This week’s Torah portion Ki Tavo gives the Israelites explicit instructions having to do with entering and living in the land of Israel. There are specific rituals outlined to ensure that this group that has been a nomadic tribe for almost 40 years be tied to the holy land of Eretz Yisrael. The Israelites are told to honor the land and the produce by setting aside tithes to God and dedicating those at the Tabernacle. The Israelites must also write out the Torah on large plaster stones, near the river Jordan for all to see. These steles enumerated the laws of the land. And there is a unique ritual that divides up the 12 Tribes into two groups of six to be stationed one group on Mt. Gezerim and other on Mt. Ebal. An elaborate ritual follows of blessings and curses that will befall the Israelites unless they adhere to the covenant in the land.
While these ancient rituals may not have much practical application today we can learn something important from them in our own day and time. The values the jump out here and that should speak to us in contemporary times, is our Jewish connection to the sacred land of Israel. All Jews no matter how observant or not, has a place in Israel. This is our homeland; our ancient homeland. We are descendants of those very Israelites who came and settled the land per the covenant with our God. The modern State of Israel is the rebirth of that ancient promise and we have a duty and responsibility that ties us to Eretz Yisrael, the land of Israel and its peoples.
The modern State of Israel is a complex place. Our love for Israel should recognize the complexities in contemporary life. Like America has its issues and problems, so does Israel. But like America, Israel has many successes and things to be proud of, not the least of which is a vibrant and diverse culture and democratic values.
The Torah portion begins Ki Tavo el haaretz, When you come into the land. Our job as Jews in the 21st century is to enter into a relationship with Israel. By going there regularly. Buying Israeli products and helping to sustain the land and its people. Subscribe to Israeli papers, read from its great canon of writers and poets, build a connection with the people of Israel. It will lift your Jewishness to a new height. And as much as we shall enter the land, let the land enter into our hearts and spirits.
I invite you to hear the Consul General of Israel at Kol Ami, Thursday night Sept. 18 as we host the launch of the Israel-West Hollywood AIDS Task Force. 6:30-8 pm . The West Hollywood City Council and the Consul General will forge a new bond of cooperation and exchange on issues of AIDS/HIV through this new and important task force.
Let the land enter us!