Friday, August 15, 2014

"A land Hashem your G-d seeks"

"A land Hashem your G-d seeks"

(Deuteronomy 11:12)
Av 19, 5774/August 15, 2014

"A land Hashem, your G-d, looks after; the eyes of Hashem your G-d are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year."(Deuteronomy 11:12) This is a statement of such grandeur and far-reaching import that when reading it one feels compelled to stop and re-read it not once but many times. The original Hebrew imparts an even more compelling message. The Hebrew word doreish, which is here translated at "looks after" more properly means "seeks," and the Hebrew words don't state that "the eyes of Hashem your G-d are always upon the land," but that the eyes of Hashem your G-d are always "in the land."Whereas the English translation suggests a paternalistic and lofty gaze from on high, the Hebrew tells of a G-d whose Divine presence permeates the land of Israel, whose "eyes" are on eye level with both the land and the people who possess the land, and which are constantly seeking to create a relationship of mutual trust and blessing between the land of Israel and the people of Israel. G-d's presence is dynamic in the land of Israel and it is a dynamic relationship that G-d demands between His people Israel and the land.

The land of Israel is not the end goal but only the staging ground and the starting point for Israel's destined role in the world. "In the beginning G-dcreated the heavens and the earth (earth=land in Hebrew)," (Genesis 1:1) and our sages tell us that the land G-d created was the land of Israel for the people of Israel. And it is this very land that G-d seeks with His"eyes, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year." (Deut. 11:12) It is this very land whose heart and place of the Holy Temple the patriarch Avraham called "Hashem will see, as it is said to this day: On the mountain, Hashem will be seen.'" (Genesis 22:14) G-d, whose eyes"are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year," can be seen, can be felt, and can be approached here in the land of Israel as nowhere else in the world, and likewise G-d "seeks" and detects and scrutinizes man's heart and soul here in the land of Israel as nowhere else in the world.

You can't make this up, people, and it is a difficult truth to share with those who aren't here in the land of Israel, and it is not an invention of modern Zionism, but it is written clearly black on white, here in this week's Torah reading of EikevG-d's nearness is so imperceptibly and inconceivably close here in the land of Israel that no lie will go undetected for long and no impurity will be remain unwashed in due time. The verses which follow, words which we repeat every day as part of the Shemaprayer, make it clear that everything, from the rain that falls, to the grains and fruits that we raise and consume, all are a measured and commensurate response to Israel's keeping G-d's commandments, commandments which pertain to our fellow man, to the land of Israel itself and to G-d. It is a package deal and with proper care the rewards are immeasurable.

Israel at war and at peace, Israel's economy and prosperity, Israel's scientific and medical advances, high tech and energy technology, her musicians and actors and writers and painters are all a result of and a reflection of the intimate relationship that G-d seeks with His eyes here in the land of Israel. Israel's successes and Israel's failures rise and fall within the parameters that G-d determines according to the incomprehensible algorithm which is His determination of reward and punishment. There is no happenstance here in the land which G-d seeks with His eyes, "from the beginning of the year to the end of the year."

We are currently six weeks before Rosh HaShana, the day which marks both "the beginning of the year [and] the end of the year," and the nation of Israel is already beginning the process of intense reflection which marks our preparations for the upcoming season of judgement and return. No verse of Torah better describes this season than our verse quoted above as it is during this time that we dwell upon G-d's immediacy and approachability and His accepting of both what we have become over the past year and whom we intend to be. Without G-d's intimate nearness, renewal and repentance would not be an option.

Many good Jews devote most of their waking moments between the seventeenth day of Tammuz and the ninth day of Av, the three week period of mourning the destruction of the Holy Temple, thinking of, longing for and praying for the Holy Temple. And many of these same good Jews turn their thoughts elsewhere on the tenth day of Av. But in light of all that we have shared above, and in light of G-d's presence and constant engagement with His people and with His land, our above quoted verse, which we read every year following the ninth of Av, stands out as a clarion and a directive to double and triple our efforts, now and throughout the upcoming year, to rebuild for G-d the house He so richly deserves, here in the land He loves and seeks out, "from the beginning of the year to the end of the year." May G-d bless our efforts to rebuild His house, "a house of prayer for all nations." (Isaiah 56:7)

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