Israel Beckons Jews Home, Like
A Mother Does Her Children
that kept us away and finally arrive
in Israel, we feel vibrant, fulfilled,
and at home.
The land of Israel has a unique
spiritual power. The great commen-
tator Nachmanides explains (Genesis
26:5) that even before the Torah
am posting this article from
was given on Mt. Sinai, the patri-
Jerusalem, where I've arrived
archs observed its laws while they
for a week of visiting Israelis.
were in the land.
After all of the planning that
Why only in the land? Because
goes into such a mission, it is a
the mitzvot are channeled through
relief finally to arrive and to experi-
the land of Israel, where God's pres-
ence once again the powerful pull
ence is uniquely felt. Within the
of Israel welcoming us home.
land, Abraham and his
The land of Israel is like
progeny could intuit the
a mighty magnet — some-
times it draws us in, and
though they would not be
sometimes it pushes us
revealed to humanity on
away. For three millennia,
Mt. Sinai for several cen-
the land has pulled in the
dispersed people of Israel
I can verify that each
from distant countries, like
mitzvah done while in
a mother gathering in her
Israel feels a bit more
energetic and meaningful
At other times, however,
RABBI DANIEL than those performed
the land has pushed our
abroad. In the diaspora,
people away, through
the mitzvot remind us of
famine or war, which the
our uniqueness, our differ-
Torah describes as punish-
ence from others. But in
ment for our sins (Leviticus
Israel, the mitzvot tap us
into the very essence of the land.
Why does our homeland exhibit
In Israel, the holidays are com-
this binary nature?
munal, our prayers feel electric, and
In this week's portion, Ch. 26
our acts of kindness have the power
opens with a description of severe
to redeem the entire nation.. We
famine. Isaac responds to the crisis
feel motivated to do our best, for
by preparing to leave for Egypt,
"God's eyes are always on the land"
just like his father, Abraham,.had
done. But this time, God inter-
Before we can experience the
cedes, commanding Isaac to remain
power of being in Israel, we must
in the land — never to leave —
open our hearts to its attraction.
and, thereby, to become a source of
When we overcome our anxieties
blessing. The repulsion changes to
and get ourselves to Israel, then the
attraction; and Isaac stays put,
magnetism of this wonderful and
bringing new blessings forth from
holy place takes hold of us.
the heart of the land.
By the time you read this, I
In our day, we also feel the ten-
expect to be back in Michigan,
sion experienced by Isaac. For those
planning my next trip home. I
of us in the diaspora, Israel feels
invite you also to open your heart
distant and dangerous. For Israelis,
to the pull of our homeland. May
the diaspora beckons with the
we someday stand together with
prospect of comfort and escape
Jews from across the world, at
from anxiety. This is the negative
home and at peace in the land of.
side of the magnet at work.
But within every Jewish soul is a
switch that can reverse the push
into 'a pull — when we open our
hearts to God's voice, just as Isaac
does in the portion. Then we sud-
denly feel a mighty attraction to
When you think about the mes-
visit the land, to walk its streets
sianic era, what role does the
and talk with its people. When we
land of Israel play? What ele- •
overcome all of the inertia and fear
ments of such a time can we cre-
ate through our actions here and
Daniel Nevins is a spiritual leader at
Adat Shalom Synagogue.
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