“And how is the Land in which they dwell; is it good or bad?…” (Num. 13:19)
Rabbi Noach Weinberg was the legendary leader of Aish HaTorah, the worldwide Jewish outreach organization. The Aish headquarters is located right across from the Temple Mount, the holiest place in Judaism. A non-religious tourist once told Rav Weinberg that he didn’t understand why Israel is called the Holy Land because he’d traveled throughout the country and didn’t see any holiness. Rav Weinberg answered with his trademark smile, “If you’ve been all over Israel, let me ask you how many Buffefists did you meet?” Perplexed, the young man asked him what a Buffefist is. Rav Weinberg replied, “I didn’t ask you what a Buffefist is, I asked you how many you met!” Annoyed by the silly question, the tourist retorted, “How can I know how many Buffefists I met if I don’t even know what one is!”
Anticipating just this response, Rav Weinberg told the young man, “Do you know what holiness is to say that you haven’t seen it in this land? Were you expecting white angels walking barefoot in the streets? Or perhaps beautiful light emanating from the rocks? Without an understanding of what holiness is, how can you possibly know what to look for, and even if you find it, how would you recognize it?” In order to see holiness, you need to first understand what holiness is. How do you do that? By studying the Torah, God’s Holy Book. There are many who blithely conclude that the Hebrew Bible has nothing to offer them – without ever reading it! Just as you can’t count Buffefists if you don’t know what one is, don’t count out God until you know what He has to say.
Image: Rabbi Noach Weinberg (screenshot from YouTube)