Eretz Yisrael, Torah, and the Jewish Nation are One
by Rabbi Moshe Kaplan
Rabbi Kook’s classic book “Orot” is a treatise on the Nation of Israel in our time of Redemption. The first chapter begins with his deep spiritual explanations into the essence of Eretz Yisrael and its undividable connection to Am Yisrael. Rabbi Kook explains that the Land of Israel is not an external acquisition of the Nation, but rather that it is bonded to the Jewish People and to Torah as one unified whole. In simplified terms, as the old song states: “You can’t have one without the other.” Since this essential bond is based on the spiritual connection which exists between them, it is not easily seen, just as the soul is beyond our ken even though we know it exists. Given this esoteric relationship between the Land, the Torah, and the Israelite Nation, Rabbi Kook writes that our path to understanding their underlying oneness can only be achieved by listening to the teachings of the Tzaddikim who have succeeded in grasping the secrets of Torah. With their greater wisdom and vision into the spiritual worlds which surround all of existence, they are to be our guides. Through the insights they share with us, we too can begin to comprehend the vital bond between the Land of Israel, Torah, and Am Yisrael (See the book, “Eretz Yisrael, Lights on Orot,” Ch. 1).
This higher, all-encompassing vision sees the Divine Foundation of everything. The book of “Mishle” tells us to “Know Him in all your ways.” We are to know Hashem in all of our actions and to know Him in all of the events of world history.
Our world is made up of diverse elements with a myriad of people, places and events. This world is called “Alma D’Piruda” which means “the world of separation.” It is difficult to find the connecting unity behind the seemingly random events of our lives and history. This external diversity conceals the underlying goal towards which all of history is directed – the Redemption of Israel and the subsequent perfection of mankind. Certain events make the headlines of their times and others go unnoticed. But not always the loud and spectacular are what shape world history. What we need is an X-ray vision which can discover the inner pattern of history and distinguish which events are crucial in the establishment of the overall trend.
The People of Israel have this special vision which can be said to work on the opposite principle of that of radar. Radar is mainly used to pick up moving objects, whereas the eyes of Israel emphasize the stable and permanent – the eternal values and goals. The eyes of Emunah – the belief in Divine Providence – discern between the transient, temporary situations and those which have value as stages in mankind’s moral and spiritual development. This enables man to free himself from his subordination to the moment and the physical world he lives in. Rabbi Kook teaches that this liberation from the misleading matrix of life which conceals life’s inner reality produces an optimism (Chayei HaRiya p.22). When people think that only what they can see and touch exist, this distortion of the overall truth prevents us from seeing the process of G-d’s Hand in bringing the world to its absolute perfection.
This can be likened to a “connect-the-dots” game in which the picture emerges as the dots are connected, if one knows the proper necessary to connect them. After the picture of world history is completed, when all the pieces of the puzzle are set into place, then everyone will see in retrospect how the Divine Plan unfolded in the most amazing ways, using sometimes the most unlikely events and messengers to get there. Through this higher vision, this all-encompassing revelation will reveal the great glory of the Almighty.
Imagine a well-written detective story. Only upon its surprise ending is the identity of the culprit revealed. When the story is read once again, the clues scattered ingeniously throughout the plot become clearly apparent. “What a brilliant author,” we would say to ourselves, if we discovered that every detail of the story played a part toward the ultimate conclusion, without one unnecessary detail. What an amazing, Omnipotent controller of history is He who uses all people and events, and elevates all in His plan of ideal harmony and world Tikun.
The Torah comes to guide us to find the Divine Content concealed in all aspects of reality, that is, to see the Hand of Hashem the Shechinah – in our world. Emunah enables us to recognize the Divine Purpose of everything and to channel this world toward the goal for which G-d created it. By doing so, all of Creation works together in perfect harmony and we work along with Hashem in bringing mankind to Redemption (source).
As we mentioned in our previous essay, the Talmudic Sage Rav Yossi gave advice to his son on how to attain this penetrating and unifying vision: “Rabbi Yossi bar Chalafta said to Rabbi Yishmael his son: ‘If you wish to see the Shechinah in this world, learn Torah in Eretz Yisrael'” (Midrash T’hillim 105).
It requires special eyes to find the hidden Divine Spark and purpose of everything in this world, a world in which spiritual light is concealed, and the Oneness of G-d hidden. The Divinely created means which enables this special vision, this unique spiritual talent, is Eretz Yisrael, with its unique Divine and holy character. The Land of Israel is the “gateway to Heaven,” enabling us to see the original white light before it is diffracted through the prism. Only via the radar of Eretz Yisrael are we able to see the Shechinah, the Divine Content, which transcends the perception of the senses and stands behind everything. Thus, in concluding his first essay in “Orot,” Rabbi Kook explains that the thought that Eretz Yisrael has mere peripheral value as a place of refuge to facilitate the physical survival of the Jews, or as a place of inspiration to strengthen Jewish Identity and to enable the performance of more commandments, “this orientation toward Eretz Yisrael is not worthy of lasting fruition, for its foundation is rickety in light of the towering and unshakable holiness of Eretz Yisrael.”
[to be continued…]