The Song of Seeking
Whispers in the Winds of Antiquity
Before the heights of hills, before the depths of seas
Soul-mates as one, pre-destined before Creation
Tied in essence, Embraced in eternal love
Bride and groom everlasting
Proclaimed in the call of the Creator
Each soul is sent in to its body
Alas! Divided, drawn apart
Beyond the heights of hills, beyond the depths of seas
Yet still, songs of seeking soak their souls
“What shall you tell him?” says she, “that I am lovesick”
Knocking is his voice – “Open, my sister, my love, my dove, my twin !”
Not forever shall they be parted, not forever shall they yearn
For great is His mercy, His kindness will not be turned away forever
Together, united they stood under the Canopy of the Almighty
Divine Wisdom, Prophecy and Knowledge were born in their devotion
Yet depravities defiled – divided they departed once again
Till “the sun spreads and the shadows sheer away”, till the day of union – on the Mount of Myrrh, the Hill of Frankincense
Millenia of yearning, the fire of love forever lasts
“For love is strong as death the flashes thereof are flashes of fire, the very flame of God.”
And the songs of seeking silence all, as everlasting sunsets
“Awaken, awaken, my brother, my love! The sun is spreading, the shadows are sheering away”
“Is that you my sister, dressed in shreds, scorched by the sun?”
And a day shall come – then the songs of seeking shall surpass all shreds,
Then – her soul shall shine with his, united, in the Symphony of Salvation
This story is the story of the People of Israel – the husband, and the Holy Land – the wife. So we learn from Isaiah , who explicitly depicts the People of Israel as a husband and the Holy Land as a wife. According to our Sages Isaiah”s depiction is not merely metaphorical. Rather, this analogy depicts the true and very real spiritual essence that ties these two entities together as soul-mates, considered one unit from before Creation. This conceptualization is clearly seen in Kabbalistic sources, which lead the way to interpreting the Song of Songs in this context as well. We can also show this conceptualization in halacha. According to halacha, one is to say the blessing “who erects the borders of the widow” upon seeing the rebuilding/re-settlement of a previously desolate portion of the Land of Israel. Commentators explain that this exact terminology (which may also not be changed or altered according to halacha) , describing the Land of Israel in its absence of the People of Israel to a widow, is the same terminology used by the prophets. This law clearly illustrates how the relationship of the Land of Israel to the People of Israel is that of a wife, “widowed” in their absence, and re-united with her husband in their return.
Thus, the “Songs of Seeking” (above) for the Holy Land are innately imbued in our souls even if we are not aware of them. Yet still, our Sages teach us that we must not be satisfied only with our innate connection to the Holy Land – “Zion is she – she has no seeker” – “from this it is to be inferred that she needs to be seeked.” The term “seeking” implies not a mere glimpse of external facets, but rather an internal probing toward the soul of Zion. Just as a man cannot truly know his wife from her external dress, so too one cannot truly connect to the Land of Israel merely based on news, politics, etc. Indeed, as our song suggests, without the internal search for the soul of our Holy Land we are lacking our primary recognition of this Land as our People”s soul-mate. What then is the “Soul of the Land”; what then is the “Soul of the People”?
The soul, in general, is like a flame from the Great Fire, so-to-speak, of God, as it says “the candle of HaShem is the soul of man.” When we relate to the union of this spiritual energy on a grand level, we refer to this spiritual light as the Holy Presence that rests with the People in terms such as “the God of the Legions of Israel”. When we relate to this Godly energy, i.e soul, in respect to the Holy Land the term commonly used is simply “the Holy Presence”. This, of course, does not pose a duality in HaShem, God forbid, but rather shows different manifestations of the Godly Light, all emanating from the One God.
