V'Zot HaBrakha: Our Shared National Soul
by Rav Yehuda HaKohen,
The Torah is not merely some disjointed ritual precepts but rather the Divine Ideal from before existence placed into this reality for the sake of elevating our world beyond its current limitations.
“Fortunate are you, O Israel: who is like you! O people delivered by HaShem, the Shield of your help, Who is the Sword of your grandeur. Your foes will try to deceive you, but you will trample their haughty ones.” (D’varim 33:29)
These were Moshe’s last words to Israel. After warning and chastising the Hebrew tribes at length, the prophet now expresses his true feelings for his people. His final message is one of optimism, love, praise and encouragement. As history can attest to the many hardships Moshe warned of, we can be certain that these words of reassurance will reach fruition.
Perhaps no historic figure has surpassed Moshe in his unyielding love for the Children of Israel. The patience he exhibited in the face of our shortcomings through all of the decades together in the wilderness is a testament to his stature as our greatest national leader. It is precisely this patience for the whole of the Hebrew nation that we must all strive to emulate – to learn from Moshe that all of Am Yisrael is holy and deserving of our love.
Genuinely experiencing this love for every Jew becomes considerably easier once a person attains a heightened awareness of Israel’s true inner essence. The Hebrew nation is not the sum total of every individual Jew but rather one colossal spirit that manifests itself in this world through millions of bodies in space and time. While human beings each possess a personal soul, Israel shares one massive national soul – like a giant tree of which each Jew is an individual branch.
Rabbi Avraham Yitzḥak HaKohen Kook teaches that the highest attainable level of Ahavat Yisrael (love for Israel) results from obtaining the knowledge and deep understanding of Israel’s true inner essence. It involves far more than merely loving individual Jews because they might be smarter, stronger or more good-natured than some gentiles. This is obviously not always true and is certainly not what makes Israel unique. The Segula of Israel is the collective national essence that precedes the individuals. It is the Divine light planted within the national Israeli soul and revealed in human history through the Jewish people. Rather than attempt to love each and every individual Jew, one can learn to recognize and love the source of Israel’s essence – the Segula – which then allows this love to flow out to every distinct piece of that national collective.
A man who loves his son doesn’t simply love the sum total of each limb. He loves his child as a single person and therefore loves every individual piece of that person. He can see each finger, leg and ear as a unique expression of the single entity he knows to be his son. Similarly, Knesset Yisrael is one giant spiritual organism revealed through individual Jews scattered in space and time. The attainment of true Ahavat Yisrael necessitates a conscious awareness of and appreciation for Israel’s collective spiritual essence.
Moshe’s greatest legacy was his being the man elected by the Kadosh Barukh Hu to lead Israel out of slavery in order that we receive His Torah, establish His Kingdom and bring all of Creation to perceive His Divine Oneness. Israel now completes the yearly cycle of reading the Torah and celebrates the event with great national festivities.
On Simḥat Torah, every Hebrew male is offered the chance to be called up for an aliya to the Torah and recite the blessing “asher baḥar banu mikol ha’amim v’natan lanu et Torato” – “Who chose us from among the peoples and gave us His Torah.” This is what Israel celebrates, filled with joyful exhilaration from the incredible reality that HaShem – with an extraordinary love – fashioned us unique among the peoples of this world in order to make us worthy of manifesting His Ideal.
Israel celebrates the fact that we are the nation specifically created to bring HaShem’s light to mankind and to elevate existence to a level where every creature will acknowledge its Divine Source and fully actualize its unique potential in this life. Only by internalizing our Divine election and mission as the national expression of HaShem’s Ideal for this world can we hope to appreciate the Torah’s full splendor.
There are people – even great scholars – who mistakenly regard our Torah as merely a guide for performing dry rituals, devoid of any metaphysical world-altering significance. Some view the Torah and the practice of its “religion” as mere prayer, holidays, dietary laws and study, without recognizing the Divine Ideal shining through each of these details. This fundamental misunderstanding stems from a fragmented view of Torah that cannot succeed at recognizing Israel’s national purpose and true revolutionary function.
And it is precisely this error that prevents many of our people from rising up to the challenges confronting Israel today.
The foundation of Israel’s Torah is not merely some holidays and disjointed ritual precepts but rather the Divine Ideal from before existence placed into this reality for the sake of elevating our world beyond its current limitations. The Israeli nation is the vehicle meant to free mankind from the spiritual shackles of the world’s current state in order to usher in a new era of universal fulfillment. Because the Hebrew mission can only be achieved through a holy nation – through Am Yisrael and not a collection of individual Jews, Israel must unite on our native soil and organize our society in such a way that will reveal the inherent kedusha in all material aspects of national life and realize the lofty goals for which we received the Torah in the first place.
A more holistic understanding of our Torah first necessitates a deep appreciation for Israel’s historic mission. Mankind’s ability to reach the goal of Creation is uniquely built into Knesset Yisrael. Through the Jewish people reclaiming sovereignty over our homeland, we bring the entire world closer to history’s ultimate purpose.
Universal peace and human perfection can only be achieved when Am Yisrael is independently situated in Eretz Yisrael with HaShem’s Temple crowning the city of Jerusalem. Only from Zion can the Torah be fully illuminated – infusing the totality of personal, national and international life with kedusha – and properly transmitted to the whole of mankind.
This conscious awareness deepens our enjoyment during these festive days by permitting us to focus on our deepest national aspirations. Simḥat Torah exhibits how the highest ecstasy we can possibly experience is defined by our service to HaShem as expressed by His Torah.
After emerging from the Days of Awe purified and dwelling in the Sukkah (demonstrating a pure reconnection with nature and trust that the greatest protection of all comes from the Kadosh Barukh Hu), Israel is now strengthened to embark on yet another year aspiring to fully express our inner Segula and advance our collective mission of perfecting this world.
When Sukkot comes to an end, Israel immediately moves to channel our love for HaShem into a celebration of Torah and loyalty to the Hebrew mission – to establish His Kingdom in the whole of our land and to shine His Divine blessing to all of humanity.