Seeking the The Holy Presence in Our Holy Land
‘כבד את אביך ואת אמך למען יאריכון ימיך על האדמה אשר ה’ א-היך נותן לך’
(Sunday) What is the connection between honoring parents and a lengthly life in the Holy Land? To answer this question we need to study what is the deeper meaning of parents and the deeper meaning of honor. To begin, there is honoring one’s personal parents and there is honoring our national parents, our holy Patriarchs and Matriarchs, who in their merit HaShem promised us the Holy Land.
(Monday) There is also the concept of giving honor to the The Holy Presence, as the Zohar 2, 90a states that the word ‘et’ comes to include the The Holy Presence. Indeed the Talmud in Kidushin 30b states that there are three partners in forming man, his father, mother, and HaShem (referring to the The Holy Presence which gives him his soul). Furthermore, our sages teach us that honoring one’s parents is similar to honoring God (ibid). Simply put, we may say that by honoring our parents we connect to our roots ultimately stemming from our Patriarchs and Matriarchs, thus connecting to the Divine promise of the Land. We also connect to the The Holy Presence, which is so connected to the Land.
(Tuesday) To study this matter more deeply let us take a look at one of the halachos regarding the special honor we give to our Patriarchs and the Land of Israel. It is well known in halacha that when praying the Amida one is to position one’s body in the direction of the Land of Israel, and more specifically in the direction of Jerusalem. It is also known that one must have intent to what one says in the Amida especially in the bracha of Avot, which focuses on our connection to HaShem via our Forefathers. Without this intent specifically in this bracha the whole Amida is rendered invalid, unlike all other brachot of the Shemoneh Esreh (Orah Haim 101, 1 – Mehaber says that one is to begin amida again, while Rama says that one shouldn’t repeat only because chances are that he won’t have intent the second time; according to some opinions Modim is also an exception).
(Wednesday) As to the dominance of our Patriarchs in regard to prayer we have more sources. Many sources state that if one wants to achieve merit before God one should mention the merit of the Patriarchs as Moshe Rabeinu did in his plea after the Sin of the Calf, while another source states that all prayers ascend via Maaras HaMachpela (Rama Mipano in ‘Kanfei Yona’). This last source is quite perplexing considering that we have sources saying that prayers ascend via Jerusalem (see Shlomo’s prayer in Kings 1, 8) in addition to the fact that halacha requires one to face Jerusalem in prayer as we mentioned. A solution to this seeming contradiction may be that ultimately our prayers ascend via Jerusalem, but they pass on the way via Maaras HaMachpela to receive the merit of our Patriarchs.
(Thursday) Now the crucial place of the Patriarchs in prayer is more understandable. Our very connection to God in general, and in prayer specifically, stems from our Forefathers and their, and ultimately our, personal experience of God’s Presence, as the Jew tells the King of the Kuzars in the beginning of the Kuzari ( by R. Y. Halevi). One of the names for God denoting a specific type of connection to God is ‘The Ancient of Days’ (Daniel 7, 11). It is when we honor our parents, also connecting to our ancient ancestors, that we connect to HaShem as ‘Ancient of Days’, connected to the concepts of ‘antiquity’ and ‘eternity’, thus achieving a lengthening of days.
(Friday) It is by giving honor to our parents that we connect to the ‘Honor of HaShem’, a term used many times in Tanach to refer to the revelation of the The Holy Presence (example – Num. 14, 10), which is so closely connected to the Land of Israel as we have shown in previous weeks. Now we may understand why by honoring parents one merits specifically a long life specifically in the Land of Israel. May HaShem, ‘the Ancient of Days’, lengthen our days in the Land of Israel in peace and prosperity.
(Shabbos) Real-life Providence Story 3: One person recounts: ‘I once sent my tefilin with a specific Rabbi to be bound in a factory after they had been checked. After several days, when I received the tefilin in return, I had to sleep overnight in a different city than my home-town. That night I had difficulty putting the straps in the hand-tefilin as halacha requires, so in the morning I asked a random person if he could help me pull the straps through the tefilin. The person who I asked recognized the tefilin and the sticker on them which marked the name of the Rabbi that I had sent my tefilin with. He wrote on paper (since he couldn’t talk while praying): I am the same person who put your parchments in the boxes the other day…’
Seeking the Holy Presence in Our Holy Land
‘כבד את אביך ואת אמך למען יארכון ימיך על האדמה אשר ה’ א-היך נתן לך’
(Sunday) ‘For from Zion Torah will be delivered and the word of HaShem from Jerusalem.’ Although, as we see in this parsha, the first Torah and prophecy to our Nation was delivered at Mount Sinai and before in Egypt in the Diaspora, our Sages teach in the Mechilta that once Israel entered the Land all prophecy must be rooted in the Land of Israel.
(Monday) In the Mechilta this concept is compared to the exclusivity of the Beit HaMikdash to Jerusalem, this exclusivity occurring only after a period of time of in-exclusivity in regard to the location of the Bais HaMikdash. If so, the Mechilta asks, how did Yehezkel receive prophecy in Babylon? The Mechilta answers that, because Yehezkel began his prophecy in the Land of Israel, therefore he was allowed to continue his prophecy even when he was exiled to the Diaspora.