The command to seek the Holy Presence in our Holy Land is not only inferred from the negative forsaken state of Zion in the words of the Prophets, but is actually rooted to explicit positive commands in the Torah such as “you shall seek His Presence [and come there]” in regard to the Land, and the commandment to “Him (His Presence acc. to our Sages) you shall cleave” in regard to the Holy Presence in general. Ultimately, we may say that the obligation to direct our prayers towards the Holy Land in halacha, as based on the prayer of Daniel, is actually really rooted in our obligation to seek the Holy Presence in our Holy Land in our prayers when “the Holy Presence is before us” .
This said, just as the “husband” has difficulty in recognizing his “wife”in the story above, so too we ask ourselves: how can we seek something that has become so far from our consciousness and experience in the spans of Exile? Can we long and yearn, weep and cry for the Holy Presence of the Holy Land as we would do for a close relative, wife, or parent? Yet still, from our hearts emanates the cry that we are missing somehing so essential – “experiencing God”s Presence in our very lives”. Nevertheless, this innate cry is only revealed and accentuated when we direct our attention to this cry, thereby beginning our quest for this Presence. Only when we persevere in our quest with deep devotion do we come to the realization that only through devotion to the Holy Presence of our Holy Land can we experience God”s Presence in our lives truly, really, and fully.
How may we direct our attention to this cry of yearning, to our “Song of Seeking”, to the song of our spirit? The Mishna of Avot teaches us that the spiritual foundations of the world are three: Torah, the Service/Prayer, and Acts of loving-kindness. This teaching can direct us to the methods we should take on our spiritual quest toward the “Soul of the Holy Land”. One method is Torah study, which, when focused on the Land of Israel, can mean studying the internal value of the Land of Israel in Torah sources. The second method, the method of Prayer, when focused on the Land of Israel, can guide us to accentuate our intent when we direct our prayers toward the Land of Israel as halacha requires. The third method, the method of Acts of Kindness can be taken literally in acts of kindness towards Jewry of the Holy Land, but also can be taken on a contemplative level. Taking this method on a contemplative level can mean contemplating the Godly light inherent in the life of man which brings one to have compassion on one”s fellowman leading to acts of kindness. This method of seeing “the Godly light inherent in the life of man” in context of our search for the Holy Presence of the Land is most clearly seen in the Providence we train ourselves to notice in our lives and the lives of others in the Land of Israel. This special kind of Providence of the Holy Land is explicitly referred to in the verse “the Land that HaShem your God seeks always;the Eyes of HaShem Your God are upon it always from the beginning of the year till its end”.
Once these three essentials are established, we still need to determine what method should be utilized in applying these essentials of seeking towards the Holy Land, as a concrete place on earth. Should we first address the entirety of this Land and through that seek the depths of its specific cities etc? Or should we first address the Holiest City – Jerusalem and through it probe the depths of the Land at large? Or should we choose another method altogether? Staying faithful to our original aspiration – to seek the union between the People and the the Land of Israel – we come to the realization that we should begin our journey at the roots of our People”s bonding with the Holy Land. This root of bonding is none other than Hebron. This is the only city within which all our Patriarchs both lived and were buried on property of their own purchase. This is the city from which Kaleb drew his courage to “fight the case” for the Land of Israel. This is the city through which King David achieved his dominion over the Land of Israel. Indeed, according to the Zohar the entire Land of Israel is tied to Hebron, saying that the miracles of Mashiah “will occur in the Land of Israel, because within this Land is Hebron of the Patriarchs”.
However, choosing Hebron as the beginning of our quest requires deeper examination. How can we say that Hebron represents the roots of bonding between our People and the Land, when the Temple, representing the highest and deepest connection to the Holy Presence in the Land, is in Jerusalem? Indeed, according to the Arizal, Jerusalem does represent a higher union with the Holy Presence in the Land. Yet still, the Arizal explains, Hebron takes precedence over Jerusalem in regard to man”s seeking the Holy Presence, as he must first start from below in Hebron and gradually work his way up in order to truly unite with the higher spiritual lights of Jerusalem and the Temple, just as King David did in his monarchy. However, from God”s perspective the order is just the opposite, as the spiritual lights go from above to below, Jerusalem to Hebron. This secret profoundly explains why the Patriarchs and King David all chose Hebron to begin their spiritual development and union with the Holy Presence in the Land, in order to lead up to Jerusalem at a later stage.
