YEARS AGO I was fortunate to have come across the sefer called Tuv HaAretz. It was written by Rabbi Noson Shapira in the 1600s, completely based upon the teachings of the Arizal specifically about Eretz Yisroel. Rabbi Shapira was the chief rabbi in Cracow (Poland), before making aliyah and becoming the head rabbi in Jerusalem.
I would never have known about the sefer except that a close friend of mine found it on microfiche at Hebrew University, and then reset and republished it. Aside from being filled with absolutely remarkable concepts, it is a game changer when it comes to the discussion of aliyah at any time in history. If, of course, you hold of the Arizal.
Too bad the people of Gad, Reuven, and the half tribe of Menashe did not have the sefer in their time. They would never have chosen to live outside of Eretz Yisroel if they had. Or maybe they would have, so strong is the pull of materialism over spirituality. This is mentioned in Tuv HaAretz:
The same type of transformation [to a more spiritual being] will occur for the…Jews who remain alive [in Eretz Yisroel when Moshiach arrives], and their bodies will be like those of Adam HaRishon before his sin and Moshe Rabbeinu. They will become so spiritual that they will be able to fly like eagles, which will astound the redeemed exiles. Seeing this, the Diaspora Jews will become upset and complain to Moshiach, “Are we not Jews like them? Why do they merit to fly and live in an elevated spiritual state, and not us?”
Moshiach will answer them, “It is known that God deals with a person measure-for-measure. Those who lived in the Diaspora and made efforts and sacrifices to elevate themselves by moving to the Holy Land merited purity of soul. Not concerned about their finances and health, they traveled over vast lands and crossed seas, ignoring the possibility of drowning, being robbed along the way, or being taken captive by a foreign ruler. Since they valued spirituality over materialism, they merit, measure-for-measure, to be elevated to this lofty spiritual plane. You also had opportunities to go up to Eretz Yisroel but instead were hesitant and reluctant. You were more interested with material status, which was a higher priority than spiritual growth.” (Tuv HaAretz, The Advantage of Living in Eretz Yisroel When Moshiach Arrives)
So what, right? Wrong. We always tend to downplay important things we do not relate to, especially when they might mean having to give up something less important that we happen to like a lot.
Besides, the Messianic Era seems so far off, and who knows if we’ll even be alive at that time. In the meantime, why worry? Why give up something intangible like angel-flight when we can enjoy more tangible pleasures in the Diaspora, like good salaries, nicer homes, fancier cars, all of which makes mitzvah doing so much more pleasant?
Firstly, the Messianic Era is not so far off, as I have written now several times with plenty of important mainstream sources to make the point. Secondly, why sell off the future for a more comfortable present which will end and become a far less comfortable future? And third of all…
More About Me: The Ongoing Lifelong Search For Your Essential Self.
Tell Me More: A book about thinking and asking questions.
All books are available through Amazon and the thirtysix.org online store.
AS THE NOTE says above, I just published a new book called, More About Me: The Ongoing Lifelong Search For Your Essential Self. To answer the question above, I am going to share the final chapter of the book called “Land of Soul,” minus the footnotes and diagrams. You’ll have to get the book for those.
THE FIRST THING you have to know is that if something exists in the physical world, good or evil, pure or impure, it has a spiritual counterpart. It is this spiritual counterpart that gives the physical thing its existence, and if it disappears, so does the physical thing.
Furthermore, the holier something physical is, the higher up its spiritual counterpart has to be. Holiness is a function of divine light, and every spiritual counterpart can only access divine light according to the level it is on, and vice versa.
There is only one holy land, and not because no other land has been called this, but because there literally is no other holy land. Every land outside the borders of Eretz Yisroel is considered to be impure. The border between Eretz Yisroel and Chutz L’Aretz may be but a line on a map, but cross it and you will have either gone from pure to impure or impure to pure, depending on your direction.
This is why Eretz Yisroel has so many special privileges and laws. The Talmud sums it up like this:
All those who live in Eretz Yisroel are like those who have a God, and all those who live outside the land are like those without a God. (Kesuvos 110b)
Really? Why? Because God said so:
I am God your God Who took you out of the land of Egypt, to give you the land of Canaan, to be God to you. (Vayikra 25:38)
The answer may not be so obvious down here on the physical plane, which is why so many people get fooled, like the spies in Moshe Rabbeinu’s time, for example. It is a beautiful place, but there are other more beautiful places in the world. It has mountains, but there are more majestic mountains elsewhere. And Eretz Yisroel lacks some of the most important natural resources that are in abundance in other countries.
