The Land of Israel

From: Lenny

Dear Rabbi,

Would you please explain to me why the Land of Israel is considered more important in Judaism than other lands and why Jews consider their connection to it to be unique?

Dear Lenny,

Judaism considers the Land of Israel to be unique, and uniquely related to the Jewish People, for many reasons. I’ll present several of the many.

For one, the Land of Israel is the place where G‑d’s presence is revealed more than in any other place in the world. It’s not that G‑d is there more than anywhere else, because clearly G‑d is equally everywhere. But His presence is less concealed there and thus the Land of Israel is more conducive to spirituality.

This may be compared to a candle in a room behind over-lapping curtains. The number of curtains in no way affects the fact of the presence of the light in the room, but the light on the other side of the curtains is perceived to a greater or lesser extent depending on the degree of occlusion. So too in the Land of Israel, the spiritual matrix of the Land is less opaque so the presence of G‑d is more visible.

The fact that the Land of Israel has this special quality should not come as a surprise. Just as every geographical region has its own unique quality of light, air, terrain, natural resources and the like which all combine to create an environment which is unique to that place and has a corresponding unique effect on the plants, animals and people that live there, so too Israel is uniquely imbued with the quality of Divine revelation.

This is directly related to another reason the Land is so important to Judaism. Namely, the rich, many-millennia-old relationship of the People of Israel with G‑d in the Land of Israel. Adam was created there and he sacrificed to G‑d there, as did Noah. Other illustrious ancestors of the Jewish People also lived there, as did the Patriarchs, to whom G‑d promised the Land for their descendants. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and the other progenitors of the Tribes, with their wives and children, lived there and were buried there. And it was to the Land of Israel that G‑d guided the Jews from exile to redemption, where they built and maintained the Holy Temple as a House of G‑d for all the nations of the world.

Similarly, the unique spiritual quality of the Land and its special historical connection to the People of Israel resulted in a most glorious and uniquely Jewish phenomenon: a consistent, enduring and faithful tradition of prophecy with both a particular message for the Jews and a relevant, universal message for humanity. No other land and no other people have experienced, recorded and transmitted such a novel and marvelous phenomenon.

Thus, it may be said that the relationship of the Jewish People to the Land of Israel may be likened to a special vine that grows and flourishes naturally in a specific region. When planted elsewhere, its full potential cannot be brought to fruition. Similarly, foreign vines may be transplanted to that region, but the full potential of the land does not blossom through them. Only when the special vine is rooted in its indigenous region can the full, productive potential of the land and the vine merge and fuse to create a superior fruit and robust wine.

So too with the Jews and Israel. In exile, although productive, the Jewish People are unable to fully realize their latent spiritual potential. Similarly, when non-Jews rule Israel, while they may glimpse a degree of the Divine Presence there, the full potential of the Land will not be revealed. Only when the Jewish People are firmly planted in the Land of Israel and saturate their roots with the water of Torah, may the rich and robust physical and spiritual potential of each come to full fruition.

Sources:

  • Sefer HaKuzari, Essay 2
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