Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Merit of Building Eretz Yisrael

When Ashkenazim began making aliyah to Eretz Yisrael in the modern period, groups were formed to purchase as much land as possible from the Arabs. After World War I, a group called “Neve Sha’anan” was established for this purpose. This group acquired an abundance of land in Yerushalayim. It was on land acquired by this group that the Kenesset and the original government complex was built. It should be noted that the majority of such groups at that time were founded and run by observant Jews.
On one occasion when Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, zt”l, was present at one such purchase he gave a very moving speech. “Our sages teach that Omri became king because he added a city to Yisrael. From here we see the great merit of those who are occupied with the mitzvah of building up the holy land: due to this, one merits to rule.
“In our day we see that the Zionists add many cities and yishuvim in Eretz Yisrael and this certainly gives them merits. It is possible that due to this development they will merit to rule the holy land before Moshaich comes. If this is the direction that we are heading in, it is incumbent on all of us to build religious neighborhoods and moshavim throughout the holy land, since only in this way will we stand up to those who wish to swallow up all religious sentiment, emptying the land of all holiness to form a profane state.
“Our answer can only be resounding if we have a strong presence here. We will then be able to proclaim: ‘Your plans will never come to fruition!’”
He completed his speech with the verse, 'סולו סולו המסילה סלקו מאבן'—‘Cast up, cast up the highway; gather out the stones!’” As he finished he quickly slipped off the podium, removed his coat and bent to the ground. With alacrity and enthusiasm, he began to clear away the stones, intoning the verse 'סולו סולו המסילה סלקו מאבן' over and over again, with the crowd soon following behind until a broad path was cleared.

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