Yesterday we went on a Chanukah hike and picnic in the woods behind our house. At this spot, we were high enough to see the moshav and kibbutz nearby.
Putting my bare feet in the dirt and grass, sitting on the ground, feeling the warm sun on my face, and watching my kids run free gave me one of the deepest feelings of serenity I can ever remember experiencing.
But living here is different. This place is home, and our souls are connected to this particular land in a religious and mystical way.
As G-d shares through our Torah, Israel remains the eternal inheritance of our people.
In Hebrew the Land of Israel is called Eretz Yisrael and Eretz Hakodesh, the Holy Land, because the very space is sacred, designated so by G‑d.
Our sages say that Israel is (metaphorically) higher than all other lands, making coming here an ascent and leaving a descent. Moving to Eretz Yisrael, which we did a few months ago, is called aliyah (“ascent”).
Jews in the Diaspora face Israel, which is often to the east of them, when praying.
The Talmudic sage Rabbi Zeira said that the very air of the land here makes a person wise.
For many hundreds of years, living in the Holy Land was something most Jews could only dream of.
It was something I could only dream of, until about four months ago.
Torah describes the Holy Land as “a land the L‑rd, your G‑d, looks after; the eyes of L‑rd your G‑d are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year.”
The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, cited this verse as proof that Israel’s people receive G‑d’s special protection, making it “the safest place in the world.”
It’s true — I have never felt safer, more spiritual or connected to myself and G-d.
On this third day of Chanukah, I want to express my gratitude for being born chutz l’arertz, outside of the land, so I can deeply appreciate the privilege, responsibility and blessing of choosing to come Home.