobey and to do other than His Will but we are not able to oppose that Will or undermine His plan. And while a person could understandably wonder what difference our choices actually make, the truth is that our real choice is whether to become HaShem’s conscious partner or His unconscious tool.

We can choose to consciously do G-D’s Will and actively contribute to His plan in a way that brings us to experience the ecstasy of our unity within Him. Or we can choose to oppose His Will and through our own choices unknowingly fulfill His plan. While the first choice empowers us to live superhuman lives, the second option denies us the awareness of our inseparable connection to HaShem and instead causes us to feel estranged from our Divine Source.

The purpose of a mitzvah is to manifest HaShem’s Ideal and express our true inner selves as unique sparks of the Divine in this world. Transgressions, on the other hand, promote illusions of separateness that create painful feelings of alienation and anguish. We can only actively choose to disobey G-D’s Will when we mistakenly believe that we exist separate from Him. The erroneous belief that each of us exists as an independent entity separate from one another is itself the true punishment an offender suffers as it causes him to feel isolated from other people, estranged from his inner self and disconnected from the context and essence of his very existence.

The awareness of HaShem as the infinite Whole in which we all exist allows us to appreciate not only His Divine Oneness but also our special relationship to Him. And although we can theoretically choose do other than His Will, the glimpse of the Divine perspective we receive on Yom Kippur strengthens and inspires us to cleave to His Torah and its statutes as the healthiest and most natural means for expressing our inner selves and fulfilling our purpose of manifesting His Ideal.


“Moshe went and spoke these words to all of Israel…”

“Moshe went and spoke these words to all of Israel. He said to them, ‘I am a hundred and twenty years old today; I can no longer go out and come in, for HaShem has said to me ‘You shall not cross the Jordan’. HaShem, your G-D – He will cross before you, and you shall possess them; Yehoshua – he shall cross over before you, as HaShem has spoken.’” (DEVARIM 31:1-3)

Moshe – who taught, guided and nurtured the Children of Israel for forty years in the wilderness – was not to be permitted into the Promised Land. The prophet who had received the Torah on Israel’s behalf would be forced to take leave of his people just before the liberation of Eretz Yisrael and the establishment of HaShem’s Divine Kingdom therein.

The most well known explanation for why Moshe was forbidden from crossing the Jordan is that he had once lost his patience with Israel and struck a rock. The Midrash, however, explains that this incident was only when the sentence took effect. It had been decreed decades earlier that Moshe would be prohibited from crossing the Jordan River.

“G-D said to Moshe, ‘Whoever acknowledges his homeland is buried in his homeland. Yosef acknowledged his homeland, as it is written, ‘for indeed I was kidnapped from the land of the Hebrews…’ (BEREISHIT 40:15). You did not acknowledge yourhomeland… How? The daughters of Yitro said, ‘An Egyptian man saved us from the shepherds’ (SHEMOT 2:19). You heard them and remained silent. Therefore you will not be buried in your homeland.’” (Devarim Rabbah 2:8)

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Although he had been raised as royalty in Pharaoh’s palace and had never in his life actually seen the Land of Israel, Moshe was held accountable for allowing himself to be referred to by others as “an Egyptian man.” Regardless of where we each currently reside, Jews should be vigilant never to view ourselves as belonging to any people or nation other than our own. Moshe, the paradigm of Hebrew unity and national responsibility – who killed an Egyptian on the spot for merely striking a Hebrew slave – was penalized for neglecting to protest when being referred to as an Egyptian. This episode illustrates the gravity of viewing ourselves as German, French, American or any nationality other than Israeli. We must understand thatIsrael is one people with one country and one collective mission reflecting the Torah’s blueprint for an ideal perfect world. And it is only through the advancement of Israel’s national aspirations that humanity can attain higher consciousness and total blessing according to HaShem’s Divine plan for Creation.


Remembering Gedaliah ben Aḥikam

Of all the Jews murdered throughout history, why does Israel fast on the third of Tishrei for Gedaliah ben Aḥikam? There must be a significant reason beyond the assassination itself.

