A Yom HaAtzmaut Dvar Torah Lesson
They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Certainly, in a culture which tends towards the superficial, this is an important dictum. We tend to be overwhelmed by the supermodel, the supersized, the superrich, and the super phony. To remember that one person's beauty is another's average or below average, and one person's ugly can be quite beautiful to someone else, is important.
But in truth, beauty is not in the eye of the beholder.
It's in their heart.
When the Torah discusses the episode of the spies, it mentions that the city of Hebron was built seven years before the city of Zoan in Egypt. The great commentator Rashi explains that the Torah is telling us that Hebron was seven times more beautiful than that Egyptian city. He deduces this from the fact that biblical Ham built Zoan for his elder son Mitzrayim before he built Hebron for his younger son Canaan. Therefore, when the Torah says that Hebron was seven years older, it is telling us in code that it is seven times more beautiful. By inference, says Rashi, we see how much more beautiful the Holy Land is than Egypt. After all, says Rashi, Hebron was a burial ground, and Zoan was the palace of the Kings. How much more beautiful the rest of the Holy Land must be!
This is all very nice, but why the codes? Why doesn't the Torah simply tell us how beautiful Hebron is?
Because beauty is in the heart of the beholder, and the heart has different rules.
We know that the sustenance of the land of Israel comes from the rains. Israel is not blessed with great rivers and lakes like other countries, and only gets enough rain to sustain itself. The margin for drought is very small. This tells us something very powerful about the land of Israel. As the Torah says, " from the rain of heaven shall you drink water." Israel is inextricably connected to Heaven.
This is not just the land of Israel in general, but it is also the city of Jerusalem. Our sources talk of there being a heavenly Jerusalem, directly parallel to the earthly Jerusalem below. As our forefathers Jacob said, " this is the gateway to Heaven."
There is no beauty like the beauty of Heaven. The magnificence of Switzerland, the glory of Egypt, the wonder of the Rockies, are all certainly beautiful aspects of creation. But Heaven is, well, heavenly! Thus, there is Heaven in the land of Israel, there is the ultimate beauty embedded in the very land of Israel.
And there is Heaven inside the human heart. Our souls are a spark of the Divine, deeply rooted in Heaven's beauty and magnificence. When the heaven of the human heart connects with the heaven of the land of Israel, the unparalleled beauty astounds. For this reason, the Torah can't tell us that Hebron was so beautiful. That message, too, has to be hidden in the heart and soul of the text. Just like we must seek it out in the Torah, we must always seek to perceive the beauty of Heaven in the land of Israel, the city of Jerusalem, and her People.