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Our father Yaakov finally makes it home to the Land of Israel, the land promised by God to his ancestors…that their descendants would inherit and dwell therein. Rashi, according to rabbinic tradition, portrays our great patriarch as somehow viewing his return to the Land of Israel as being the final chapter in his difficult and turbulent life.

The Land of Israel, so to speak, is perceived by him to be a place where serenity and quiet retirement can be achieved. However, as he will find out in the tragic events that will unfold regarding Yosef and his brothers, dwelling in the Land of Israel is certainly no guarantee of peace and quiet. It is a place of challenge and constant demands, and of personal and national difficulties and struggles.
It never was meant to be viewed as a giant retirement community for the Jewish people. Even though the Torah will refer to it as being a place of “rest and inheritance” it was always intended to be a place of accomplishment and progress, of holiness and service.
To achieve holiness and to be of true service to God and human beings requires constant effort and sacrifice. It is not an easy road to traverse. Yaakov saw the Land of Israel as a place of refuge, serenity and quietude. The Lord apparently did not agree with that assessment.
The Jewish people will have to be formed into a nation, with the Land of Israel being viewed as its home base. Nation-building is never an easy task and the symbol for the difficulty of this task in Jewish life will be the return of the Jewish people to their ancient and rightful homeland, the Land of Israel.
Currently, part of the difficulty with regard to the attitude of many Jews towards the state of Israel, with all of its imperfections and difficulties, is due to the misreading of the promise inherent in the creation of a Jewish national entity in the Land of Israel.
Many saw it as somehow being the solution to all Jewish problems, a place that would somehow guarantee eternal happiness. Political Zionism taught that the creation of such a state would reduce anti-Semitism throughout the world. If anything, the Jewish state and its mere existence have exacerbated this scourge of anti-Semitism. It now disguises itself as anti-Israel but all of us know what is really meant.
The return of the Jewish people in our time to their ancestral homeland has not brought about the creation of utopia. Rather it has placed before us a great number of challenges – financial, familial, and spiritual – and many difficult dilemmas.
The State of Israel has not turned out to be the supreme retirement home that we envisioned while living in the Diaspora. Instead, it is a real place with real problems because it contains real people. It is engaged in constructing a real society that will embody the holiness of Jewish tradition and the practicality of the world in which we live. If we view it correctly and resolve not to see it through falsely nostalgic eyes, we will prosper as did our father Yaakov long ago.
Shabbat shalom
Rabbi Berel Wein

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