Midreshet Amit


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The Gift of Eretz Yisrael

By: Rabbi Noam Koenigsberg

Is Eretz Yisrael a means to an end, or does it have objective value? Clearly Secular Zionism viewed Eretz Yisrael as a means, a tool, with which Jewish survival could be ensured. It was deemed a "safe haven" from the persecution of the 19th century. Does the Torah adopt this view of the holy land? Well obviously the value of Israel goes far beyond a safe haven according to the Torah. The mitzvot hatleyot baaretz (commandments that are dependent on the land) are a clear confirmation of that. But the question remains, is Israel chosen by G-d as a holy land simply as a means to create a religious community, unified in its service of God, or does it have inherent value?

Rav Avraham Yitchak Hakohen Kook's answer is clearcut. Israel was given to the people of Israel because of its inherent hidden treasures. It was formed at creation to serve as the people's soulmate, similar to the relationship of marriage. It is for this reason that even when the land is being governed by non-Jews, or alternatively by our secular brothers, the land still retains its holiness, despite the surroundings which may be counterproductive to creating a Torah setting. Had the land been viewed only as a means to creating a national base for religious practice, the land would have lost its significance as long as the secular climate is the dominant one.

From where does Rav Kook derive this understanding? It seems that this week's parsha serves as a source for his view. Upon waking from the prophetic vision of the ladder and the ascending and descending angels, what is Yaakov Avinu's response? Neither does he attribute the revelation to his own righteousness, nor to the merit of his forefathers, but rather "Ma nora hamakom hazeh!" How awesome is this place! What heights am I able to reach just by virtue of the fact that I am here, in Eretz Yisrael, the land which holds within it the potential for me and my descendants to reach our potential!