By Rabbi Moshe Goodman, Kollel Ohr Shlomo, Hebron בס”ד
Discovering the Holy Presence in The Holy Land
Sukkot and Shmini Atzeret both have a dominant emphasis on water, as the libation of water was and will be on Sukkot, and the mentioning of rain in our prayers begins on Shmini Atzeret. At this time we also begin the book of Breshit, associated with the attribute of kindness (as some say on reciting tehilim on Hoshana Raba night), as our Sages teach that the world existed through God’s kindness till the ‘world’ became more worthy by Receiving the Torah in the book of Shmot. This attribute of kindness is also associated by our Sages to water, the life-giving element on earth. The element of water naturally brings us to the four rivers from Eden (Gihon, Pishon, Hidekel, Prat (Euphrates)) mentioned in our title quote. Just as the Garden of Eden has four rivers associated with it, so too the Land of Israel, our present day spiritual ‘Paradise’ has four rivers according to the Sages: the Jordan, Yarmuch. Karmiyon, and Figa (Baba Batra 74b). We have mentioned in the past that Maaras HaMachpela is identified as the Threshold of the Garden of Eden, and with the same token is strongly associated with the Land of Israel, being synonymous with the term Zion, according the Arizal. These two concepts come beautifully together when we ponder the fact that Hebron has four names (Hebron, Kiryat Arba, Mamreh, Eshkol), four saintly couples, and is also called the ‘City of Four’.
Water is also a matter that is associated with sanctity as can be seen in our Sages coinage of the priest’s washing his hands and feet with water in the Temple as “sanctifying hands and feet.” We find the concept of sanctity in parshat Breshit as well in the context of the sanctification of the Shabbat. Hebron’s Torah-giant, Rabbi Eliyahu DiVidash explains at length in his monumental work “Reshit Hochma” how one may sanctify one’s speech and thought, in addition to action, on Shabbat. We should note that “sanctifying one’s thought” on Shabbat is pious behavior, but is not halachically required. However, halacha does mandate that some types of speech are prohibited on Shabbat, such as discussing plans to perform activities that are forbidden on Shabbat to be done after Shabbat. Rabbi Vidash’s teaching on sanctifying one’s thought, speech and action on Shabbat is brought in context of “Shaar HaKedusha” in his book “Reshit Hochma”, a section which deals with various topics that involve sanctifying oneself. In addition to the sanctity of time in regard to Shabbat this section also discusses the sanctity of location, such as in a synagogue and bet midrash, which also brings sanctity upon a person. A synagogue is called a “mini-sanctuary” and also the Holy Land is called the “House of Hashem” in Hulin 92a. Indeed, the Holy Land sanctifies the people who live in it, as our Sages taught: “If you wish to see the countenance the Holy Presence in this world – study Torah in the Land of Israel.” Of course, Hebron is one of the ideal locations to imbue the sanctity of our Holy Land.
“One morning I was pondering one of the 32 paths of wisdom called “the wisdom of leading unity.” I was about to send a text-message to one of the candidates in the coming elections about this concept. However, instead I got a message from this candidate saying that he decided to forfeit being a candidate in the coming elections, as an overture of of “leading unity” between different parties through self-sacrifice.” A.G