I have to thank my students. They allowed me to change my lecturing schedule through Sunday lectures so that I could dash off to the Holy Land for my cousins daughter’s wedding. My cousin Jackie z”l after whom our grandson is also named, passed away a year ago and I had promised to attend a wedding should it eventuate: and here I am. It was weird yet comforting to stand in line to board an El Al flight. It’s not Singapore Airlines, but the food is better, even the Hamasbia (I’m frumer than you) meals.
The airline crew work with what I can best describe as “ruthless efficiency”. It’s almost like a military operation. They are quick to serve, and before you can say boo, the tea and coffee is coming. I mucked up my flight plans (typical) and ended up in Hong Kong for the fast, and boarded a few hours before the fast finished. At least on EL Al, without asking, the hostess offered to give me my meal at the end of the fast. I should have asked her to Pasken for me 🙂
There were two other frumaks on the flight, wearing green crocs, and one tried to give me a knowing smile. I don’t know why, but I prefer that people don’t see me as “Charedi”. How could I be. I listen to Jazz (there were billboards today in Meah Shearim saying that it was forbidden to go to frum concerts let alone listen to Jazz); I am a University lecturer; I am comfortable with all manner of people, and don’t see the world in terms of us vs them. Indeed, my refrain since arriving has been to stop people using the word “Chiloni”. It’s a pejorative. I dislike it. The only person who is בוחן לב האדם is Hashem. Sounds cliched but that’s how I view things.
Rav Kook z”l had a famous observation. The Gemara בבא מציעא נז ע”ב says:
בונים בחול ואחר כך מקדישים
You don’t use the money from Hekdesh for the building blocks of the Beis Hamikdash, otherwise the builders may come to do aveyros (Meilah). Instead, you use normal building blocks bought from non holy money. Rav Kook said that during the time of building, even the least holy person could stand in the Kodesh Kodoshim! Where are we now? Are we built or are we building? We are building, surely? Even anti or non Zionists would say we are far from built. Based on this insight, which I took to heart many years ago, I look at everyone, including myself, as potential. If we see the potential, we might have a chance to spread kedusha. If we only see the negatives, what’s the point? We create division and hatred. Didn’t Yishmael do Teshuva even though Hashem said to look at him באשר הוא שם?
I feel at home here. It’s surreal and utopian. Yes, I’m only in a Hotel and a typical tourist. I don’t struggle like the builders who live here; but I feel at home. No place on earth fills me with the feelings that I experience in this Holy Land, in the Holiest city on Earth, Hashem’s chosen place.
Yes, I know, some people, even great people, think that you can make Eretz Yisrael “here”. All that you can hope for is that at the time of Binyan Beis Hamikdash borders will expand and holiness will spread like the proverbial tsunami. In the meanwhile, we live in a second best infrastructure. We may have Kedushas HaTorah and we can seek out Kedushas Yisrael, but we do not have Kedushas Ha’aretz. Combine the three, and you have that winning elusive formula?
Regards from the hypocrite who lives in Melbourne.