Friday, December 07, 2007

Love for the Land of Israel

First published in 1957, nearly a decade after the creation of the modern State of Israel , Ish U’Beiso, officially translated as The Jew and His Home, is the book that made Rabbi Eliyahu Kitov famous. Rabbi Kitov was born in Poland and made aliyah in 1936, at the age of 24.

In the section called "Love for the Land of Israel", he writes:

When a child lives outside the Land of Israel, his parents and teachers must imbue him with a love of the Holy Land and its centrality in the relationship between God, His People and the Torah. If his eyes and heart are always turned to the Holy Land, seeing it as the cradle of his identity, and if his hopes for the future are centered there, it is a positive sign about his education….

A Jewish youngster must realize that he is out of place outside of the Land of Israel and that he is living in exile. He should look forward to the Ultimate Redemption, and naturally desire it, as much as he wants to grow up and be successful in life! …

A child must live this promise [of eventually leaving the exile and returning to the Land of Israel], and always have it fixed in his mind. He must have the feeling that his present existence is far from the ideal, and is lacking reality, as if he were sleeping and waiting to be awakened. This must be one of the first lessons that he learns, and it must be repeated to him, in many ways, every day.

I can forgive his old-fashioned use of the exclusively masculine pronoun to refer to all Jews, because his ideas are so delectable.

There’s more.

Indeed, who would argue the point that every Jewish child should yearn for our Homeland? Every Jew should yearn either for the Land of Israel of today, or for the Land of Israel of tomorrow. But where, in fact, do we find such yearning? People can find a hundred different explanations as to why the Land of Israel is not on their mind. Some of these explanations are truthful, but many Jews are simply fooling themselves and rationalizing what they know is wrong.

Even though Rabbi Kitov doesn’t actually come out and say, “Make aliyah!”, he does remind his readers that: “[A Jew] must have the feeling that his present existence is far from the ideal, and is lacking reality, as if he were sleeping and waiting to be awakened.”

Really, how big a leap is it from realizing that your life in exile is, by definition, spiritually wanting, to seeing that your destiny, as a Jew, is a life in Israel?

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