Sharing Our Grief, Burying Our Fears, Sitting Gently with the Land
Only the dead can truly own land, so the Jews cannot claim to 'own' the Temple Mount.
BY: Rabbi Arthur Waskow
The passage mentions two places: a tomb and a well. What land does Abraham "acquire"? A grave. Only the dead can "own" land; the living simply sojourn on God's land, as Leviticus 25: 23 reminds us. If we the living give up our attachment to acquiring, we can sit calmly ("vayeshev"
in Genesis 25: 11) to drink at wells of vision.
What about those sacred places of today whose "ownership" has sparked so many deaths?
For Jews to claim to "own" the Temple Mount is a travesty. During the past 1,800 years, we have become wise enough to decree it not a place we are supposed to physically inhabit, but a place we are supposed to physically avoid. We taught thatthe most sacred place is one we do not "own" and cannot even put our foot on.
Why? Because we might inadvertently step into the Holy of Holies, the place where the inner sanctum of the holy Temple once stood. Why not do this? Because the Holy of Holies itself was a place to be entered only by one person for one moment every year--the High Priest on Yom Kippur.
-ownership was holy. This was a radical critique of idolatry. It teaches in space what Shabbat, the Sabbath, teaches in time.
What Rabbinic Judaism did was in effect to expand the Holy of Holies, defining the entire Temple Mount as the Holy of Holies and Mashiach, Messiah, as the one "high priest" who could enter it.
Yet we cannot do without land altogether. We are creatures of body, who at our healthiest must have a Land to "sit" in, a well to drink from, a brother or sister to see. How can this done without "acquiring" the Land?
By treating the land with loving respect, living not on its back but as part of its web of life, avoiding such mistakes as draining the Huleh wetlands, building the Trans-Israel Highway, using scarce water for settler swimming pools instead of Palestinian kitchens.
Zionism had within it both the strand of healing the Land and the strand of dominating it, the strand of befriending Abraham's other family and the strand of controlling it. In recent years, the second of these strands has been elevated to a dominant role.
But exile, alienation, cannot be solved by possessiveness. It can only be eased by acknowledging that possessiveness is itself a form of exile.