“Only in Israel:” Praising the Land in the holy month of Elul
I’ve gone more than a month with no blogposts. Not a good feeling when before I was posting once a day or at least a few times a week, but that just happens sometimes.
It’s Elul; a time for introspection, forgiveness, and repentance out of free will and an innate desire to become better people heading into a new year. I’ve always felt that the process of tshuva (repentance) is intricately connected to Aliyah (the process whereby a Jew returns to Israel).
Whereas when we perform “tshuva,” we “return” to a previous state which we weren’t necessarily aware of (according to the Talmud, a Jewish infant “learns” the entire Torah while still inside his mother’s womb), when a Jew makes Aliyah to Israel, he’s also “returning” in a way–returning to the land of his forefathers; the land from where his soul will ascend from the dead upon the coming of the Moshiach.
The Land of Israel is central to Jewish thought. Yishuv ha’aretz (living in Israel) is listed as one of the three things that are accomplished through yesurim–“great suffering.” The other two are good deeds and the World to Come. We learn from this that living in Israel is just as important (or perhaps more so) than observing the Sabbath, family purity and any other mitzvah in the Torah.
We’re headed towards Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the holiest days of the year, and the culmination of the month of Elul. I often see Facebook posts where American immigrants used to a life of ease and splendor, bash Israel using terms like “Only in Israel:” “No customer service…only in Israel,” or “Bus driver went off on me like a madman…only in Israel.”
This is not only the very opposite of the concept of repentance, it’s one of the gravest sins we can possibly commit. It’s equivalent to the Sin of the Spies. Those of us living in Israel need to realize that being here is a privilege not to be taken for granted lest G-d forbid we lose out right to the Land. We need to realize that when we post negative feedback on life here, people pay attention. They view us as representatives of the entire Nation–those who’ve merited the right to live in Israel.
As we enter the final lap leading up to the High Holidays when we’ll beseech G-d to be merciful upon us and forgive our sins, let’s judge the Land of Israel favorably just like we expect G-d to judge us. Let’s be aware that when we slander the Land, we’re committing the sin of the spies; a sin that has haunted us for two millennia. Let’s all make an effort to avoid saying or posting anything that sheds a negative light on the Land of Israel. Even if you’re having a bad day, or someone yells at you for no apparent reason, realize that by living here, you’re serving as a representative for an entire nation and make the best of it.