Tuesday, August 3, 2010


I just heard something in a shiur (lecture) from Rav Moshe Weinberger that got me thinking.

He told over a story that his father had told him as a child. His father remembers that in his town in Europe (I assume this was before the war), there was one wealthy man who was able to afford a trip to the Holy Land. When he returned, the entire Jewish male population of the town squeezed into the shul to hear the details of his trip, crowding around him, soaking up every last detail.

"What was it like?"
"What did you see?"
"Did you go to Yerushalayim?"
"Is it true that the air is different there?"
"Can you maybe tell us a little more, please?"

The fellow who had made the trek to the Holy Land opened up a little sack and pulled out a few fruits that he had brought back from the Holy Land. The fruits of Eretz Yisrael are very special - we know that Eliezer the servant of Avraham brought gifts when he was looking for a wife for Yitzchak; according to many commentators, these gifts were fruits from the Holy Land.

The rav of the town cried tears of joy as he tried to cut those few fruits into small enough pieces to give out to all. Everyone should be able to have a taste of the Holy Land.

This story brought tears to my eyes.

Sometimes I think we don't realize how lucky we are. We are living in a generation that has extraordinary advances in technology, advances that enable international travel in mere hours. Our home land - for better or for worse - is under a Jewish sovereign that allows us to flock there in droves, worship freely, and do that which our forefathers could barely dream of, and pined for all of their lives.

I was a very fortunate kid. My first trip to the Holy Land was when I was nine or ten years old. We stepped out onto the tarmac and we kissed the ground, oily tar and all (now that Ben Gurion airport has that shiny new Terminal, I have to wait until we're outside at the taxi stand to kiss the ground; the taxi drivers always get a kick out of it, but they quietly applaud the action).
I remember going to Angel's Pizza in the Bell Tower on King George street on our first night there and complaining that the pizza tasted "too sweet".
My father looked at me sternly and said "Be careful not to complain about anything in Eretz Yisrael - it's sweet because everything here is sweetened by kedusha (holiness)!"

The danger that our privileged state poses is our becoming to accustomed to what we have, and losing that sense of wonder, awe, and appreciation. I've written about this many times before, but we have to constantly arouse feelings of yearning and thanks for our ability to go to the Holy Land. Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi wrote "My heart is in the East, and I am at the furthest end of the West." We have to emulate that passion, that burning desire to go there, to be there, to stay there. Just because we are able to get there for a few hundred dollars in a few hours should not make it less precious to us.

We can not let it become something that we take for granted.

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