Sunday, March 21, 2010

Israel as a Person

[This week's Haveil Havalim is here]

Up late working on an article, veering into purple prose as I usually do at this hour. Still, it's not all that bad, I think.

The core idea is that Israel, beyond its existence as venue or as mitzvah-tool, is a living entity, a being, a person. I see pieces of this in Rav Alkalai, Rav Kook and Rav Yissachar Techtel, and I believe it traces back through Tanach and Midrash. The challenge is to put this into an article that will track the intellectual history of the idea while remaining faithful to its poetic spirit - in 2000 or so words.

Here's my first stab at the opening paragraphs:

ותאמר ציון עזבני ה' וה' שכחני
And Zion said: G-d has abandoned me, and Gd has forgotten me.

לא יאמר לך עוד עזובה ולארצך לא יאמר עוד שממה כי לך יקרא חפצי בה
You shall no longer be called ‘Abandoned,’ and your land will no longer be called ‘Desolate,’ for you will be called ‘My delight is in her.’

The Jew has known many reasons for his millenia-old love affair with the land of Israel; thrice-daily recitations of “ותחזינה עינינו, Let our eyes see when You return mercifully to Zion,” have been fueled by motivations both religious and secular. The focus of the biblical universe, the cradle of our nation, the throne of King David’s theocentric empire, the host of our most palpable connection to the world of the spirit, the coordinates at which our mitzvot are most practical and practiceable, the place where the plangent Divine declaration, “פה אשב כי אויתיה, Here I will dwell, for I have desired her, ” still echoes – Eretz Yisrael has been all of these, and more, for the genetic and spiritual heirs of Avraham and Sarah.

In the vision of the leading rabbis of Religious Zionism, though, the Land of Israel has held a more intimate role. Earth and stone and river and sea have been anthropomorphized as flesh and blood, and the space formerly known as Canaan has been identified as a living being, bride to G-d and to the Jewish people by turns.

This identity of Israel as person is part of a broader animation of HaShem’s creation, but as a specific case it adds depth of meaning to our millenia-old love affair, to our exile and to our return.

...stay tuned for more...


  1. You'll find the concept also in the concept of olam shana nefesh- that everything finds parallel expression in dimensions of person time and space whose mekor is the sefer yetzirah, and it figures prominently in the thought of R Moshe Wolson. There is a volume called tzion vareah which details many aspects of kedushas haaretz, in specific places and the land in general.
    additionally the 7 nations which inhabited the land are parallel to the 7 midos halev in the person...

  2. Izibitza-
    Thanks! Very deep, and out of my normal range; I appreciate it.

  3. I'm looking forward to reading the full article.

  4. This post reminds me of the chorus of a song I learned in elementary school called "Hakotel." (Credit goes to our music teacher, Avshalom Katz, father of singers Shlomo & Eitan Katz.)

    Hebrew text:

    English translation and transliteration:

  5. Hi Leora,
    Cool; thanks for passing that along.