Our Dvar Torah: “Yearning for the Land of Israel”
READ Likutey Moharan Book Book I # 155)
The name of this week's parsha is Eikev. This word is usually translated as “Because” as in “And it will be, because you will heed these ordinances and keep them and perform them...” and so on. BECAUSE one keeps the mitzvot one merits the blessings of HaShem THEM “... the Lord, your God, will keep for you the covenant and the kindness that He swore to your forefathers.” And this is true.
Hidden within this truth is another. The word eikev also translates as “heel.” This has lead to some interesting understandings about the mitzvot we are commanded as Jews to observe. Of this Rashi notes:
If you will heed the minor commandments which one [usually] tramples with his heels [i.e., which a person treats as being of minor importance].
[“That the Lord, your God, will keep”]: He will keep His promise to you.
On this same point the midrash notes:
David said, “Master of the Universe! I do not fear the important precepts of the Torah, because the are obviously important. Rather, I fear the minor precepts, perhaps I was lax with them because they are minor, abd You said, “Be careful with a minor precept just like with an important one.” Thu the Verse says: “In keeping them there is great reward. (Psalm 19:12). And it is also written, “Oh how great is Your goodness, which You have laid up for those who love You (Psalms 31:20). This refers to the reward for observing “minor” precepts, as explained at Tanchuma Eikev 1.
Concerning the observance of the mitzvot, the present parsha reveals that the ideal place for us to perform them is in our eternal Home. Y'israel. Our forebears were instructed to sanctify the Land to HaShem and that there He alone is G-d.
Realizing the truth and the power of this is only possible with emunah. What kind of emunah? What kind of motivating faith? Certainly emunah in HaShem, but also with emunah in the Land of our inheritance. We are commanded to dwell in our Land with all humility and gratitude. To establish this HaShem gave us the Commandments with clear signs and with wonders never before or after seen by any other people! There we beheld His Presence!. From Har Sinai He led us personally to our Land! And what a Land it is!
Eretz Y'israel is the Home of our Joy and our Gladness. As the Psalmist mourned:
By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat, sat and wept, as we thought of Zion... How can we sing a song of the LORD on alien soil?
Our very essence yearns to be Home! In Y'Israel, the Land of Zion. Away from home we lament and are depressed, we inwardly know that something is not right! Something is missing! Rebbe Nachman explains this wonderfully here at Likutey Moharan lesson 155. Outside of the Land we are easily distracted and led astray. Even our prayers suffer as this inward yearning, even when its not identifiable to us, laments not being Home. We become impatient, easily irritable because try as we may it feels as though nothing, outside of the Land is right!
Israel is where patience and all other positive qualities arise for Jews. As the Rebbe notes: “The land of Israel corresponds to emunah, motivating, active faith, as is written: 'Whoever dwells in the Land of Israel is as if he has God (Ketubot 110b). Thus,” he continues, “Since the Land of Israel corresponds to emunah, and since through emunah, and through emunah patience is realized – and hence no obstacle nor distraction can stand in the way of ones service to HaShem!. This is evidence that a Jewish good qualities, such as patience, love, peace and so on, actually arise from his or her connection to the Land of Israel.
What about those who are not blessed to live in Israel? Consider that while Rebbe Nachman underwent a most harrowing adventure to visit Yerushalayim, he did not live there either. But what did he say?
Wherever I go, I am always only going to the land of Israel . I am only here in Breslov temporarily.
Chayey Moharan #156
So to with us.
A true Israelite is one who constantly advances from level to level. Each advance to greater holiness can be accomplished only through the holiness of the land of Israel. Likewise our prayers ascend only through the land of Israel.
When a person reaches the level of the land of Israel, he is worthy to be called "a man of strength and valor." Before one attains this level, "Let not he that girds his armor boast like he that removes it" (I Kings 20:11 ) . However after winning the battle, he does indeed deserve to be called "a man of war".
Likutey Moharan I, 20
Rebbe Nachman is clear:
The only motive for going to the land of Israel should be spiritual: to draw closer to God. One who goes there with this intention will certainly benefit. Merely by setting foot in the land, he will become absorbed in and transformed by its holiness. For this reason even one who walks four cubits in the land of Israel is assured that he will inherit the world to come (Ketubot 111a). But if a person's motive has no connection with devotion to God and purification from evil, how will the land of Israel help him? It will vomit him out "as it vomited out the nation that was before you" (Leviticus 18:28 ) .
Likutey Moharan I, 155
What is Israel? WE are Israel, WE are the children of Ya'akov whose name was changed to Israel. Most of us exiled from our true nature as Israel. About half of us are still in the Galut, the Diaspora. And yet even in the Galut we can elevate our consciousnesses to the level of Israel. How? Through the mitzvot, through hitbodedut, through devekut. These things are only granted by HaShem through the Power of Emunah!
But here we are speaking of the actual land of Israel, not of Israel as a philosophical construct. We should:
Pray that God should give you longing and desire for the land of Israel , and then you will succeed in getting there. Pray also that He should plant yearning for the land in the hearts of all the Tzaddikim.
Likutey Moharan I, 155
And with this, B'ezrat HaShem -- with G-d's help and mercy -- we too will be blessed to make aliyah. May this be so for all Jews.