This Shabbos is Rosh Chodesh Menachem Av and the Nine Days begin.
We are in the U. S. for a few weeks. The United States has been a wonderful haven for Am Yisroel for hundreds of years, but things are changing here and all over the world.
We noticed something specific here. I don’t say this is unique to the United States, but we notice it here, maybe because the U. S. is still the epitome of the culture of Edom.
Fruits and vegetables in the U. S. have a noticeably plastic taste and feel.
I want to say that it is more obvious here than in Israel. In Israel, one is closer to the land. This is true even in large cities. One is conscious, for example, of the fact that water comes from the Kinneret and that the level of the Kinneret affects our life. One can drive east from Yerushalayim and be in the Desert in ten minutes, looking out over the Plains of Moav and the Yam ha Melach, Biblical vistas only minutes away. One can drive up the Yarden Valley and see the trees from which our dates are picked. When you drink the wine of Eretz Yisroel you taste the holy soil. Next year our lives will be different because of shmittah. In Israel, the Torah connects us to the Land.
In the U. S., it is easy to forget where food comes from. The truth is that much of it comes from across the world, and as such it must be engineered to survive weeks or months of rough travel and storage, where it is tossed into huge containers. It must be engineered to be tough and resilient, and for that reason it looks and tastes like plastic.
My friends, I think this is a sickness. We are eating plastic. Hashem made a paradise and we have turned it into plastic! We are truly ejected from Gan Eden. Do you remember what the Prophet promised us for the time of Moshiach? “They will sit, each man under his vine and under his fig tree, and none will make them afraid ….” (Micah 4;4) When Moshiach comes, the fruit will not come from the other side of the world and it will not be plastic. You will be able to taste the richness of the earth, from which Hashem nourished it with endless miracles. When you thank Hashem for “borai pri ha aitz” and “borai pri ha adamah,” the fruit of the tree and the fruit of the earth, you will be able to taste His blessings.
“Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel says in the name of Rabbi Yehoshua: from the day the Temple was destroyed … there is no day without a curse …. Flavor has been removed from fruit. Rabbi Yose says: the richness of fruit has … been removed …. Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar says: [The end of] purity caused the removal of the flavor and fragrance [of produce; the end of] tithing caused the removal of the richness of grain ….” (Mishnayos Sota 9:12-13)
We are so used to this curse that we do not even notice it, but our entire civilization is made out of plastic. It is a plastic world which we built when we rejected the perfect world Hashem made for us.
In this week’s Parsha, the borders of the Land are delineated.
Once upon a time, we lived on the land; we were nourished on the land and we made blessings on the land. We saw our fruits and vegetables growing before our eyes and we knew why we were thanking Hashem. We saw the earth giving its bounty; we took terumos and maasros; we kept shmittah and yovel; we thanked Hashem for all his blessings in purity and faithfulness. We didn’t eat the plastic fruits that other nations sold to us. Hashem provided for us from His Holy earth in our holy land, in the Palace of the King, with the Temple gleaming on the Holy Mountain.
It is all gone now.
My friends, we have lost so much and we have forgotten what we lost. But we want it back. We want reality and not plastic. Now, as Sefer Bamidbar ends, we are standing on the Banks of the Jordan River, in the Plains of Moav, awaiting the day when we will cross the Yarden and enter the Holy Land. After 5781 years of Exile from Gan Eden, after 2000 years of Golus since the destruction of our Holy Temple, after being crushed among the nations, crushed in Meron, crushed in Givat Ze’ev, crushed in Miami, crushed by the hatred of the other nations, it is time to return.
It is time to come back to our Father in Heaven, time to unite as one nation with one heart. It is time for teshuva and moshiach. It is time for us to come home, spiritually and physically. Let’s shed tears for our fallen Bais Hamikdosh and let’s all be friends once again the way we once were, in the days of our forefathers.
It may be difficult, but Hashem will help us if we really want it. After what we have been through, we want to come home. It is time to eat the pure fruits of the Holy Land and to bless Hashem “b’chol levav’cha uv’chol nafshecha … with all our heart and all our soul.” It is time to welcome the Redeemer and see the Temple Rebuilt on its Holy Mountain.
May we see it soon in our days!
Bais Hamikdosh: The Holy Temple
Kinneret: Sea of Galilee
Yam ha Melach: The Dead Sea
Shmittah: Every seventh year in Israel, the Land rests and the farmers take a year off
Terumos and maasros: offerings from the crop which are taken in Israel
Yarden: Jordan River
Yovel: every 50th year in Israel, debts are forgiven and the land returns to its original owner
Real Fruits and Vegetables
The Kinneret Looking East Toward the Golan