From the moment I first came here to work on kibbutz, looking to experience the cleanest expression of communism in the Free World (…remember this was the 60’s!), and experienced the Land of Israel – the hills, the people, the smells, the songs, the connections – I knew that I was in love. It took me many years to go from disgruntled and passionate anti-Vietnam War protester to contented but still passionate resident of Ramat Beit Shemesh, and I have logged many miles in my “wandering Jew” journey. But my love for Eretz Israel has never left my heart, and my desire to take my place among our people in Hashem’s precious land never wavered.
As I study our history, I understand what the leaders and tzadikkim of previous generations overcame in order to be here – the piracy, plagues, and poverty they endured in order to live here and do their mitzvas here – and how dear the mitzvah of settling in Eretz Israel was to them. Although I firmly believe that a Jew’s place is here, were I to be faced with the same hardships they had to endure, I don’t know if I would have the fortitude to come or to stay. And that’s for the same reason that I sometimes find it hard to mourn on Tisha B’Av (that I don’t really understand what we once had in the Bais Hamikdash). Here, I don’t think I really understand how precious this land is to Hashem. Even though our Torah is filled with references to how much Hashem loves this land, and how He desires to unite His Torah, His People and His Land together – I don’t think I really understand how important it is that I/we are here.
I’m fortunate, though. I don’t really need to understand it, in order to be here. My heart sings when I’m here. I want to be here, over all places in the world. Traveling to work on the bus every morning, traveling up through the hills to Yirushalayim, surrounded by Jews of the world who have all now come home, I bless Hashem with gratitude that He brought me back as well (although, granted, I did some hishtadlus myself). This is a mitzvah that comes easily to me, unlike for example, covering my hair or dressing b’tznius, where I’ve really had to work hard.
But the question I am asking now is: Granted that we don’t all feel the desire to be here…. But why aren’t we all working on cultivating the proper kavannah towards this mitzvah as we do towards other mitzvas? Why isn’t the mitzvah of settling, or even desiring to settle, in the Land of Israel treated the same as other mitzvos? Why don’t our Rabbis discuss it? I have a lot of trouble reconciling my understanding of the importance of Eretz Israel with the silence I hear from our rabbis.
Finally after 2,000 years, we have the ability to come home, and it seems like we are repeating the actions of the Jews from the Babylonian exile – we are ignoring the tremendous bracha that Hashem is giving us, and choosing galut over geula.