All this said, the following question to be asked is: if this quest is ultimately the quest of our People at large it follows that it is incumbent upon us to join as many people as possible in this mission – “to seek the Holy Presence in our Holy Land”, therefore to whom should we turn first? Our Sages teach that those of greater need are to be addressed before those of lesser need. Thus, we can conclude that Jews living in the Diaspora, far from the Holy Land even in body, are of greater need of “tuning in” to our People”s “Song of Seeking” and should be addressed first. This means that although our entire People need greatly to be awaken more to the true essence of this Holy Land, yet still those actually living in the Land have a clear advantage in this regard, for they are close to the signaling and inspiring air of the Holy Land that can awaken them to the deeper connection to this Land. Therefore, we come to the conclusion that it is incumbent on us to especially address Jewry living outside this Land, so that this great abyss may be bridged, so that “the groom” and “the bride” be once again united. Here again, we find that this crucial bridge passes through no other than Hebron. In every prayer three times a day a Jew in the Diaspora directs his/her prayer towards the Holy Presence in the Holy Land and is also obligated to have intent in the “Blessing of the Patriarchs” with whom the Holy Presence rests (“the God of Avraham, the God of Yitzhak, the God of Jacob”). These two aims fit together so perfectly in Hebron, focal point of the Holy Presence . Indeed, R. Nahman of Breslov teaches that the primary way Jewry of the Diaspora can connect to the Land of Israel is through the Patriarchs. Indeed, the Midrash Yalkut HaReuveni determines that all prayers arise via Maaras HaMachpela in Hebron, which is interpreted by the Lubavitcher Rebbe to mean that they begin in Hebron and from there arise to Jerusalem and then to Heaven as is well known (prayer of Solomon in Kings, etc.). This description fits perfectly with what we jut described in the previous paragraph, i.e that the spiritual seeking of man for the Holy Presence begins in Hebron through which it may elevate towards Jerusalem. This method of requesting the Holy Presence is even further re-inforced with our Sages” interpretation of the positive commandment “to Him you shall cleave”. “Is it possible to cleave to the Holy Presence, alas “He is a consuming Fire?” they ask. “Rather” they answer, “cleave to the [Godly] righteous”. This interpretation is brought down in halachic ruling in the Mishneh Torah and more. The Arizal teaches that bonding with the soul of the deceased righteous is also considered an act of cleaving to these righteous. This means that cleaving to Hebron, burial place of the righteous who are the source of all the righteous, Adam and the holy Patriarchs (and even Moshe Rabeinu according to the Midrash) and the Gateway to the Garden of Eden through which all the righteous ascend to Heaven, means cleaving to the Holy Presence at the very primary place to begin our quest for this Presence as shown before.