(Tuesday) Similarly, in a halachic sense, Torah rulings, at least in their highest levels, may only be ruled in the Land of Israel. So halacha mandates, based on this pasuk ‘For from Zion Torah will be delivered etc.’, that the initial establishment of months, leap years, etc. must be established by the Sanhedrin in the Land of Israel.
(Wednesday) In addition, there a numbers of laws that can only be ruled by those with ‘special ordination’ (which we still do not have today) in the Land of Israel. Similarly, the grand Sanhedrin of Israel of 71 elders is specifically located adjacent to the Bais HaMikdash in Jerusalem, and in its absence many of the Torah’s laws cannot be implemented today. The dominance of the Land of Israel in such important facets of Judaism, such as Torah and prophecy, highlight how the Holy Land stands as such an important cause in the spiritual wellbeing of our People.
|(Thursday) Indeed, Isaiah describes the Land to the People as a mother to children: ‘Lift up your eyes all around and see, they all have gathered, they have come to you; your sons shall come from afar, and your daughters shall be raised on [their] side,’ and this concept is also echoed in the Yerushalmi (Moed Katan 3, 1).Based on this concept, we can more easily understand why the Torah links, in our title quote, the respect towards parents to our wellbeing in the Land of Israel, the ‘parent’, so to speak of our People.
(Friday) When we talk about Hebron, this message becomes double-folded. Hebron is both the source of our People’s connection to the Holy Land, the ‘parent’ of our People, as Israel’s first bought property therein, and Hebron is also literally the location of our holy parents, the Patriarchs and Matriarchs. The Arizal explains that by honoring our parents, i.e. our cause, we awaken the spiritual cause to our wellbeing. Thus, by also giving honor to Hebron we awaken the spiritual causes for the wellbeing of our People at large.
(Shabbos) Real Stories from the Holy Land: ‘I decided to spend a certain amount of money on a mitzah in Hebron, and so I did. Within 5 minutes of doing so, I was offered a job that payed for all the money I just spent… with about a 50% increase…’
Sources: Rambam Kidush Hahodesh 1, 8 and 5, 1, ibid. Sanhedrin, 5, 1-17, Shaar Hamitzvot, Yitro
Connecting to the Holy Presence in Our Holy Land
‘עתה ידעתי כי גדול ה’ מכל הא-הים’
(Sunday) ‘And all shall come to serve You, and shall give You a crown of majesty’ (Piyut of Yomim Noraim). One of the aspirations of Judaism is to bestow the light of God upon all nations of the world to the farthest reaches, so that all shall acknowledge the mastery and majesty of the King of Kings, HaShem, as Yitro ‘the priest of Midyan’ proclaims, ‘now I know that HaShem is greater than any other power/god’.
(Monday) Part of this aspiration is that, not only should all nations have acknowledgment of HaShem’s mastery, but that this acknowledgment be so pronounced that all nations even conduct their lives according to the teachings of God in regard to the Noahide commandments, which fill the world with good and justice.
(Tuesday) The Noahide commandments entail the obligation to pursue justice through an organized judicial system, and the prohibition on idolatry, blaspheming, incest, murder, theft, and the consumption of organisms while still alive. Although these are the main commandments, there are also some more laws of lesser status incumbent on all nations, such as the prohibition to graft different species of trees and breed different species of animals.
(Wednesday) We also learn that there are certain nations that in addition to these commandments were also commanded to circumcise their males, these being the descendants of Ketura, born to Avraham after being commanded on circumcision, who are considered today to be mingled with the offspring of Yishmael, thereby rendering them all under the obligation to commit circumcision on the 8th day.
(Thursday) Although the aspiration is that all nations of the world commit the Noahide laws, Torah teaches us that in the Holy Land in particular there is especially high sensitivity to the commitment of these laws. This sensitivity is such to an extent that only one who takes on these Noahide laws in this manner can be granted citizenship to stay as a permanent dweller in the Land, a status called ‘ger toshav’, the ‘residential convert’ (to be differentiated from a full convert to Judaism).
(Friday) Hebron, as the burial place of both primordial Man, Adam, andof the Patriarchs of the Jewish People reminds us, the Jewish People, of our responsibility to enlighten the entire world, the descendants of Adam, with the light of God, to such an extent that we shall indeed be called by all, as the words of the prophet: ‘a light upon the nations’ (Isaiah 49, 6).
(Shabbos) Real Stories from the Holy Land 106: ‘Once my wife needed to fly to India, so I drove her to the airport. However, on the way my car broke down, and my wife was in danger of missing her flight. As I prayed to be helped, just then a car stopped for us which just ‘happened’ to be driving to the airport. After my wife left on that ride I was left to handle with the car in the heat of summer, and I became very thirsty. Just then, a truck randomly stopped, and offered me refreshing water.’
Sources: Rambam Mlachim vemilhamot ch. 9-10