Wednesday, April 13, 2005

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Gush Katif, the Ari and the Vilna Gaon

For the Jews of Gush Katif itself it has been a story of love of the land and mesiros Nefesh — self-sacrifice — to move in the directon of the Final Redemption. The amount of time, effort, and money invested in that area of Eretz Yisroel by the residents has been tremendous and has resulted in thriving businesses and vibrant communities. You cannot believe the homes they built and must now give up and to whom? To live where? Live in what?

For many other Jews, apparently, especially for those who live in the Diaspora (the world dispersion), it is merely Gaza Strip, a piece of land desired by the Arabs and a bargaining chip for the sake of peace. It is expendable and indeed something that can and must be dealt away if Israel is to earn the faith of its hostile neighbors and the gentile populations of the world. To quote one rabbi representing a large Jewish organization in the United States regarding this issue: “The evacuation of the settlers is unfortunate.”

Unfortunate? That’s it? Unfortunate? Not outrageous?

And, unfortunate for whom? For the settlers? Without question. The pain and worry they have had to live with for months already is far beyond tolerable, and who knows what is coming up, God forbid. Wholesome families are being damaged and for what? For having done us the favor of creating a Jewish settlement on OUR behalf in OUR Land and coaxing the land to give of her God-given and propheisized bounty to the rest of US?

Boy, have we lost our way. We are drowning in Pshat (the simple meaning). The Arizal (the holy Ari, Rabbi Yitzchok Luria) told us that the souls of the Final Generation are going to be made up of those who spied on the land — and rejected it. Where are those souls today? In whose bodies? In the bodies of those who have embraced Eretz Yisroel today . . . in the setters who are willing to die to keep their land and homes?

I don’t know, but I think not. And, I think if someone is indifferent to the Land of Israel today he should consider from whence comes that indifference, and why. What you don’t know can hurt you when it comes to tikun haNeshamos (literal translation, soul repair, or reincarnation for purposes of completing a soul's mission).

And the Rashbam told us that the Akeidah (sacrifice of Issac) was the result of Avraham Avinu’s (Abraham our father's) giving away a piece of Eretz Yisroel to Avimelech, the Palestinians of his time, Gaza Strip to be exact. Why? What is the connection between giving away a piece of land and being asked to sacrifice one’s son to God? Or, was that to give us the capacity to bind our children to the land — THAT land — today to rectify at the end of history what went wrong at the beginning of history.

And the GR”A (the Vilna Gaon) told us that this posuk defines the time of geulah (ultimate redemption):

You will arise and show mercy on Tzion for the time to favor her, for the appointed time will have come. For Your servants have cherished her stones, and favor her dust. (Tehillim [Psalms] 102:14-15)

Cherish her stones? We’re dealing in them. Favor her dust? We give it away, and think not twice about it. After all, what connection does Gush Katif have to New York City, or Los Angeles, or Monsey, or Miami, or Baltimore, of Toronto, or London, or Johannesburg, etc.? It may be one earth, but we’re talking about different continents with a lot of water in-between.

Unless, that is, this is not just a battle between the Israeli government and the Gush Katif settlers and all those who support them. What if, instead, it is a battle between the entire Jewish people and Amalek? What if the people we are trusting to act on our behalf, brokering a peace we don’t even really believe is possible (unless you spell it p-i-e-c-e), are really Erev Rav, because the Arizal says they too come back for one last final hurrah? The GR”A says they come back specifically for this purpose.

If it is, and being so close to the End-of-Days there is good reason to assume that it is, then it is not a simple matter at all, not something that can be shrugged off with indifference. On the contrary, it will be that very indifference that will end up being the noose around our own necks, metaphorically-speaking, God forbid.

I am not saying that we can turn events around. I do not forsee a natural way to stop the Israeli government, which is under extreme pressure from the Americans and Europe, to cancel its mandate to uproot 8,000 settlers and the communities they lovingly nurtured. In this regard I am at a loss like everyone else I know thinking about.

However, I do believe that this is a seminal event in Jewish history, a trigger for what is about to follow on its heels. In other words, I believe this is an event of Biblical proportions and though it may not appear that way in our eyes I think it does in Heaven’s, and therefore it is going to prove to be a test for all of us.

After thousands of years of waiting for the redemption to come, after hundreds of years of trying to return to the land, after decades of rejecting the concept of aliyah because we indentified it with the formation and continued existence of the secular state, we have difficulty accepting that how we feel about Eretz Yisroel could be the central issue for all Jews right in advance of Moshiach’s arrival.

From Rabbi Winston at ThirtySix.Org, the whole essay here.


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