Israel…Body and Soul

By Rabbi Steven Bayar

This post originally appeared in the May 2017 issue of the The Bulletin of Congregation B’nai Israel.

In 1953, David Ben Gurion wrote that “In two thousand years of Diaspora our creativity did not completely disappear, but the light of the Torah was dimmed in the Diaspora, since the light of the people Israel was dimmed. Only with the renewal of Hebrew independence can we understand the true and full light of the Torah.” Moshe Halbertal, a scholar who addressed our congregation last
year commented on this, “Zionism, a movement of return to the Land, exemplifies the return of the Jews to the body. Only once back in the Land can Jews rediscover the true nature of the Bible and its deepest meanings.”

In this interpretation the land of Israel provides the body to the people of Israel which provides the soul. Body cannot exist without soul. Soul cannot exist without body. This explains both the importance of each component and their interrelationship.

This coming month we will celebrate and commemorate various aspects of both the body and soul of Judaism: Lag B’omer, Israel Independence Day, Yom Yerushalayim, Holocaust Remembrance Day and Shavuot all fall within this month. Each of these days reminds us of a historical or spiritual moment which contributed to our communal identity and aids us in creating continuity from generation to generation.

Ironically we tend to take both the State of Israel and the Torah for granted. We assume that they will both always be there for us, available whenever we need them. We don’t realize that the unique quality that has kept and sustained us over the centuries is our ability to interact with aspects of our tradition.

The State of Israel and the Torah are interactive entities; if we don’t involve ourselves in them they will cease to exist for us.