Sunday, December 03, 2006

Holiness In The Holyland

Bereishit 28:16:
And Jacob awakened from his sleep, and he said, "Indeed, the Lord is in this place, and I did not know [it]."
Rashi adds:
and I did not know [it] For had I known, I would not have slept in such a holy place.
Being in a holy place requires that one behave accordingly. I take this as a personal reminder: I've been living here for the past 20 years or so. I must always remember that the land of Israel requires an extra measure of holiness for those who live here.

I work in the holy city of Tel Aviv. That's right Tel Aviv is part of the land of Israel, and it is therefore holy! Unfortunately the holiness of the land is not always revealed in the behavior of its inhabitants. I won't elaborate.

This situation is temporary however. The pursuit of materialism for its own sake is an empty endeavor. The crazed rush after a luxury apartment or a fancy car is the pursuit of the foolish and the ignorant. It is the occupation of those who have not taken the time to understand their own souls, of those who do not realize that these things are not going to bring happiness. Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto in his classic Path of the Just explains the phenomenon:
Furthermore, if man had been created solely for the sake of this world, he would have had no need of being inspired with a soul so precious and exalted as to be greater than the angels themselves, especially so in that it derives no satisfaction whatsoever from all of the pleasures of this world. This is what our Sages of blessed memory teach us in Midrash (Koheleth Rabbah), "'And also the soul will not be filled' (Eccelesiastes 6:7) What is this analogous to? To the case of a city dweller who married a princess. If he brought her all that the world possessed, it would mean nothing to her, by virtue of her being a king's daughter. So is it with the soul. If it were to be brought all the delights of the world, they would be as nothing to it, in view of its pertaining to the higher elements." And so do our Sages of blessed memory say (Avoth 4:29), "Against your will were you created, and against your will were you born." For the soul has no love at all for this world. To the contrary, it despises it. The Creator, Blessed be His Name, certainly would never have created something for an end which ran contrary to its nature and which it despised.
I said the situation is temporary. The thirst for Torah is growing in Tel Aviv. Once abandoned synagogues are once again filling up. Jacob's children are waking up and realizing that "Indeed, the Lord is in this place..."

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