Beit Midrash

  • Shabbat and Holidays
  • The Meaning of Three Weeks
To dedicate this lesson

Returning to the Torah of the Land of Israel

...There is a tremendous difference between the Torah of Eretz Yisrael and that of the Diaspora. In the Land of Israel, the abundance of Holy Spirit bursts out upon every Torah scholar who wishes to study Torah for its own sake – and all the more so upon a group of Torah scholars… The very source of the Exile and humiliation in the world is simply the fact that no one declares aloud the value and wisdom of the Land of Israel, and that the Sin of the Spies who spoke ill of the Land is not being corrected. There must be an appropriate response to this Sin...

undefined

Rabbi Yehoshua Weitzman

Av 1 5782
Translated by Hillel Fendel

How do we take this difficult national mourning period that we are undergoing and rectify it? How can we find its light?

During these days, up until Tisha B'Av (this year on Aug. 7, the anniversary of the destruction of both our Holy Temples), we remember our national tragedies leading up to and including the downfall of our Holy Temples, Jerusalem, and even our very independence. Rav Kook, in his customary holy style, reminds us that the very roots of our Exile lie in the Sin of the Spies, back in the days of Moshe Rabbeinu in the desert – and that by rectifying that sin, we can find our way out of our terrible troubles.

Rav Kook wrote a special "saying," or idiom, for each month of the Jewish calendar, summing up, as it were, the essence of each one. For this month of Menachem Av, Rav Kook writes:

The nation's joy at the glimmer of the light of salvation, will raise up that which the "useless crying" destroyed.

The reference is to the crying of the Children of Israel when they heard and accepted the Scouts' report that they would not be able, nor would it be profitable for them, to conquer the Land of Israel. The Talmud states clearly [Taanit 29a]: "That night [of crying] was the Ninth of Av. G-d then said to them: 'You wept needlessly then; I will therefore establish for you [a real tragedy over which you will] weep for generations.'"

But Rav Kook says that the light of the Redemption that was beginning to sparkle even in his generation, over 100 years ago, is the way by which we can rectify the Sin of the Spies who snubbed the Promised Land.

Writing to a group of Torah scholars (Rav Kook's Letters, #96, 1908) who wished to form a society for in-depth Torah study, Rav Kook wrote to them in general of his great admiration for their plans. But he specifically noted one point that he wished to emphasize to them:

"If you are founding at this time a gathering of Torah scholars in the holy city of Jerusalem, to which the eyes of all Israel are raised, you must strive specifically for the highest levels. Our generation is entirely one that strives [for various ideals] – and you must make sure to strive for the highest levels of sanctity. At the very least, your goal must be to sanctify the name of G-d and the name of Israel, by sanctifying the name of Jerusalem, to show to the entire world the victory and greatness of the Torah of the Land of Israel. To our deep sorrow, the status of Land-of-Israel Torah is at a low, instead of on the pedestal on which it could and must be standing before the eyes of all Israel and all the Gentiles…

"There is a tremendous difference between the Torah of Eretz Yisrael and that of the Diaspora. In the Land of Israel, the abundance of Holy Spirit bursts out upon every Torah scholar who wishes to study Torah for its own sake – and all the more so upon a group of Torah scholars… The very source of the Exile and humiliation in the world is simply the fact that no one declares aloud the value and wisdom of the Land of Israel, and that the Sin of the Spies who spoke ill of the Land is not being corrected. There must be an appropriate response to this Sin, i.e., to proclaim throughout the world its praise and glory, its holiness and honor; and after all that, may we be privileged to say even a small fraction of our love for the Land and of the glory of its Torah's light, and of the light of its wisdom and Holy Spirit that hovers within it…

"This type of light and paradise of holiness that is found in the Land of Israel for Torah scholars who seek G-d, is not found at all outside the Land. And I myself know of this and attest to this…"

The way to rectify the Sin of the Spies is by restoring Eretz Yisrael to its worthy place in the life of the Nation of Israel. And the way to do this is also, and primarily, by renewing and developing the Torah of the Land of Israel.

"There is no Torah like the Torah of Eretz Yisrael," said our Sages (Medrash B'reshit Rabba 16). This land is the land of prophecy, where G-d's word appears openly to those who seek it. This is manifest in the words of the Talmudic Sage R. Zera, who said (Bava Batra 158b): "The air of Eretz Yisrael gives wisdom." The very air of this Holy Land is holy and pure air, and whoever simply breathes it can attain the depths of the Torah.

Rav Kook writes elsewhere that the Torah appears in Eretz Yisrael in its most encompassing, general form. When learning the Torah of the Land of Israel, one must strive to seek out the rules and principles of the Torah, and to see how the practical details stem from the overall principles that give the details genuine life and meaning.

This is connected to an additional matter that is mentioned in Rav Kook's monthly idiom with which we began. He notes the nation's joy at the "glimmer of the light of salvation." Many treasures are concealed in these few words; let us discuss just one of them: What is the "light of salvation?"

The Sages of the Zohar Chadash stated: "The light is the Jerusalem Talmud." This is of course the Torah of Eretz Yisrael.

Rav Kook also gives another explanation to this term of "light of salvation" in his Letter #483 (to Rav Zelczer, 1913):

"We will never be able to overlook the general cure that encompasses everything, nor to forget that abandoning it is what caused our downfall – namely, that which I in my poverty and bitterness of soul am accustomed to repeat hundreds and thousands of times, that we have abandoned the soul of the Torah. And this is my great outcry that includes in its strength many generations, from the times of the Prophets and Sages, the great sages of the early and later generations."

Rav Kook is saying that the salvation is hidden and will be found when the Torah scholars return to the "soul of Torah."

Just like a person has a soul that gives life to his physical body, and the soul is like clothing to the spiritual, Divine soul – so too the Torah. The practical side of the Torah – its stories and laws – are like the garb of its internal soul. Israel's salvation requires the return to the soul of the Torah and its internalization.

This aspiration is an important foundation in the study of the Land-of-Israel Torah. Again, we are referring to the land of prophecy, where the land is holy and the air is holy and gives wisdom. In Eretz Yisrael it is possible to understand how the practical laws are clothing for an inner and deep world; one can even try and meet the inner world that gives life to the practical Torah.

Study

The way to fix the terrible Sin of the Spies that has caused us so much sorrow is by understanding the value of Eretz Yisrael. An important aspect of this subject is "study" – the clarification of and delving into the Torah of the Land of Israel, learning how our return to the Land affects our Torah study; our Torah study in the Land is simply not the same as it was for many centuries. In the above-cited Letter 96, Rav Kook notes that in the period of the Redemption, there is greater importance to clarifying the concept of Land-of-Israel Torah:

"There is also a great difference between the periods. The period in which we live is one of 'a time to cherish the Land,' as in the verse in Psalms (102,14): 'You will arise and have compassion upon Zion, for it is a time to cherish her, the time has come.' Let it not be small in our eyes the value of this great settlement enterprise, in relation to previous years, of the nation of G-d in the land of sanctity. It is a great sign and wonder for us of the steps of the approaching Angel of the Covenant. As such, with hearts full of holiness and light, greatness and joy, we must embark upon Torah study for its own sake, upon the Land of Holiness."

When the Nation of Israel returns to its Land, the Torah too returns to its place, and this is the right time to reveal and uncover the light of Land-of-Israel Torah – and thus to rectify the Sin of the Spies.

In order to get articles like this delivered straight to your inbox every week, subscribe to the Israel National Torah newsletter here.
את המידע הדפסתי באמצעות אתר yeshiva.org.il