Imagine having to choose a partner to work with at the company that employs you. As you look around the room to survey your choices, you notice the well-dressed, the organized, and the ambitious. Then you notice one fellow employee who seems average next to everyone else and you do not give them a second thought.
About to make your choice, someone happens to mention that that laid-back, more casual-looking employee happens to be a close nephew of the boss. Everyone else in the room is just another worker trying hard to get to the top of the corporate ladder. The nephew is already closely connected to it and can be your ticket there as well.
Physically speaking Eretz Yisroel is not the most attractive land in the world. Financially speaking, it is not the most successful. Security-wise, it has some serious issues with five basically hostile neighbors on all sides of it, including the Mediterranean. Politically speaking, it is a disaster. Why would anyone want to live there while the living is still good in the Diaspora?
The question never gets off the ground if you read Rabbi Noson Shapira’s Tuv HaAretz. Page after page makes it increasingly clearer why Eretz Yisroel is the only place for a Jew to live. Page after page it becomes increasingly clearer why living in the Diaspora for a Jew is, well, let’s just say very undesirable.
One thing for sure is that a Jew cannot be their essential self in Chutz L’Aretz. Spiritual growth for a Jew is limited there, which is why it is called exile. If the only difference between Eretz Yisroel and the Diaspora was the kind of restaurants they have, or the governments that run them, it would not be so big a deal to live outside the land. It only makes a fundamental difference if Eretz Yisroel is fundamentally better for a Jew to be a Jew, and to be themself.
If you think about it, most people are most comfortable at home. That is where they can most be themselves. It’s nice to get dressed and play parts now and then. But when it comes to life in general, we want to be, we need to be ourselves. That’s what makes home home, and the moment home interferes with being who we are in essence, we go off and make a new one.
After thousands of years of exile, Jews have been born and have grown up in different places around the world. The land today boasts an international population of Jews who, as prophesied in the Torah, have come from the four corners of the earth. They may be Israelis now, but they will never be Sabras, indigenous Israelis.
Physically. Spiritually, it is another story:
Every land was granted to the nation that was best suited for that location, as hinted to in the verse, “And I will give the land of Ar to the children of Lot as an inheritance” (Devarim 2:9). This implies that the land was destined for the children of Lot. Similarly, God allocated Har Seir to Eisav, as it says, “I have given the Mount of Seir as an inheritance to Eisav” (Devarim 2:5). Chazal explain that just as Eisav was ruddy, so too is his land reddish, indicating how the land is appropriate for those destined to dwell on it. The suitability of a land to its nation is because of the compatibility of its ministering angel to that particular piece of land. As well, the souls of those people come from the klipah (source of impurity) that represents that parcel of land. Concerning the Jewish people and Eretz Yisroel, the level of their souls, their Torah, and their relationship with God, is dependent upon their being in Eretz Yisroel. For the very soil of Eretz Yisroel is holy, the Jewish people are holy, their souls are holy, their Torah is holy, and God, their Minister is holy. (Tuv HaAretz, The Future Advantage of Eretz Yisroel)
Why does one person gravitate to one part of the world more than another, while another person wouldn’t even consider it, and is miserable if they are forced to go there? Because though our physical bodies may be born or move to certain places in the physical world, our souls come from their spiritual counterparts. And the soul of every Jew comes from the level of the upper Eretz Yisroel, the spiritual counterpart of the physical one.
What exactly does that mean? This:
The height of Eretz Yisroel is the 10 sefiros of the Nukvah of Zehr Anpin of Atzilus, [which is] the lower half of the Tifferes of Zehr of Atzilus, until half of the Netzach of Beriyah. (Sha’ar HaPesukim, Mattos)
Not very helpful, right? Well, at least not without the necessary background information.
Until now we have spoken about spiritual counterparts, but what we really mean is levels of sefiros. Those are the basis of the spiritual chain of command that God created before everything else to implement His will and filter His light. God’s light is infinite and unfiltered it leaves no possibility of anything to exist, let alone have free will.
Much of Kabbalah is consumed with discussions about tzimtzum, the constriction of God’s light, and what it might actually mean. The idea of tzimtzum raises more questions than it answers, but being finite beings with limited ability, we can’t expect to know even close to everything.
