A Unique Love
Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook
On the third of Elul, August 30th, 2022, we will commemorate the 87th yahrzeit of Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook zt”l. One of the greatest rabbis and thinkers of modern history, Rav Kook’s influence has grown exponentially since his death in 1935.
In this short commentary, translated from Olat Ra’ayah, his commentary on the siddur, Rav Kook explains how the supernatural attachment of the people of Israel to the land fundamentally differs from the relationship other nations have with their lands.
לֵאמֹר, לְךָ אֶתֵּן אֶרֶץ-כְּנָעַן חֶבֶל, נַחֲלַתְכֶם. בִּהְיוֹתְכֶם, מְתֵי מִסְפָּר כִּמְעַט, וְגָרִים בָּהּ.
“Saying, ‘To you I will give the land of Canaan as your allotted heritage.’ When you were few in number, a handful, merely sojourning there…” (Divrei Hayamim I 16:18–19)
The holy attachment that the people of Israel have with their Holy Land is not comparable to the natural attachment that all nations have to their own lands.
The natural attachment that other nations have to their lands can only develop over a very long period of time, through a great number of events. The natural way this connection develops is as follows: a large and powerful nation enters a particular land with the goal of settling there permanently. Then, over a long period of time, the nation grows accustomed to the land and develops a historical affection for it. Over the course of centuries, the people develop a spiritual connection to their land, passing this affection on to their descendents so that it grows from generation to generation.
The attachment of the people of Israel to its beloved land is different, for this Divine attachment derives from the Source of holiness. The holy seal of our attachment to the land began to be expressed בִּהְיוֹתְכֶם, מְתֵי מִסְפָּר, even when we “were few in number,” and כִּמְעַט, in a very short time, developing immediately upon our arrival in the land, and even before we entered the land.
Knesset Yisrael’s connection to the Land of Israel is unique for we are וְגָרִים בָּהּ, we dwell in the land in a ‘temporary’ way, as if we are strangers. What we naturally did to settle and possess the land did not create our connection to the land, for our attachment is an eternal Divine creation, rooted in the word of G-d and His holy covenant with us. A law and eternal oath, “He commanded, and it endured” (Tehillim 33:9). “When you were few in number, a handful, merely sojourning there…”
Olat Ra’ayah, Part 1, p. 203