Rubies and Sapphires

I want to start my blog with a story.

A long time ago, a rabbi from the Land of Israel went to Eastern Europe to collect money for his community.  He came to a small town in Eastern Europe and went to the local synagogue to speak.  Afterwards, several people from the congregation, including a young woman, came to ask him questions about what the Land of  Israel was like.  He answered, “The people in Israel are so special; they spend a good part of every day doing good deeds.”

The next day, several people, including the  young woman, came to visit the rabbi at the house where he was staying.  “We understand about the good deeds, but what else can you tell us?”

“The cities and buildings are so beautiful.  Every building white and clean, the streets filled with all kinds of goods from all over the world.”

The next day, a few people, mostly the older people of the community who were looking for an outing, approached him.  The young woman was in their midst.  “Rabbi, we long to see the Holy Land but do not know if we will ever get there.  Please tell us more.”

The Rabbi answered, “Israel is filled with all kinds of birds and animals.  Grain and fruit grow wild in the hills and valleys.  A truly exquisite landscape awaits all who reach her shores.”

The next day, only the young woman approached the rabbi as he was packing his cart on his way out of town.  “Do you have anything more to tell me about Israel?  I sense that there is still more that I have not heard yet.  Please give me just a morsel more.”

The rabbi thought and thought.  What more could he tell this woman to satiate her?  “Israel’s very stones are rubies and sapphires.”

The young woman had an incredulous look on her face.  Rubies and Sapphires?  How could any country be so wonderous?  The rabbi waved as he climbed into his carriage, and was on his way.  He had a pang of guilt about what he had said to the woman.  Stones, even in the Land of Israel, were really only stones.

After making the rounds of the communities in Eastern Europe, the rabbi headed home to Israel.

Several years passed until one day when the rabbi heard a knock at his door.  Upon opening the door, he saw the young woman from the small town in Eastern Europe who had been so curious about Israel.  He started to apologize about the exaggeration he made about the stones but she interrupted him.

“Rabbi, when I heard about the wonderous Land of Israel from you, I decided that I needed to come and see for myself.  As soon as I arrived, I felt the warmth of the community.  People here really are involved in good deeds all day long.  Then I looked around and visited friends in other cities.  The roads and cities are truly something – bright, shining.  And in the markets, you can buy all kinds of things from all over the world.  As I lived here, I noticed the migrating birds and the animals.  I watched as the seasons changed; each season bringing with it unique fruits and vegetables in each different terrain.  But really, Rabbi, I thought to myself, was I supposed to believe that nonsense about the stones?”

The rabbi looked sheepishly down.  He was about to apologize when she continued speaking.

“Then, today, I woke in the morning and saw the rays of the first sunlight reflecting off the dew soaked stones, shining red and yellow, and I saw it.  Israel’s stones really are rubies and sapphires.  So, thank you.  Thank you for taking the time to tell a curious young woman everything that you can see in the Land of Israel if you just take time to see it.”

Israel is really a treasure house of things to discover.  People, ideas, religion, history, architecture, trade, flora, fauna, geography, engineering and geology all collide here.  I invite you to join along with my adventure of getting to really see the Land of Israel.

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