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Keeping the Holy in the Holy Land

Friday, 13 May, 2016 - 2:27 pm

One of the founders of the State of Israel once quipped about how wonderful Israel is because there are even Jewish thieves and prostitutes. Every year lists come out about all of the great things about Israel and some of those accomplishments echo the same moral qualities.

Throughout the Torah Israel is referred to as “The Land;” the land that I have promised to your fathers, the land that I am giving you and so forth. In Hebrew “the land” is rendered as “Ha’aretz” (remind you of something?). When the letter Hei is placed before a word it means “the,” indicating the well-known one. So Ha’aretz means the land – “and you know which one I am talking about.”

The word Aretz (land) is etymologically related to two other words in Hebrew that share two of its root letters, Reish and Tzadik; Ratzon (will) and Ratz (run). Indeed the Talmud declares, “Why is Israel called Ha’aretz (the land)? Because its people run (ratz) to fulfill the will (ratzon) of its Creator.

So we see that Israel is defined as Ha’aretz (The Land) by virtue of its inhabitants (the people of Israel) being committed to fulfilling the Will of Hashem. So Hashem endowed Israel the land with so many special qualities so as to facilitate the people of Israel’s devotion to Hashem’s Will. The air is holy and special. The soil is holy and special. The produce is holy and special. All so that Jews could be even more dedicated to fulfilling the Will of their Creator.

So if we want to highlight Israel’s greatness, we’d be better off talking about the spiritual transformation that Jews have brought about in the land. The Torah study, the devotion to Mitzvot, Ahavat Yisrael, and Chesed. This is what we have to be proud of. Certainly the achievements in the areas of technology, medicine and defense are all laudable, but they are merely a means to an end – to become Ha’aretz, a land whose people run to fulfill the will of the Creator.

Very soon the era of Redemption will be ushered in. Then we will all be able to appreciate and experience the true greatness of Israel with an infinite list of accomplishments that fit the definition of Ha’aretz – The Land that Hashem designated as the eternal homeland of the Jewish people and spiritual capital of the world.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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