Parshat Chayei Sarah
By: Rabbi Moshe Goodman, Kollel Ohr Shlomo, Hebron
Inviting the Holy Presence in Our Holy Land
You are a Prince of God Among us
Why is the Jewish People in Exile for so many years? Rabbi Hayim Vital asks this question in his introduction to Etz Hayim. He answers that it is the lack of study of the Kabbalah and the internal facets of the Torah that cause the lengthening of exile, as can be seen in the famous statement of the Zohar, “it is through the book of the Zohar (and Kabbalah in general) that Israel will leave exile through compassion.” Rabbi Hayim Vital further explains this teaching by explaining, according to numerous passages in the Zohar, that it is the internal Torah that teaches a person to truly internalize Hashem’s Will and desire to “bestow kindness to the Holy Presence.” However, how can all this be simply explained in context of leaving exile?
Exile is the state when Israel is detached from the Holy Land and Temple. If so, how can we attach ourselves and unite our souls with the Holy Land and Temple? One of the deepest levels of connection can be seen in the paradigm of husband and wife. Indeed, conceptualization of Israel as a husband and the Land of Israel as a wife is clearly seen in Tanach, in Halacha, but in Kabbalistic sources it takes on a much broader and deeper meaning. Although we may not feel it, our souls are innately imbued with a yearning for our “wife.” But our tradition teaches that we must not be satisfied with this innate connection to the Holy Land – “Zion is she – she has no seeker” – “from this it is to be inferred that she needs to be sought” (Yirmiyahu 30:17; Rosh Hashana 30a). “Seeking” implies that a mere glimpse of external facets is not enough, but rather an internal probing of the soul of Zion is needed. Just as a man cannot truly know his wife from her external dress, so too one cannot truly connect to the Land of Israel merely based on news, politics, etc. Indeed, without the internal search for the soul of our Holy Land, we are lacking our primary recognition of this Land as our People’s soulmate. It is the Internal Torah which teaches us to identify the soul of the Holy Land, the Holy Presence, to seek It, and to magnify Its power with all our hearts and souls, just as the Zohar and Rabbi Vital teaches us – “to bestow kindness to the Holy Presence.” In turn, by seeking kindness towards the Holy Presence of the Holy Land, Hashem also takes us out of exile “through compassion” and kindness without needing to place us in ordeals that will force us out of exile.
Hebron means unity, and therefore the Kabbalists teach that it is this through this city that we may internalize our unity with Holy Presence in this Land. When we internalize the inspiration emerging from Hebron we come to the realization that only through constant devotion to the Holy Presence of our Holy Land can we truly and fully experience God’s Presence in our lives. This week, Shabbat Hebron, we begin the seventh year of our weekly divrei Torah shared with you devoted explicitly for this purpose. The seventh year carries special significance in regard to Hebron, just as Hebron was “built for seven years before Zoan” and also King David was king in Hebron for a period of seven years. Just as a king leaves a lasting impression on those that come in contact with him, so too we will focus this year on stories throughout Hebron’s history that leave us with a lasting impression and “experience” of Hebron’s inspiring atmosphere. Indeed, at this occasion we are happy to announce the upcoming publication of our book “Hebron – Uniting With the Holy Presence,” in the coming weeks, which, God-willing, will aid us in tapping into the unique “experience” of Hebron. When we unite with Holy Presence and experience Its Light in our lives, as our Father Avraham did, all nations will also experience the Light of God upon us, exclaiming, as they did with Avraham: “You are a Prince of God among us.”
Real Stories from the Holy Land #287
One time, Hebron’s Jewish Community received a warning to pay their taxes that had accumulated over the years. Therefore, the heads of the Jewish community were called for sentencing, but also with them the Chie Rabbi of Hebron, Rabbi Medini, was also “mistakenly” called… When Rabbi Medini arrived at the sentence, everyone stood and did not sit till Rabbi Medini sat in an honorable place. Refreshments were immediately ordered for the rabbi. As they put their hands on their heads in embarrassment, the Arab officials inquired thrice about Rabbi Medini’s wellbeing and apologized for having summoned the Chief Rabbi to come himself. Rabbi Medini answered: ‘I am servant to the government and a servant to my community. The taxes that I am ordered to pay are not business taxes nor taxes on private property, but rather these taxes are on sacred property, that, as far as I know, are exempt for taxes according to the law. Nevertheless, whatever you order, I will do.’ When these words were said calmly and in perfect Turkish, it made a tremendous impression on everyone, till the head of the committee rose and said: ‘You are a prince of God among us, in your honor and in honor of your Torah we hereby erase all of these taxes from the records, and we ask your forgiveness and blessing.’ The crowd around Rabbi Medini, Jews and non-Jews alike, burst in rejoicing, and even one of the head officials, known for his cruelty to Jews, softened and honored Rabbi Medini. The Sdei Hemed then said: ‘If I have found favor in your eyes, please act compassionately with those imprisoned by you, waiting for their judgment. Soften their sentences, and they will bless the Sultan and the honorary officials gathered here.’ ‘So it shall be!’ said the head of the committee, ‘release their chains, and they shall kiss the feet of the Chief Rabbi.’ Everyone exclaimed: ‘Long live the Chief Rabbi!’
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