This week we are reading Parashat “Lech Lecha”, which begins with Abraham’s journey to the Land of Israel and the beginning of the formation of the Hebrew nation. The formative verse “’Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto the land that I will show thee” signifies the initial and unbreakable connection between the first Jewish mission and the territory that was designated for it.
However, if we look at the verse from a different direction, we will find that it actually reminds us of that the Land of Israel is not described in this verse as the homeland of the Jewish people. Abraham and his decedents’ journey actually outlines the character of the wandering Jewish people, back and forth, to the Land of Israel and back, and emphasizes that the majority of its history and its best creations actually took place in the diaspora.
On the 7th of Cheshvan, which falls on this coming Friday, we will mark “Diaspora-Israel Day” in Israel and around the world, a new date in the Jewish calendar on which we celebrate Jewish Peoplehood and the connection between Jews living around the world. The 7th of Cheshvan is traditionally the date on which our Sages set as the beginning of the prayers for rain (in addition to prayers recited on Shmini Atzeret). The reason the Sages postponed the prayer for rain to the 7th of Cheshvan was in order to allow pilgrims from Babylon, who arrived to Jerusalem on Sukkot, to return to their homes without being hit by rain on their way back. This postponement of the prayer for rain signifies the early connection between Israel and the Diaspora, a close and meaningful connection which is aware and sensitive to both communities’ needs: while diaspora Jews pray for rain in Israel, where they do not live, Israeli Jews delay the prayer for rain in order to allow their brothers and sisters, Abraham’s decedents, to return safely to their homes.
Parashat Lech Lecha is always read on the same week on which the 7th of Cheshvan falls. Over the coming years, we wish to dedicate Shabbat Lech Lecha and the 7th of Cheshvan to the strengthening of ties between us – the children of Abraham who reside the world over. We invite you to celebrate Diaspora-Israel Day this coming Shabbat at your congregations.
Rabbi Gilad Kariv