Eretz Yisrael in the Parashah
By Rabbi Moshe D. Lichtman
454 pages; $21.95
Wander into your local neighborhood religious bookstore and you will see the difference right away. Whereas the Hebrew shelves are filled to overflowing with a wide range of titles examining various aspects of the theology, holiness and significance of the Land of Israel, the English side of the store is comparatively thin, at least when it comes to this subject.
But that, it appears, may be starting to change. If a new book by Rabbi Moshe D. Lichtman is any indication, English-speaking Jews are about to have some exciting new vistas opened to them.
Eretz Yisrael in the Parashah is divided according to the weekly Shabbat and festival Torah readings. Marshaling an impressive array of sources, Lichtman judiciously demonstrates the solid connection between the Land and each of the readings.
In a crisp and clear style, he shows how the centrality of the Land of Israel to the Jewish experience, both historical and spiritual, is a fundamental theme that is pivotal to understanding Torah and living as an observant Jew.
Whatever one's level of Jewish education or knowledge, this book will serve as a rich and enlightening source of wisdom and thought-provoking insight.
Even graduates of advanced yeshivot are likely to discover in this volume an array of rabbinic sayings, from midrashim to commentaries by later authorities, that they had not previously encountered.
It is clear from this work that Lichtman, who received ordination from the Chief Rabbinate as well as from Yeshiva University, and who has taught at various post-high school programs here, is both a talented scholar and a gifted teacher, as he writes with a rare combination of both passion and acumen.
But this book is far more than just a pleasant or enlightening read. It is a book that is infused with a sense of purpose and mission. As Lichtman states in his introduction, "This book is not about 'Zionism' in the modern sense. It is about the true meaning of Zionism - loving and yearning for Zion - an ideal that all of our gedolim, throughout the generations, espoused." The goal of the book, notes the author, who made aliya from the United States 16 years ago, is "to demonstrate how overridingly important Eretz Yisrael is to our religion and encourage Diaspora Jews to at least consider making God's Chosen Land their permanent dwelling place."
Even if you have already made such a decision in your own personal life, you will find this book to be a rewarding and gratifying experience for the affirmation and encouragement that it offers. In that sense, it is perfectly well-suited both for those who have already made aliya and for those who don't yet consider it an option.
While the tone is occasionally a bit sweeping or even preachy, that does not take away from the power of this book to transform the way you will view the Land of Israel. At a time when Zionism appears to be in retreat, and basic, fundamental values such as patriotism, Jewish pride and love of country are under attack, there can be no better way to immunize yourself against these dangerous trends than to open this book on a regular basis and immerse yourself in its pages.
Get it. Read it. Study it. And make sure to share it with your friends and loved ones overseas.