Crossing to Safety: Returning Home to Israel
by Ariella Bracha Waldinger
I had been away for more than a month and was returning home. As the airplane approached the runway for touch-down, I began to feel a fluttering in my heart that cannot be explained in words. I knew that soon I would walk through the doorway of the airport terminal and my fingers would touch the sacred Mezuzza, announcing that I was once again in G-ds homeland and, most importantly, in the ancient/modern, national homeland of the Jewish people.
My soul stirred, as excitement radiated throughout my entire being, for my soul knew that upon arrival, she would be “CROSSING TO SAFETY”—returning home to G-ds beloved Holy Land called ISRAEL. I felt a surge of spiritual energy like a powerful electric current igniting my soul, as I began to perceive the Divine embrace of spiritual forces in the most revealed place of G-ds presence on Earth—Eretz Israel: the perfect setting for confirmation of the Divine destiny of the Jewish nation.
Be clear, I love going back to Denver, Colorado in the summer time to visit our children and grandchildren. I savor the opportunity to experience summer with them in their homes and do fun things in order to create wonderful memories. It is truly special beyond words. Besides, summer time is a wonderful gift of stress-free time to relax and enjoy what life has to offer in an unstructured and playful way. The trip with all its varied experiences fills the void in my heart of not living near them. This summer’s trip was exceptionally enjoyable and we had many fun and memorable experiences that will make me smile and touch the embers of my heart fire in the months to come.
Additionally, it was great to get away from the goings on in Israel’s neighbors and the Middle East. It was great not to constantly be reminded about what was happening in Syria, or the rockets, or anything pertaining to Middle East events. However, I never stopped thinking about Israel nor lost my connection to it. I just set it aside for a brief period. But I can definitely comprehend how a Jew living outside the land can completely divorce himself from thinking about the Land of Israel and its goings on and this is precisely the problem with life in America. I truly perceive how the Jewish mind is dulled by the static and dissonance of living in a country that is foreign to their soul and their destiny. I truly feel the dissonance because when I am apart from Eretz Yisrael and am outside the Land, I frequently lose the sureness of my soul footing. In fact, it actually feels as if there is a coating of constriction around my soul that prevents true G-dly intimacy.
What often comes to my mind as I vacation in Denver, are the spiritual dangers that threaten the very essence of the Jewish nation residing outside the Land. This is far worse than any physical danger I might experience while residing in Israel. Various rationalizations are given for staying in America or other countries but in my mind, they fall short of veracity, as we note throughout the daily prayer and holiday services that speak of returning to the land of our divine inheritance.
I perceive that the impact of what is going on in America with its decline in morality will have a greater or lesser impact on one’s spirituality in direct proportion to the precautions that are taken to protect oneself and one’s children from exposure to these influences. The question then becomes how much emphasis do we place on spiritual safety? The answer will surely indicate just where one stands on living the core values of what it means to be a Jew. I believe the Torah position is quite clear on the significance of living in our Divine inheritance as we recently noted in Parasha Shelach.
It is interesting to note the responses I received as I spoke to other Jews after Shabbat services regarding the topic of making Israel their home. Here are a few:
- A woman in her 60s said that she had been to Israel two times and felt no need to return…. She had basically fulfilled her duty. How sad!
- Another woman in her 60’s stated that she had traveled around the world but had never received the spiritual call to go to Israel. Poor soul!
- Another woman in her 60’s stated that she is perfectly content and happy with her life and would have no need or desire to change it. So much for spiritual growth!
Statistics show there is a large percentage of religious Jews who have never visited Israel in spite of travelling to other countries. This sad state of affairs tells the true story of the worth of the holy land in the eyes of many Jews.
It is my innocent understanding that a Jew can never be content with his life and that we must continue to strive and grow spiritually throughout all the days of our lives. This is our only protection against the withering of our souls as they die from spiritual starvation which is what I see happening to many Jews living outside the land. But the truly unbelievable part is that they do not even realize it. They have become sanitized to the true worth and power of being a Jew—one of G-ds chosen in His chosen land.
What I find most shocking when I visit and attend certain shuls outside of Israel is their words of Torah rarely touch upon the real life of a Jew and his land. Rather their conversations seem to be an exercise of academic comprehension of little or no practical or spiritual value. They may be intellectually interesting but in the realm of inspiration and soul food, they fall short.
A Jew is commanded to combine the spiritual Torah with the practical Torah, which can only be done to the fullest extent in Eretz Yisrael. Rav Kook, OBM, explains “in Eretz Yisrael, the place of prophecy, the influx of the holiness of the Land informs the soul and lends itself to inspiration, deeper intuition and heightened spiritual experiences.” The Land with all its holiness supports the soul in a very real and meaningful way. ”The air of the land makes one wise”. What a great feeling to not only know the truth but to live with it. I wish the same for you my friends.
Now, I am getting over my jet lag and slowly settling into my routine and thanking G-d with all my heart for the precious family He gave me and the special times we shared together. Having RETURNED HOME TO ISRAEL, I have once again CROSSED TO SAFETY where the spiritual depth of life in the land is already resonating within my soul to link it to its true source and destiny.
With Blessings of Love and Light, Ariella Bracha
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