To answer this question, it’s important to also view events from the perspective of Gedaliah’s assassin, Yishmael ben Netaniah, who likely saw himself acting justly on behalf of his people.

A higher and more nuanced perspective enables us to see the situation from both sides. While some might claim that because Yishmael made an alliance with another regional king (Baalis of Ammon), he had forfeited his right to attack Gedaliah’s connection to the Emperor Nevudkhadnetzar. But a deeper look reveals that Yishmael’s alliance with Baalis was in order to initiate a shared Judean-Ammonite struggle against the Babylonian Empire – the motivation for which would have been liberating Judea from foreign rule. An alliance with Ammon based on intersecting anti-imperialist interests cannot be compared to Gedaliah representing Babylonian interests in Judea. As a descendent of King David fighting for Hebrew independence, Yishmael likely felt a patriotic duty to cut down the emperor’s Jewish client governor. But pure motivations and a just cause still carry an obligation to see a larger picture and the potential consequences of zealous actions.

From the other side, Gedaliah was simply trying to do the best he could under the conditions that existed. He was close to Yirmiyahu (who David’s descendants, their supporters and probably also the Babylonians mistook for a traitor) and was being pragmatic under the circumstances. Because he really wasn’t a traitor and was actually trying to prevent Judean society from falling apart following a catastrophe, it was probably difficult for him to understand that others viewed him as such. This would explain why his guard was down – he and Yishmael likely saw their disagreement in a very different light.

The Rambam teaches in Hilkhot Taanit 5:2 that what we are really fasting over on Tzom Gedaliah is the complete loss of Hebrew sovereignty. Despite being a puppet governor appointed by the foreign emperor who had just destroyed Jerusalem’s Temple and exiled her people, Gdaliah was – according to the Rambam – the last ember of Judean independence.

We mourn Gedaliah’s death on the third of Tishrei each year because – despite him being a vassal appointed by a hated foreign ruler – he represented the last tiny thread of Hebrew sovereignty in our land.

But just as it was clearly a mistake for Yishmael and his supporters to demonize Gedaliah then, it might also be a mistake for us to demonize Yishmael now. The primary message we should take away from the fast is the need to appreciate the spiritual value of the Jewish independence we currently have, despite its limitations and the sometimes disappointing behavior of Israeli political leaders. According to the Rambam’s position on Tzom Gedaliah, even a small thread of Hebrew sovereignty has spiritual value.

“It will be that when all of these things come upon you”

“It will be that when all of these things come upon you – the blessing and the curse that I have presented before you – then you will take it to your heart among all the nations where HaShem, your G-D, has dispersed you; and you will return to HaShem, your G-D, and listen to His voice, according to everything that I command you today, you and your children, with all your heart and all your soul. Then HaShem, your G-D, will bring back your captivity and have mercy upon you, and He will gather you in from all the peoples to which HaShem, your G-D, has scattered you. If your dispersed will be at the ends of heaven, from there HaShem, your G-D, will gather you in and from there He will take you. HaShem, your G-D, will bring you to the land that your forefathers possessed and you shall possess it; He will do good for you and make you more numerous than your forefathers. HaShem, your G-D, will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, to love HaShem, your G-D, with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live. HaShem, your G-D, will place all these imprecations upon your enemies and those who hate you, who pursued you. You shall return and listen to the voice of HaShem, and perform all His commandments that I command you today. HaShem will make you abundant in all your handiwork – in the fruit of your womb, the fruit of your animals, and the fruit of your land – for good, when HaShem will return to rejoice over you for good, as He rejoiced over your forefathers, when you listen to the voice of HaShem, your G-D, to observe His commandments, and His decrees, that are written in this Book of the Torah, when you shall return to HaShem, your G-D, with all your heart and all your soul.” (DEVARIM 30:1-10)

A superficial reading of these verses might seem confusing to those with a narrow understanding of tshuva. In verse 30:2, it appears that the Jewish people return to HaShem. We are then brought back to the Land of Israel and receive Divine blessings. But then verse 30:10 states that Israel again returns to HaShem, prompting a question on the chronology of events. Is Israel first brought back to our borders or does the nation first return to living in accordance with our Torah?

