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Prayerbook Vocabulary Studies
Israel 8–-Víhaviíeinu líshalom
May 7, 2008
© Rabbi Jack Moline

During these weeks leading up to Israel's 60th Anniversary, I have interrupted the pattern of examining the vocabulary of the siddur to highlight aspects of our liturgy that emphasize our connection to the land. With so much misrepresentation being made about us, most especially these days by the United Methodist Church, I thought it would be valuable to illustrate for you how Israel has remained central to our aspirations from Biblical times to the present. No document is better suited than the prayer book to make the point. The selections are not in chronological order, but presented to make the point. This column is the last in the sequence.

Note: Just as we began to prepare for Shabbat, we received news that the United Methodist Church, meeting in their annual conference in Fort Worth, rejected all of the resolutions that would have forced divestment from some companies doing business with Israel. They have, however, not withdrawn the objectionable study guide that delegitimates the Jewish state.

Each morning, just as we prepare to recite the Sh'ma, custom has us take up the four fringes of the tallit and wrap them around an index finger. (Some people always use their right finger; I use my right hand to hold the siddur on weekday mornings when my left is occupied with tefillin.) It is a lovely symbolic act that occurs just as we recite the words "v'havi'einu l'shalom mei arba kanfot ha'aretz, v'tolikheinu kom'miyut l'artzeinu," "gather us in peace from the four corners of the earth and lead us `kom'miyut' to our land."

The meaning of those words we have recited for more than a thousand years is pretty plain. We have been dispersed abroad in every land, and we yearn to be returned to the place we call home. But the sentiment could have been expressed without the word I left untranslated: kom'miyut. It comes from the same root as the word "rise:" kum. It is from the same root as "kiyyum," meaning to establish on firm ground. Our siddurim translate it as "upright." We ask God to lead us upright, kom'miyut, out of exile and into our homeland.

You know what means when someone tells you to sit up straight or stand up straight. Erect posture is a sign of confidence and rightful pride. Not bent over like humiliated or oppressed people, the person who strides upright into his or her own home communicates confidence and security to self and to others. It is in returning to our land as confident and secure Jews that we fulfill the aspirations of millennial generations.

There is no greater mitzvah for a person to perform in the world today than to live in the Land of Israel. There is no greater honor than to walk kom'miyut into our own land. Thank God, literally, that we are privileged to live in such a time.

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