Tu Be’Shevat: Inside and Outside the Land of Israel

By Rabbi Menachem Weinberg

Father of Tiferet Berkowitz, current shlicha in Sydney

Rabbi Menachem Weinberg served as the community Rabbi of Alon, a mixed religious-secularYishuv near Jerusalem, and currently counsels students and teaches the advanced Gemara shiur in Machon Meir, and in Aardvark Tel Aviv.

What a tremendous Kiddush Hashem – sanctification of God’s name! SpaceIL is reaching for the stars, hoping to land on the moon bearing the Israeli flag and an inscription Am Yisrael Chai – The Jewish People lives. So often in our history the term ‘Jew’ has been associated with greed, dishonesty or some sinister power; today, SpaceIL is showcasing our nation’s genius and capabilities – to dream, to innovate, to dare and to accomplish.

But aside from our natural pride and wonder at this accomplishment, does it really constitute a Kiddush Hashem – sanctification of God’s name? Is this what kedusha – holiness is about?
The Torah speaks of holiness in three realms – in time, in space, and in humanity. Remarkably, in the Parshiyot at the end of Shemot, the Torah commands the newly established Goy Kadosh – Holy Nation, to keep the Shabbat holy – in time, and to build the holy Tabernacle – in space.

Kedusha denotes distinction; the Torah tells us to make our places, times, and society special and different. Rashi and Ramban teach in Parshat Kedoshim that holiness demands separation from sexual immorality and excess – the Jewish people are exhorted not to fall into the debased practices of the surrounding cultures. But there is a positive element to holiness as well. What is more separate and distinct, and essentially different from our material world than the infinite Creator, the ‘Wholly Other’, to use a term from philosopher Rudolf Otto. Our mystics teach that the term kadosh refers to anybody associated with the eternal, reaching outside of himself, beyond our mostly material, mundane grasp and limited human experience. Service for the benefit of others in need, sensitivity to the downtrodden in society and doing acts of kindness between man and man are also critical components of stepping outside oneself and acting Godly.

The term holy can therefore be extended to anything or anybody connected or dedicated to giving and reaching beyond, pointing to a better, more complete reality – especially one associated with the ultimate perfection, to Hashem.

Named Beresheet – Genesis, this tiny Israeli landing craft carries this fundamental message from the beginning of the Hebrew Bible: Be holy! Care for others, develop and advance the world, look beyond limitations, and strive for the Eternal. These 21stcentury Jews are another link in the chain of a Holy Nation – a Goy Kadosh, carrying out the Jewish mission thousands of years old: to defy material limits, elevate, improve and expand our world, inspiring our children with the faith in our ability to use our talents to make the universe a better place.
Is there any doubt that such is a holy mission?

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