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Rabbinical HOMEiletics: Part 1

Updated: Sep 29, 2022


In the Sefer Ohr Yahel by HaRav Yehuda Leib Chasman zt”l (1869-1935), a question is asked, “Which is more valuable - gold, diamonds, or air? If you answer air, then why are gold and diamonds sold as commodities, while air is free?”

I believe the answer is that of course air is one of the most valuable resources for human life, yet its worth is not measured in dollars and cents. Its value is immeasurable. With it, we breathe and live; without it, G-d forbid, we expire. However, since it is plentiful and we enjoy it effortlessly, we often take it for granted.

So, too, our Homeland, Eretz Yisrael. For two-thousand years, we cried, mourned, and prayed for our return. Until today, a Jew davens facing Yerushalayim, regardless of where in the world he is living. Many around the world leave a space of their homes unfinished in soulful recognition that the Beit Hamikdash has not yet been rebuilt. Eretz Yisrael and Yerushalayim are on the lips of every observant Jew many times a day in their prayers.

Eretz Yisrael and Yerushalayim are so central to being a Jew that, without them, Judaism as we know it would cease to exist. However, as with air, we sometimes take Eretz Yisrael for granted.

It is said that Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky zt”l quipped, half-jokingly, that “throughout the millennia of our exile many of our treasures have been co-opted. The Christians took the Bible, the Maskilim took Hebrew, and the secular Zionists took Eretz Yisrael. What do we have left?” It has been proposed that this is why the curricula in our Yeshivos have been Gemara-centric (with nine hours of daily Gemara learning) , as this is all we have left that has not been usurped.

In our days, we have seen a renewed Jewish interest in Tanach as well as with Hebrew linguistics and grammar. We have also seen a tremendous revival and renewal in our Homeland Eretz Yisrael. Hashem is leading His nation HOME, with over 7 million Jewish citizens now living in Eretz Yisrael, at last count. We have lived to see the words of our Prophets actualize in front of our eyes:

Zecharia 8:4-8

כֹּ֤ה אָמַר֙ יְהֹוָ֣ה צְבָא֔וֹת עֹ֤ד יֵֽשְׁבוּ֙ זְקֵנִ֣ים וּזְקֵנ֔וֹת בִּרְחֹב֖וֹת יְרוּשָׁלָ֑͏ִם וְאִ֧ישׁ מִשְׁעַנְתּ֛וֹ בְּיָד֖וֹ מֵרֹ֥ב יָמִֽים׃ וּרְחֹב֤וֹת הָעִיר֙ יִמָּ֣לְא֔וּ יְלָדִ֖ים וִֽילָד֑וֹת מְשַׂחֲקִ֖ים בִּרְחֹֽבֹתֶֽיהָ׃ כֹּ֤ה אָמַר֙ יְהֹוָ֣ה צְבָא֔וֹת כִּ֣י יִפָּלֵ֗א בְּעֵינֵי֙ שְׁאֵרִית֙ הָעָ֣ם הַזֶּ֔ה בַּיָּמִ֖ים הָהֵ֑ם גַּם־בְּעֵינַי֙ יִפָּלֵ֔א נְאֻ֖ם יְהֹוָ֥ה צְבָאֽוֹת כֹּ֤ה אָמַר֙ יְהֹוָ֣ה צְבָא֔וֹת הִנְנִ֥י מוֹשִׁ֛יעַ אֶת־עַמִּ֖י מֵאֶ֣רֶץ מִזְרָ֑ח וּמֵאֶ֖רֶץ מְב֥וֹא הַשָּֽׁמֶשׁ׃ וְהֵבֵאתִ֣י אֹתָ֔ם וְשָׁכְנ֖וּ בְּת֣וֹךְ יְרוּשָׁלָ֑͏ִם וְהָיוּ־לִ֣י לְעָ֗ם וַֽאֲנִי֙ אֶהְיֶ֤ה לָהֶם֙ לֵֽאלֹהִ֔ים בֶּאֱמֶ֖ת וּבִצְדָקָֽה׃ {פ}

Thus said the LORD of Hosts: There shall yet be old men and women in the squares of Yerushalayim, each with staff in hand because of their great age. And the squares of the city shall be crowded with boys and girls playing in the squares. Thus said the LORD of Hosts: Though it will seem impossible to the remnant of this people in those days, shall it also be impossible to Me?—declares the LORD of Hosts. Thus said the LORD of Hosts: I will rescue My people from the lands of the east and from the lands of the west, and I will bring them home to dwell in Yerushalayim. They shall be My people, and I will be their God—in truth and sincerity.

Beginning with this Rosh Hashanah, let’s aim to appreciate and align more with these incredible gifts that Hashem has granted us. Although Eretz Yisrael and Yerushalayim have always been important to us as a nation, let’s commit in this coming year to invest in strengthening our appreciation of their supreme value in our lives.

Air and Eretz Yisrael: two of our life forces. Air is critical for human life wherever we find ourselves. However, there is a passage in the Talmud that informs us that the air in Eretz Yisrael is unique and actually imbues us with wisdom.

Bava Basra 158:

אָמַר רַבִּי זֵירָא שְׁמַע מִינַּהּ אַוֵּירָא דְּאֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל מַחְכִּים

Rabbi Zeira said: Conclude from this incident that the air of Eretz Yisrael makes one wise.

May Hashem bless you and your loved ones with a כתיבה וחתימה טובה, a year filled with life, growth, wisdom and fulfillment for you and all of Klal Yisrael.

Rabbi Ephraim Epstein

Director of Rabbinic Engagement

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