Thus, we should use the methods of Torah, Prayer, and Life contemplation (and ultimately “acts of kindness” based on this contemplation) through Hebron in order to seek the Holy Presence in our Holy Land. Since this quest is the quest of our People at large, it follows that the Torah studied in regard to this quest should also strive to reflect the various facets of Torah from which the different types of souls of our People are illuminated. In addition, staying faithful to the spirit of Hebron also means connecting to the different spiritual paths of our three Patriarchs, the roots and archetypes of our People at large. Indeed, our Rabbis teach in the Talmud and in halacha that Torah study has three main branches: 1. Mikra – i.e Humash and Tanah, 2. Mishna – i.e Halacha, and 3. Talmud – i.e in depth analysis whether halachic or esoteric, etc. From various midrashic sources it becomes clear that these three branches indeed parallel the three Patriarchs (Mikra – Avraham, Mishna – Yitzhak, Talmud – Yaakov). In regard to Prayer, the parallelism of our Patriarchs to Shaharis (Avraham), Minha (Yitzhak), and Maariv (Yaakov) is explicity brought in the Talmud . Thus, we should make effort to bond with the Holy Presence at these three times of the day through these three primary manifestations, as each manifestation was concentrated with a separate Patriarch. In regard to Life contemplation, rooted to acts of kindness, we may contemplate the three types of constant “acts of kindness”, so-to speak, of the Holy Presence in this Land towards the poor – 1. Peah 2. Leket/Olelot 3. Shicheha as being indicative of three ways we can contemplate God”s Providence in life. Peah, the most pronounced and explicitly given gift, as it is intentionally put at a distinguished corner of the field, represents the more revealed Providence that can be seen in miracles and their like. The second gift, Leket (and Olelot) pertains to produce that accidentally fell while harvesting and also small insignificant grapes that fell during harvest, which may represent the other extreme from the previous Providence; i.e Providence that seems to be even accidental or insignificant. This too, it seems the Torah wishes to teach us, is also from God. The third gift Shicheha, which is given on the basis of human forgetfullness, represents the Providence that works through human consciousness, and seems as if humans were responsible for what has transpired. However, when one contemplates what has transpired in truth one comes to realize that it is the Hand of God working through the minds of people.
The truth is that all these methods can and should be implemented by every Jew whether in the Land or outside it. However, considering the physical and spiritual distance of the Diaspora from the Holy Land we come to the conclusion that another step in our quest is necessary – to aid the tuning in to these channels of Torah, Prayer, etc. as they are “broadcasted” out to us from the spirit of this Holy Land, the spirit of Hebron. Seeing this, I prayed to HaShem to succeed on this mission, to succeed in tapping into this spirit of Hebron through regular Torah, prayer, life contemplation, etc. in Maaras HaMachpela and Hebron , to succeed in channeling this spirit to all Jews, especially Jews in the Diaspora, so that we may all be united on this spiritual quest.
The result of these prayers is the book before you. Many times I would think of one train of thought, but then suddenly a wind of inspiration changed everything. Therefore, we may say that if there is anything truly inspiring in this book it should be attributed not to me but rather to the spirit of Hebron and to the spirit of our holy Patriarchs. On the other hand, if there is any mistake or flaw in this book it should be attributed only to me and my faults, no other.
The goal of this book is to unite the soul of our People to the soul of the Land, considered by the Kabbalists to represent two distinct spiritual worlds that need to be united as one. In addition, the goal of this book is to achieve this unity through Hebron, which also means unity (haber-unite). Therefore, this book”s name is “Uniting Worlds Through Hebron”.
At the outset, I had opposition to putting these words in the form of a book, for I feared that this book may be misused. Originally, these pieces were sent as weekly tidbits that could be digested each week. However, in the form of a book, readers could easily suffice in skimming this book or reading it all at once, causing perhaps an initial taste of the contents of this book and giving an illusion of satiety with its contents, but missing its ultimate goal. Therefore, I write these words as words of caution, with hope and prayer, that readers will indeed use this book as a handbook in their spiritual journey for the Holy Presence, and not as a mere intellectual endeavor alone. As hinted before, the main usage of this book is in the three paths of Torah, Prayer, and Life Contemplation. A recommended usage of this book in Torah study is delivering it messages on the Shabbos table, which is probably one of the closest experiences a Jew in the Diaspora has to the experience of living in the Holy Land, the Land of spiritual delight combined with material delight. A recommended usage of this book in Prayer is reading the tidbits assigned for each day and for their respective prayers (Shacharis, Minha, Mariv) as you shall see in the corpus of this book as preparation to direct one”s intent towards the Holy Presence of the Land which rests with our Patriarchs of Hebron (i.e intent in the Blessing of the Patriarchs). In regard to Life Contemplation, the recommended usage of this book is reading the Real Stories section as a trigger to contemplate your own life and those around you to seek, even in the Diaspora, sparks of Providence from the Great Fire of the Holy Presence in our Holy Land. May HaShem aid us all on our Search for the Holy Presence in our Holy Land.