At the expense of great travail and even life itself, many chasidic scholars and leaders sought to support The Land. Some even ‘made aliyah‘ (moved to Israel) during the country’s most tumultuous periods, while those who lived abroad dedicated their lives to raising funds for Jewish settlements within the Holy Land. Overall, the Land of Israel has always captured the heart of chasidism with an enduring love and enthusiasm.

...the Land of Israel has always captured the heart of chasidism...

Chasidic annals offer up quite a number of incredulous stories highlighting the holiness inherent in The Land.

1) One time a chasid came from Jerusalem to visit Lubavitch (a small town now in Smolensk Oblast, Russia, which served as the Chabad movement’s headquarters for over a century). The third Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn (known as the Tzemach Tzedek), came to greet him wearing his Shabbat clothes out of respect for the holiness of Eretz Yisrael.

Attractive in the Land’s Eyes

2) A wealthy Jew from Ruzhin (Russia) once travelled to the Land of Israel for a visit. Upon his return, he sought an audience with the Rebbe of Ruzhin and complained that he didn’t find the Holy Land to be an especially attractive place.

The Rebbe told him: "There was once a wealthy Jew who married off all his daughters to Torah scholars. However, he couldn’t find a suitable groom for his oldest one and married her off to a simple tailor. Before her wedding, he told her to adorn herself to look pleasing for her soon-to-be husband. She said: ‘For the tailor, I am attractive enough as I am.’ So it is with the Land of Israel," said the Rebbe. "For those capable of appreciating her lofty degree of holiness, she is sufficiently adorned. However, for those immersed in materiality, she appears to them like any other land."

"...for those immersed in materiality, she appears to them like any other land."

3) A similar story revolved around a Polish chasid who traveled to The Land and made his home in Jerusalem. After a period of time, he found he couldn’t adjust to the conditions life in that city required, and he decided to make his way back to Poland. Before his departure, he wanted to first take leave from the tzadik, Rabbi Simcha-Bunim of Varki, who lived in Jerusalem. Upon hearing his reasons for wanting to leave, the tzadik groaned from the depths of his heart and said: "I feel a great deal of pity for you. Apparently, you were not pleasing to Jerusalem. If only this been the case, you would have found Jerusalem pleasing as well."

The Rebbe’s words penetrated deeply on the Polish chasid and he decided to remain.

4) Shortly after the well-publicized aliyah of the tzadik Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vitepsk, who brought along with him a large contingent of chasidim, one chasid approached him and related the following: "I thought that by making aliyah, it would become easier to serve G‑d. However, it is even more difficult now than it was while living outside of the Holy Land."

Rabbi Menachem Mendel answered: "Here you are mistaken. For you see, while you were living abroad, your divine service was tainted by pride. And because there was a vested interest in this service, you didn’t fell the difficulties involved. But now that you are in the Holy Land, you have been brought automatically to a sense of self-nullification. You now therefore sense the lack of your own personal service as a direct result of being stripped of vested interests, and you suddenly feel the difficulty involved."

The King’s Palace

5) Upon the founding of Kfar Chabad Village outside of Tel Aviv, the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn (the Rebbe Rayatz), sent a special epistle to the Chassidim there. Among the ideas he mentioned was the following: "Divine Providence has brought you to ‘A land upon which the eyes of the L-rd your G‑d are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year(Deut. 11:12). You are residing in the King’s palace at every moment."

"...You are residing in the King’s palace at every moment."

6) Rabbi Yehoshua from Kotna once traveled to the Land of Israel, and took in all the holiest sites amidst their destruction and desolation. When he returned, the inhabitants of his city arranged a large banquet in his honor, and asked him to describe his impressions. "As you are all well aware," Rabbi Yehoshua sighed, "the country still lies in desolation. However, there is one thing which is as fresh and vibrant as it was all the way back in the times of the Second Temple..." All those present strained to catch what the Rabbi would say next. "…And that is unwarranted hatred. Alas, it is still in existence in full force."

In this regard, the Alter Rebbe (the founder of Chabad Chassidut) issued a strict warning to be especially wary of unwarranted hatred in the Holy Land, as ever since the Second Temple’s destruction, a spiritual impression had been left on the land, generating a tendency toward this destructive force.

[Based on an article in Living Jewish #437, which was translated & adapted from Sichat HaShevuah, Darchei HaChassidut]