Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Sh'lach: Rejecting the Land of Israel

Art: Jerusalem Landscape by Michoel Muchnik

"And [the spies] began to speak badly about the land that they had explored." [Sh'lach 13:32

A dispirited discussion took place at Beit HaRav, Rav Kook's house in Jerusalem, not long after the end of World War II. The Chief Rabbi had passed away ten years earlier; now it was his son, Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah Kook, who sat at the head of the table.

One participant at the Sabbath table had brought up a disturbing topic: the phenomenon of visitors touring Eretz Yisrael and then criticizing the country after returning to their homes. These visitors complain about everything: the heat, the poverty, the backwardness, the political situation - and discourage other Jews from moving here, he lamented.

Rav Tzvi Yehudah responded by telling over the following parable, one he had heard in the name of Rabbi Samuel Mohilever, the rabbi of Bialystok.

The Failed Match
There was once a wealthy man who sought the hand of a certain young lady. She was the most beautiful girl in town, and was blessed with many talents and a truly refined character. Her family was not well-off, so they were eager about a possible match with the prosperous fellow.

The young woman, however, was not interested in the match. Rich or not, the prospective suitor was known to be coarse and ill-mannered. She refused to meet with him.

The father asked her to at least meet with the young man in their home, so as not to embarrass him. After all, one meeting doesn't obligate you to marry him! To please her father, the young woman agreed.

The following Sabbath afternoon, the fellow arrived at the house as arranged, and was warmly received by the father. Shortly afterwards, his daughter made her entrance. But her hair was uncombed, and she wore a faded, crumpled dress and shabby house slippers. Appalled at her disheveled appearance, it did not take long before the young man excused himself and made a hurried exit.

What everyone says about this girl - it's not true, exclaimed the astonished young man to his friends. She's hideous!

Rav Tzvi Yehudah stopped briefly, surveying the guests seated around the table. Superficially, it would appear that the brash young fellow had rejected the young woman. But in fact, it was she who had rejected him.

The same is true regarding the Land of Israel, the rabbi explained. Eretz Yisrael is a special land, only ready to accept those who are receptive to its unique spiritual qualities. The Land does not reveal its inner beauty to all who visit. Not everyone is worthy to perceive its special holiness.

It may appear as if the dissatisfied visitors are the ones who reject the Land of Israel, he concluded. But in fact, it is the Land that rejects them!

A thoughtful silence pervaded the room. Those present were stunned by the parable and the rabbi's impassioned delivery. Then one of the guests observed, Reb Tzvi Yehudah, your words are suitable for a son of your eminent father, may his memory be a blessing!

Seeing the Goodness of Jerusalem
Rav Tzvi Yehudah's response was indeed appropriate for Rav Kook's son. When visitors from outside the country would approach the Chief Rabbi for a blessing, Rav Kook would quote from the Book of Psalms, "May God bless you from Zion" [128:5].

Then he would ask: What exactly is this blessing from Zion? In fact, the content of the blessing is described in the continuation of the verse: "May you see the goodness of Jerusalem."

The rabbi would explain: The verse does not say that one should merit seeing Jerusalem; but that one should merit seeing 'the goodness of Jerusalem.' Many people visit Jerusalem. But how many of them merit seeing the inner goodness hidden in the holy city?

And that, he concluded, is God's special blessing from Zion.

[ Source: Stories from the Land of Israel. Adapted from Malachim Kivnei Adam]


Anonymous said...


Thank you for your post Devorah..

Hashem bless you and yours.

Just one question, what about those like me..non-Jews, will we merit the good of Israel when Mashiach comes?

Many times i have tried to visit Israel. It has not materialized for me so far. I leave that for reason that Hashem kows best..

Thanks in advance.

Anonymous said...


You do not have to be Jewish to see this, as it says in the Tanach:

(Yeshayahu - Isaiah 62:1-2)
"For the sake of Zion, I will not be silent, and for the sake of Jerusalem I will not rest, until her righteousness comes out like brilliance, and her salvation burns like a torch.

And nations shall see your righteousness, and all kings your glory, and you shall be called a new name, which the mouth of the Lord shall pronounce."

The goodness of Jerusalem is an inner quality associated with bitul and chochmah, or self-negation and wisdom. In Psalm 128, mentioned here by Rav Kook, we read twice that the blessings mentioned are associated with he who fears G-d. Fear (ירא) is associated with the sephirah gevurah, and is likewise called the beginning of wisdom.

In the words of Rav Yitzchak Ginsburgh, "Bitul is the spiritual state associated with the inner experience of Chochmah." He goes on to say in his book The Hebrew Letters, "In Chassidut we are taught that the inner experience of the soul which serves as the vessel to arouse and contain ever new flashes of insight, wisdom, is bitul "sleflessness". Fear, the beginning of wisdom, corresponds to the source of this state in the soul. Fear "shocks" ego, breaking the innate coarseness of the heart, that coarseness or egocentricity that prevents one from being truly receptive and perceptive to reality outside oneself in general, and the Divine Essence of all reality in particular."

If you feel interested, begin to study basic concepts in Chasidut and Kabbalah, learn about the sephirot and these ideas mentioned here. This knowledge is available and meaningful for everyone, Jews and non-Jew. For more information, please contact a Rabbi near you, heres a link to help find one who works with Noachides:

Anonymous said...

Shalom and all good to you, Anonymous,

Thanks for taking the time to explain so much in detail.

I am acquainted with the world wide network of Noahides, and they are helpful... but.....

I Will give it thought again though. I mean getting in touch with the Noahide movement.

Hashem bless you and thanks again.

Devorah, thank you for your blog again.

I also wish to tell you that blogs like yours that I visit, for me it is like how it says somewhere in Torah, that when Mashiach is about to come, non Jews will run to grab the hand (?) or skirt(?) of a Jew and ask them to take them to Jerusalem.

This may seem funny to some, but these blogs for me, are like= me hanging on to 'hands' or 'skirts' of the the Chosen, the special ones, and i feel somehow a little secure within me.....just that.

Without these blogs, i, and i speak just for me.. i would be entirely lost, and alone, even though i know Hashem helps me - i speak true - but then again this too, talking to Hashem i have learned from blogs and from some Rabbis or Ravs, when listening to their shuirs.
Hashem bless you all.


Neshama said...

“They” are still rejecting the Land, in the guise of anti-Zionism.