“Truth will sprout from the Land…“ (Tehillim 85:12)
When Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk ז”ל wrote “…the Land of Israel has a soul…” what did he mean?
Soul implies life, awareness, individuality, and self-expression. But how can skies, mountains, rivers, or trees speak?
Perek Shira is a Torah commentary that translates the language of nature into human speech. In it, King David reveals secrets hidden in the world around us.
While it’s true, the green leaves, low branches, and sturdy roots of an ancient olive tree might tell anyone poetic: “To live long, stay close to the earth.” But the clarity and wisdom of messages from nature depend on the clarity and wisdom of the observer.
In Perek Shira, King David’s transforms his perceptions about nature into prayer – song. From this and other sources we know that only does the Land of Israel have a soul, but it has a song. And the eternal beauty of this melody carries healing to humanity.
How can we perceive the soul and song of Eretz Yisrael? How can we access the healing of the spirit it provides?
The perception of beauty has a powerful effect. No matter what our culture or religious belief, beautiful things calm and heal our spirit. And although “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, studies in aesthetics worldwide are finding a universally shared perception of beauty in landscapes.
Israel’s landscapes are imbued with a special grace – חן – (chen) that sets them apart from all others. The Hebrew word for beauty – יפי – (yofi) means a pleasant harmony created by the combination of diverse elements.
The Holy Land’s dimensions of history, spirituality, and topography converge into a particularly healing, uplifting effect. This effect is strengthened through tefila (prayer) and Torah study.
The B’nei Yissachar, Rabbi Zvi Elimelech ben Pesach Shapiro of Dinov, is another guide to the soul of the Land. He explores the inner horizons of Israel’s lunar calendar as it corresponds to the twelve root tribes of its soul.
The quest to know about the soul hidden within the quiet majesty of the Holy Land is the quest to know who we are and what we may become, as individuals and as a society.
קְחוּ מִזִּמְרַת הָאָרֶץ בִּכְלֵיכֶם
“Take, in your vessels [or musical instruments], the produce [literally ‘melodies’] of the Land…”
– Bereishis 43:11
מִכְּנַף הָאָרֶץ זְמִרֹת שָׁמַעְנו
“From the furthest reaches of the Land we heard song…”
– Yishayahu 24:16