Monday, March 29, 2010

Next Week in Eretz Yisrael

David Wilder
March 29, 2010

Tonight we will begin celebration of one of the most important events in the history of the Jewish people, and in the history of the world.

Perhaps the quintessential element of Pesach is the traditional 'Seder,' reading the Passover 'Hagada,' repeating the ago-old story of the Israelite's exodus from slavery in Egypt. Many Jews, be they secular or religious, know this story almost by heart. Kids learn about it in all Jewish religious school regardless of denomination. Observant Jews recite remembrances of the exodus in prayers, three times a day. So why must we again repeat the identical story, year after year?

The answer to this question can be expressed in almost simple words: education and identity.

The Jewish people still do not understand, as a collective, who we are, what we are, and why we were 'created' as a nation well over 3,000 years ago. We still do not comprehend the major components of Judaism: Am Yisrael – the Jewish people, Torah, and Eretz Yisrael. These can be represented as the heart, mind and soul of our existence, without which, we have no existence.

Again, why do we lack this seemingly straightforward realization? And again, in one word: Galut – Exile – Diaspora. The past two thousand years have chipped away at our national identity, as water dripping on a stone, slowly causing disintegration, the water forcing a hole into the hard rock. So it is with our people. We have forgotten who we are. The exposure to foreign culture and more significantly, the enormous distance from our own culture has eaten away at our internal identity, boring a hole into our spiritual psyche, creating a vacuum, which in turn has been refilled with an alien ethnicity, as contradictory to our being as water is to oil.

The present presents an additional issue. We are as teenagers, slowing coming of age, pulled by two opposite axis' – we are beginning to return to our roots, yet simultaneously still being pulled by foreign influence, stimulus affecting our lives, individually and nationally for hundreds and thousands of years. This situation creates massive confusion, which can be easily defined as psychological insanity.

How can we regain our clarity, our peace of mind, our true national identity and with it, our true way of life? Commencement of such a project is, again, relatively simple. The direct opposite of the cause of this cancer: Aliyah – return to Eretz Yisrael, breathing the air of Eretz Yisrael, walking the land of Eretz Yisrael. Only when one escapes the physical and spiritual impurity of Galut, can a person begin to rid himself of the poisons invading ourselves for centuries.

And those, who for whatever cannot be here, they must immerse themselves so deeply in thought and action concerning Israel, that for all intents and purposes they are here – if not in body, in spirit. Until they can actually come home.

Only this will allow us, as a people, to return to ourselves, and to reorganize our thoughts and activities, rearranging our priorities, recognizing the wondrous reality of our national existence, and then, finally, acting as Jews, in our land, without any questions or hesitations.

What does this have to do with Passover?

According to Rav Kook, the exodus from Egypt played two important roles: First, it was a goal unto itself; liberation from slavery, both a physical and spiritual emancipation from a life and ideals which are the antithesis of Judaism. However, Rav Kook continues by explaining that the Exodus was also a means to an end; that aim being reception of Torah, and finally, fulfillment of that Torah in Eretz Yisrael, in Jerusalem, at Har HaBayit, Temple Mount, at Beit HaMikdash, the Temple. That is the genuine goal aspiration of the exodus from Egypt. Because only here, in Israel, can we really be ourselves.

This is why, on the actual eve of that earth-shattering event, year after year, we remind ourselves of our true identity, of our true purpose, of the true reason cause of our liberation. Not to live like Egyptians, rather to live as the opposite, as a People of G-d. This is the definition of Jewish education.

At the end of the Seder we recite, Next Year in Jerusalem, Next Year in the Rebuilt Jerusalem. But remember, there's no Mitzvah, no commandment, to wait until next Pesach Eve to come to Israel.

It can also be "Next Week in Eretz Yisrael."

Chag Sameach.

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