Saturday, December 31, 2005

Chanukah and Eretz Yisrael

The gemara (Megillah 11) teaches us that four kingdoms have opressed the Jewish people in galus, and among them is Yavan, the Greek opression during Chanukah. The MaHaRaSha questions why the gemara refers to the opression of Yavan as part of the galus when the Jewish people were living in Eretz Yisrael during that period. He answers that although we lived in Eretz Yisrael, since there was no autonomy, this is considered a period of galus. Indeed, the Rambam (Hil Chanukah 3:1) details the restoration of Jewish kingship that continued for over 200 years as part of the reason for the celebration of Chanukah . A Rabbi in our neighborhood remarked once that we are all Zionists because all Jews want to return to Eretz Yisrael. Not true. We all want to return to Eretz Yisrael, but a return to Eretz Yisrael even to learn Torah and keep mitzvos is still galus. Our hope is to rule Eretz Yisrael as our own autonomous state, to live as a nation in freedom. I would argue that political autonomy is more of an indicator of geulah than the number of kollelim in Eretz Yisrael; during the periods of Tanach when kings who were not shomrei Torah reigned we were not in galus though the land was filled with avodah zarah. I often am given the impression that to many people the State is just at best a "hechsher mitzva" to enable shmiras hamitzvos and limud haTorah in Eretz Yisrael, but of no significance as an end in itself. I believe Chanukah teaches us otherwise.
Ya'akov Avinu instructs his children in this week's parsha "K'chu mizimras ha'Aretz". R" Nachman (Likutei MoHaRaN II:63) explains "zemer" not as cutting, but as "song". Every land and pasture has its own unique niggun, which is known to the shepards who tend their flocks there. Ya'akov Avinu instructed the Shevatim to carry with them the song of Eretz Yisrael to reveal to Yosef. We need to open our minds and hearts to listen to the song of Eretz Yisrael, the song of reishit tzmichat geulateinu.

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