Thought of the Week: Matos-Maasei - 5779
THE HEART OF ERETZ YISRAEL
In Pareshat Masei, the Torah delineates the boundaries of Eretz Yisrael. We as Jews view Israel as the centre of our lives and the centre of the world. The centrality of Eretz Yisrael is not just for our people, but rather for the whole world. The fact that Israel is covered by the news far more than countries 20 times its size is because of the fact that it is the hub of human existence. Humanity cannot flourish without the word of Hashem and that word emanates from Jerusalem. Thus, Jerusalem is the centre of Israel, and Israel in turn is the centre of the world.
Yet, in our tradition we find another place that takes that title of “Centre of Israel.”
Tiberias is a magnificent city on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. It is a must for all visitors to the land. Although it is named for the Roman Emperor Tiberius, the Talmud shares with us a statement in the name of Rabbi Yirmiya: “Why is Tiberias called Teveriah? Because it sits in the navel (Tabur in Hebrew) of Eretz Yisrael.”
So the question is: What is the real middle point of our homeland, Teveriah or Yerushalayim?
For the Jewish People to fulfill their true mission to humanity, they must first get their own house in order. To achieve that, we must strengthen our commitment to Torah, and especially to the “Torah sh’beal peh” - the Oral Tradition - since the written text on its own cannot serve as a guide.
Tiberias and its vicinity was where our Oral Tradition came to life in the years after the destruction of Jerusalem and Judah. Thus, for us, Teveriah is indeed a Tabur -a navel - and the heart of our spiritual connection to Eretz Yisrael. However, when the time comes for us to fulfill our mission to humanity, we will return to Yerushalaim with a Beit Hamikdash and make it the centre of the earth.
May we merit the building of the Beit Hamikdash in our days.