Alexis Gross, Cleveland, Ohio
Let’s say you just got a brand new iPhone. Would you take the time to read about how it was invented and who the creator was and the whole story behind the iPhone? Or, would you skip straight to the instructions manual to set it up and use it? If you are anything like me, you’d opt for the second. Typically, people tend to care more, or only, about the tangible use rather than the history behind its origins. Therefore, if Torah is supposed to be our instruction manual to life with all the laws and mitzvot, why does the Torah start off with Sefer Bereshit which barely has any mitzvot in it? Why should we read about all of these stories when it doesn’t seem like they have any direct impact on how we should live our lives? Rashi asks this question. The answer he gives is that the purpose of starting the Torah off with stories about the creation of the world, humanity, the stories of our forefathers and how they were given Eretz Yisrael directly from Hashem is to connect us, Am Yisrael, to this beautiful land we were promised. These stories are proof to ourselves and other nations that this is our land. Am Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael are a package deal. This is a fact. When Am Yisrael is not in Eretz Yisrael the land isn’t flourishing or blossoming, and neither is the nation. In recent history we have witnessed the return of Am Yisrael to its home and look where we are now. We just got back from a Tiyul where we spent time connecting to Eretz Yisrael through hands-on experiences. We saw how beautiful the land is and how much it is flourishing by hiking through beautiful waters and fields. We saw the agriculture as we drove through the mountains. We heard from people who are financially supported by the agriculture of Israel. And last seminar, we learned how the nation of Israel is an Or LaGoyim, a light to the other nations in so many ways. Eretz Yisrael and Am Yisrael come together. It isn’t right when one is without the other. In Tehillim we find the pasuk, ’ירושלים הבנויה כעיר שחוברה לה יחדיו’. This is translated as Jerusalem is built as a city that is compact together. The Gemara explains that Yerushalayim, the heart of Eretz Yisrael, is a city that brings the nation of Israel together. The heart extends to the Land of Israel as a whole. And here we are. A group of girls from different parts of the world, coming together to connect to Israel, and to connect to each other through the land and through our experiences, just as we did over the last two days on the Tiyul, and as we will continue to do throughout the year. So with Bereshit as the start of our “instructions manual”, the Torah, we understand the importance of our relationship to OUR promised land, and I cannot wait to continue to learn together and grow together as part of Am Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael.