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D'var Torah

11/15/2018 by Rabbi Raskin

This week my daughters Mia (17) and Nessa (15) departed on a 12 day mission to Israel. Every four years, the entire Upper School at Berman Hebrew Academy has the privilege of traveling together to Eretz Yisrael, thanks in large part to the generosity of the Berman family. While in Israel, they participate in everything from community service, to hikes, to visits to holy sites, to Torah study, to the celebration of Shabbat as an entire school. Suffice it to say, they have been beside themselves with excitement for months leading up to this trip. As Sari and I helped them pack (maximum suitcase weight of 50 lbs…no easy task for teenagers!) and gathered passports, SIM cards, adapters, and other necessities, it occurred to me that in the parasha of this very same week, the first Jew who lived for an extended time outside of the land of Israel embarks on a return to the homeland. After 20 years of living in Padan-Aram (somewhere in the vicinity of today’s northwestern Iraq, northeastern Syria and southeastern Turkey) Jacob finally returns to the land of Israel, with his wives and his children. As the grandson of Abraham and Sarah, Jacob must have understood the importance of the land of Israel in God’s promise to his grandparents…the location where the Jewish people would be born, and begin to carry out their divinely-ordained mission.

In the traditional composition of the Torah scroll, Parashat Vayeitzei is one solid block of text…there are no section breaks in the entire portion. Noticing this unique feature in the sefer Torah, the hasidic master known as the S’fat Emet (Rabbi Yehudah Aryeh Leib Alter, 19th Century, Poland) said that this suggests that Jacob was steadfast in his commitment to Eretz Yisrael. He always thought of Israel, and longed to return, even when he was at a great distance from it. As my daughters departed for Israel with such enthusiasm and zeal, I felt so proud of their love of the land, people, and culture of Israel, and their desire to return to it (where they have been several times already). May we all yearn for our homeland, and may Israel never be far from our hearts or our consciousness. And may the Holy One bless the land and its inhabitants with abiding peace.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Raskin

Fri, November 16 2018 8 Kislev 5779