If this sounds very abstract it’s because it is. A kind of analogy might be a power grid. Every power grid starts with some very powerful source of energy. The energy is then channeled through a series of transformers and cables over great distances to supply neighboring cities with electricity. It’s all precisely calculated and calibrated to make sure the system doesn’t fail.
When it comes to the sefiros, the great source of energy is the Great Source of Energy, God Himself. The sefiros act like transformers to step down His infinite light, and cables to transfer the light to subsequent levels. Man, and the world in which we live is the “city” that depends upon that light not only to function but to continue to exist.
IN GENERAL THERE are 10 sefiros and spiritual levels as per the diagram (in the book). They make up all of Creation, physical and spiritual. It gets complex because each of these 10 sefiros has 10 sefiros, which have 10 sefiros, etc. There is sefirah for everything that exists.
Each of the Hebrew names of the sefiros indicates the level and function of the divine light on its level. They subdivide into five levels called partzufim—faces, or olamos—worlds, microsystems of 10 sefiros each. All of it is necessary for providing the perfect world for man to live in and exercise free will.
Keser as a family of 10 sefiros is the world called Adam Kadmon. Chochmah with its 10 sefiros is the world called Atzilus, and Binah with its 10 sefiros is called Beriyah. The next level, called Yetzirah, is different because it is not one sefirah with a subset of 10 sefiros, but the next six sefiros, Chesed to Yesod, with each of its 10 sefiros. The last world, Asiyah, is the Malchus and its 10 sefiros.
To provide some perspective, this sums up thousands of years of Kabbalah and as many works on the topic. It doesn’t even scratch the surface, to say the least. But it does provide enough of a picture to give an idea of the spiritual basis of the physical reality of Eretz Yisroel, and why it is the only place a Jew can get to the essence of who they are.
Dividing the second highest level of Chochmah into 10 sefiros, which is Atzilus, means that there will also be an Adam Kadmon of Atzilus, an Atzilus of Atzilus, a Beriyah of Atzilus, a Yetzirah of Atzilus, and an Asiyah of Atzilus. But these five levels have other names as well, partzufim names: Arich Anpin, Abba, Imma, Zehr Anpin, and Nukvah, the last two of which concern us now.
Where are all the other lands of the world? According to Kabbalah, far, far below, and on the side of impurity. More importantly, they are not the source of the souls of the Jewish people. That is the Malchus of Atzilus, which is the upper Eretz Yisroel.
A Jewish body can feel at home just about anywhere in the world. But a Jewish soul can only feel at home in Eretz Yisroel. It is truly the land of the soul, at least the Jewish soul. If you really want to find yours, you can only look there. When you do, it is amazing how life changes as well.
Ain Od Milvado, Part 11
IF YOU WISH me to continue with the addition of Ain Od Milvado, I would appreciate hearing from you at [email protected]. Otherwise I will switch topics, b”H.
As mentioned above, the Torah says,
I am God your God Who took you out of the land of Egypt, to give you the land of Canaan, to be God to you. (Vayikra 25:38)
Another way of wording this verse would be, “to give you the land of Canaan, so that you can properly fulfill Ain Od Milvado.” God fills the land and there is no place anywhere that He does not sustain. If He withdraws from anywhere, that place ceases to exist. Ain Od Milvado applies everywhere and at all times.
So what is so special about Eretz Yisroel regarding this idea? Something Kabbalah calls Hashgochah Pratis versus Hashgochah Klallis, personalized divine providence versus general divine providence. When we live in Eretz Yisroel, God personally tends to our needs, making life very interactive. It feels as if you are dealing directly with God, because you are.
When a person lives in the Diaspora, they live under the mazal and angel of that land. God still runs the show, but He does it more vicariously, both to hide His hand more, and to protect the kedushah (holiness) we live off of from feeding the side of spiritual impurity. It feels as if you are not dealing directly with God, making Ain Od Milvado more different to live by.
This is why God took the rejection of Eretz Yisroel by the generation of the spies personally. It wasn’t just a land that they turned their back on, but on a higher level of divine providence. And when we do the same thing, on whatever level we do it on (because you can live in Eretz Yisroel and reject it on some level too), we have the same problem.
Eretz Yisroel, the land of Ain Od Milvado. With Tisha B’Av heading our way, we should think about this—a lot. After all, as the Gemora says, it was the spies who initiated the day as one of destruction and mourning.