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Browse Torah Articles: Sefer Beresheet: Parashat Lech-Lecha: Going to Israel

Contributed by: Rabbi Mordechai Katz

Abraham was already seventy-five years old when he heard Hashem's command to leave his birthplace and sever all ties with the land he had known all his life. A lesser man might have hesitated about making this major move. Not Abraham! Though his only instructions were to leave his native country and go to the place that Hashem would show him, Abraham asked no questions. He readily departed, leaving his future in the hands of Hashem. His adherence to G-d was so obvious that it influenced many others, and these followers soon converted and joined Abraham, traveling to the "mystery destination," not knowing where they were headed.

Hashem led Abraham to the land of Canaan, which later, as Eretz Yisrael, became the homeland for the Jewish nation. Not everyone would be so ready to forsake his home to journey to the Holy Land. Many Jews later in exile in foreign countries chose to remain there rather than travel to Eretz Yisrael. Not everyone had the trust in Hashem that Abraham displayed, to live in G-d's chosen land, though the life might not be as comfortable there as it was elsewhere.

Yet, there were those who strove to journey to Eretz Yisrael. Among them was Rab Yehuda Halevi, the great Jewish philosopher and poet. He was fifty years old when he decided to make the difficult and dangerous trek to the Holy Land. After much hardship, he finally arrived at the gates of Yerushalayim. He immediately tore his garments, removed his shoes, and bowed to kiss the holy soil. As he was doing so, a Turk rode over on his horse, and trampled this great Tzadik to death. Yet, Rab Yehuda Halevi had died where he had wished, on the holy earth of Eretz Yisrael.

One who was not privileged to see this dream fulfilled was Rab Chaim Krozno. He, too, decided he must travel to Eretz Yisrael. While on the ship voyage there, he was confronted with a terrible storm and his ship was forced to return. Rab Chaim and his fellow passengers escaped injury, but Rab Chaim never again had the opportunity to make the journey. As a result, for the rest of his life he remained despondent because of it. When he was about to die, he asked that only his name be inscribed on his tombstone, nothing else. He felt that he had no inscribable merits because he had not merited to travel to Eretz Yisroel.

We should learn from these great Hachamim, our current day Hachamim, and our forefather Avraham: living in Israel is a complete realization of what it truly means to be Jewish.

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