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Beit Midrash Series Parashat Hashavua

Address in America, 1952

Down to the Earth and Up to the Sky

In describing the dwelling of the Shechina (Divine Presence) in the Mishkan, our parasha says: “I shall dwell in the midst of Bnei Yisrael … I took you out of the Land of Egypt to have My Presence dwell in your midst” (Shemot 29:45-6). Rashi says that Hashem took Bnei Yisrael out on condition that He would have His Shechina among them, and the Ramban adds that this dwelling of the Shechina is for Hashem’s benefit.
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In describing the dwelling of the Shechina (Divine Presence) in the Mishkan, our parasha says: "I shall dwell in the midst of Bnei Yisrael … I took you out of the Land of Egypt to have My Presence dwell in your midst" (Shemot 29:45-6). Rashi says that Hashem took Bnei Yisrael out on condition that He would have His Shechina among them, and the Ramban adds that this dwelling of the Shechina is for Hashem’s benefit.

It is not possible to fully appreciate words of Torah without having made a mistake about them. We recognize light only through the experience of darkness. We do not feel the extent of our connection to Eretz Yisrael and the extent of the connection of the Jews of the Diaspora to Eretz Yisrael without visiting chutz la’aretz.

Here, Eretz Yisrael represents a grand aspiration for a full Jewish life that a Jew in the Diaspora does not believe he can bring to fruition. When one is abroad, Eretz Yisrael is like a mikdash. Whatever exists in Israel is not evaluated according to its material aspect, but it is elevated to spiritual values.

Even if Jews abroad have freedom and feel totally secure and steeped in plenty, even if they have authentic Torah and yeshivot, it is not the same thing. It is true that the Shechina goes to the place where Bnei Yisrael are sent into exile (Bamidbar Rabba 7:10), as they experienced in Egypt, where yeshivot were set up (ibid. 95:3), but it is still different.

The main thing that is missing here in chutz la’aretz is not the element of the Shechina that is for the purposes of man. The bigger problem is that which is missing as far as the dwelling of the Shechina for the purposes of Hashem – the idea of "Israel, that in you I [Hashem] will be glorified" (Yeshayahu 49:3). It is the situation in which a holy nation lives as a self-sustaining country, and puts the forms of government in place. Their nation is built not around the competition of athletes, taking journeys, or having a comfortable life. Rather they live as a nation in order to implement justice, seek the spiritual side of life, have the Shechina dwell, and thereby coronate Hashem in the world. The task of life, which is engrained in the blood of every Jew and makes him strive for such excellence, makes him want to connect himself to Eretz Yisrael.

Sometimes, due to the daily struggles, this matter is forgotten. That is why there is a value to hear from those who are coming from the outside and be reminded how special life in Israel is. We do not want this Land because of its material advantages. We want it because we feel that the content of our life is not complete without it. This we should remember even when things are trying.

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