The famous Ohr Sameaḥ, Rabbi Meir Simḥa HaKohen of Dvinsk, teaches in the MeshekhḤokhmah that these verses refer to two types of tshuva. He points out that in verse 30:2 the return to HaShem is written as v’shavta ad-HaShem while the later tshuva in verse 30:10 readstashuv el-HaShem. Ad-HaShem, he explains, is not necessarily a return to Torah observance but rather to Jewish national consciousness. It is the Children of Israel once again self-identifying as part of a single people after generations of trying to assimilate into the host populations in the lands of our dispersion. We suddenly desire our own country, want to speak our own language and seek to express our own unique cultural identity. This stage oftshuva is essentially the reawakening of our ancient tribal identity and a feeling of solidarity with fellow Jews throughout the world.

El-HaShem, the later return, is a renewed embrace of the Torah and its commandments in both our private lives and in the collective national life of the Jewish people. The Ohr Sameaḥ teaches that once we return to a healthy Jewish national consciousness, we will certainly return to observing the statutes of our Torah. Returning to a sense of peoplehood and collective responsibility is the first stage of a process leading to tshuva on a level far greater than any individual’s personal return could ever reach. More than merely fostering personal piety among Jews, tshuva that begins with a reawakening of Hebrew identity will lead Israel to express kedusha in every sphere of national life, from social services and agriculture to warfare and diplomacy. The early stages of returning to national consciousness are part of a Divinely guided historical process that even those participating in are often unaware.

The kabalist Rabbi Yehuda Ḥai Alkalai (in Kitvei HaRav Alkalai) supports the Ohr Sameaḥ’s view regarding two types of tshuva, clearly defining them as national and individual. Rabbi Alkalai illuminates further that national tshuva is Israel returning to our native land. The redemption, he explains, does not occur all at once but rather takes place in stages – stages in which the Jewish people must actively participate. Israel coming back to a feeling of peoplehood – after bitter centuries of dispersion and persecution – is a response to the magnet of the Divine Will for Creation. The initial stage of the redemption process is a healthy and natural feeling of Jewish nationalism, seemingly identical to the nationalism found amongst gentiles.

In Sha’ar 100 of the Akeidat Yitzḥak, Rabbi Yitzḥak Arama points out that the process of redemption takes place with the tshuva of returning to nationalism, followed by HaShem bringing Israel back to our borders. Only following this ingathering of the exiles comes the later tshuva of Israel returning to Torah and experiencing full redemption.

Rabbi Zvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook concurs with this view and adds that the redemption is in and of itself tshuva as it is the Jewish people returning to the completeness of what the Hebrew Nation is naturally meant to be. Rabbi Kook points out that the redemption comes “slowly, slowly” (Jerusalem Talmud Brakhot 1:1) and further demonstrates, based on several Biblical verses, that ad-HaShem is a collective subconscious tshuva of returning to nationhood in our homeland whereas the tshuva of el-HaShem stems from a conscious understanding that Israel fully expressing ourselves as the national manifestation of HaShem’s Ideal for Creation necessitates a certain vision and behavioral norms. While thetshuva of ad-HaShem generally has no conscious destination, the tshuva of el-HaShemcarries with it a deep awareness of the Divine Source to which Israel is returning.

The concept of el-HaShem occurring after the ingathering of the Jewish people to our homeland is expressed throughout Scripture (YOEL 2:12, AMOS 4:6, EIKHAH 3:40-41) with YISHAYAH 44:22 stating “return to Me for I have redeemed you,” implying that Israel returns to Torah after being redeemed. And one of the clearest examples of this process can be found in chapter 36 of the Book of YEḤEZKEL.

