The False Falcon
by Rabbi Yaacov Chaiton
I just returned from a two week holiday in Israel. I had a great time but it's good to be back. I mean - the whole country seems to be in a mess - the security situation is a constant worry, the religious and the secular can't seem to get along, unemployment is high and it just seems like one big "balagan". I get back and read the local papers portraying Israel as the world's villain and I just can't help feeling that Israel is a constant source of embarrassment for us Jews in the Diaspora. What are your thoughts?
In this week's Torah portion, the Torah lists the non-kosher animals and birds. One of the non-kosher birds is the falcon. The Hebrew word used by the Torah to describe this bird is the "Ro'oh". The word "Ro'oh" has got the same root as the Hebrew word "Re'iyah" which means "vision". The Talmud explains the connection - "this unclean bird is called the Ro'oh because it has extraordinary vision - it stands in Babylonia and spots a carcass in Israel". These words of the Talmud are significant because they also give us some insight into why this bird is non-kosher. This "Ro'oh" bird is counted as one of the non-kosher birds because it stands comfortably outside of the Holy land and looks for the smelly "carcass" - not in its unclean location but - in the land of Israel, the holy land.
As Jews in the diaspora we have enough smelly carcasses in our localities to deal with. It's very easy to sit here in comfort and criticize what goes on in Israel. We often tend to forget what Jerusalem and Israel as a whole mean to us as a nation. For us Jews, Israel is not just another country. Israel is our holy land and Jerusalem is our holy city because they were chosen by G-d at the very beginning of creation to be the place through which we can connect to Him. In fact the word "Yerushalayim" is a make-up of two Hebrew words - "Yirah" ("awe") and "Shelaimah" (complete). This is the place from which "complete awe" of G-d radiates to the world and is thus the place to connect to him. It's for this reason that we pray in the direction of Jerusalem, because Jerusalem is so-to-say "G-d's window to the world".
While Israel definitely has its problems, the Ro'oh bird teaches us that it's an unkosher thing to sit here in the diaspora and look for the problems in our Holy land. King David says in Psalms "Look in the good of Jerusalem". We've got to seek out the good of Eretz Yisrael and Jerusalem and that starts with us in the diaspora strengthening ourselves and our commitment to Judaism. Eretz Yisrael - those living there and what it means to us should always be seen as badge of honour for every Jew, anywhere in the world.