“I will take you from among the nations and gather you in from all the lands, and I will bring you to your own soil. Then I will sprinkle pure water upon you, that you may become cleansed; I will cleanse you from all your contamination and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you, and I will make it so that you will follow My decrees and My ordinances and fulfill them. You will dwell in the land that I gave to your forefathers; you will be a people to Me, and I will be a G-D to you.” (YEḤEZKEL 36:24-28)

At the deepest core of Jewish national aspirations burns a drive to bless humanity with the knowledge of HaShem as the timeless ultimate Reality without end that creates all, sustains all, empowers all and loves all. The Zionist movement emerged as the external practical expression of Israel’s ancient spiritual yearnings that for generations lay dormant within our people’s collective soul. The national consciousness of the Jewish people has come alive in modern times to initiate a movement of universal tshuva that will drive world history toward its ultimate future goal. Through the vehicle of a Hebrew Kingdom in Eretz Yisrael, mankind will be brought to the awareness of HaShem as the infinite Whole in which we all exist – an awareness that will usher in an era of total goodness, global harmony and universal fulfillment. This is the true inner essence of Israel’s national aspirations, culminating in the entire Jewish people living securely in our homeland with a Temple in Jerusalem, shining G-D’s light to mankind.

In This Generation Of Redemption We Must Clarify Our Role

It is crucial in this generation of redemption that we clarify for ourselves the exalted role we are meant to play. We must wholeheartedly embrace our national function as the heart of mankind that will usher in an era of absolute peace and fulfill the Hebrew mission of bringing Creation to total perfection.

“This day, HaShem, your G-D, commands you to perform these decrees and these statutes, and you shall observe and perform them with all your heart and with all your soul. You have distinguished HaShem today to be a G-D to you, and to walk in His ways, and to observe His decrees, His commandments and His statutes, and to hearken to His voice. And HaShem has distinguished you today to be for Him an Am Segula, as He spoke to you, and to observe all His commandments, and to make you supreme over all the nations that He made, for praise, for renown and for splendor, and so that you will be a holy people to HaShem, your G-D, as He spoke.” (DEVARIM 26:16-19)

These verses allude to Israel’s collective historic role, as well as the special relationship we enjoy with HaShem. Concerning verse 19, the Ramban explains the words “for praise” as meaning that “all the nations of the earth will praise you for HaShem being close to you.” It is through the story of the Jewish people in history that the Divine Ideal will be expressed in this world and humanity will come to know HaShem as the timeless and boundless ultimate Reality that creates and sustains all that exists. Israel is tasked with setting an example of national kedusha and bringing mankind to Creation’s ultimate goal – a world of total goodness functioning in accordance with the Divine plan that preceded it. Israel must lead the world to an era of total peace and universal perfection through the establishment of a Hebrew Kingdom in the Land of Israel that will reveal HaShem’s Oneness to all of Creation.

The Hebrew Nation is a treasured people uniquely created to help mankind in reaching its ultimate purpose. Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi teaches in The Kuzari that Israel is meant to be to humanity at large what the heart is to the human body, pumping blessing and life to all the peoples of the world. Israel is G-D’s emissary on earth – His national expression uniquely created to personify and manifest His Divine Ideal.

HaShem established a partnership between Israel and Himself – a partnership in constructing a world of total goodness. The union between HaShem and Israel is an unparalleled partnership of love and devotion. Because the most exalted unification most humans are able to grasp is that between a husband and wife, King Shlomo compares the relationship between Kadosh Barukh Hu [G-d] and Israel to that of a man and woman. This is the meaning of the words “My Beloved is mine and I am His” (SHIR HASHIRIM 2:16).

Two lovers are seen, one in partnership with the other. I am His and He is mine. This is the purest alliance that can exist, for each gives to the other rather than selfishly taking. The partnership of man and woman is expressed through the clinging of body and soul as the partnership between HaShem and Israel is one of Jews clinging to Him and to His Torah. It is crucial in this generation of redemption that we clarify for ourselves the exalted role we are meant to play. We must wholeheartedly embrace our national function as the heart of mankind that will usher in an era of absolute peace and fulfill the Hebrew mission of bringing Creation to total perfection.