From Chicken Soup for the Jewish Soul

The Earth’s Song

The State of Israel belongs not only to its citizens, but to the Jewish people at large.

Shimon Peres, former Prime Minister of Israel

An aging Jew, Yaakov Chazan never ceased telling his favorite story about why Israel meant so much to him. In his nineties, he loved to tell and retell the story of the music of the soil.

He begins by going back almost a century, when he was a poor farmer, apprenticed to a wealthy Polish farm owner who took great pride in his land. Every once in a while the Polish farmer would bend over and cup his ear to the earth. He stood quietly, as if listening to a symphony. You could watch his eyes dance and his body swing with the soft, gentle movements of the music he heard from the land.

Naturally, Yaakov also wanted to hear this beautiful music. If such melodious and inspiring sounds can emerge from the soil, why not take advantage, and let one’s soul soar from the natural rhythms of Mother Nature?

So one day, slowly and carefully, mimicking the gesticulations of his mentor, Yaakov bent over, and placed his ear exactly on the spot where he saw the Polish farmer so exhilarated one sunny afternoon. He cupped his hand to his ear and pressed it firmly against the soil.

He waited. And waited. And waited. No music. No sound. Nothing.

The farmer looked at poor Yaakov, bent over, his head burrowed into the soil, and tried to hold back a smirk on his face. Yaakov saw his teacher, turned his head upwards, trying to keep his body still, and asked: “What am I doing wrong? Why can’t I hear the music? I have seen you hum, and dance, and shimmy so many times as you listen to the heavenly music you describe bursting forth from the ground. What else can I do that I have not done?”

“Yankel” (the diminutive of Yaakov), said the Polish farmer, a little bit embarrassed. “You don’t hear the music, because this is not your land. You are a Jew, and this is Polish land. Only natives, only those who belong here can hear this special music.”

Yaakov Chazan never forgot this incident with the Polish farmer. As one of the early pioneers of the kibbutz movement in the first decade of the twentieth century he came to the land of his ancestors to till the soil, to feel at home, to own a piece of his own land, to teach others to farm, as he was taught as a youth. He became well known as a strong advocate for settling the homeland, for Jews coming from Russia, Poland and other parts of Eastern Europe, and rebuilding the broken land, irrigating the dry soil, turning brown, crusted earth into rich, fruitful brownish-red soil.

When he told the story of his Polish farmer, he would then finish with these words.

“Now I am at home,” he would say. “Now the land is my land. Now, when I cup my ear to the soil of the Land of Israel, I hear music. Oh, what music!”

“That is why I love this country,” he would say. “That is why I came here. To hear the music. To dance to it, to sing to it, to be inspired by it. This is my land, and now I can hear the music. And when I listen for a while, and let myself enter its rhythms, my soul soars and my spirit rises, and I know I am at home.”

Rabbi Dov Peretz Elkins

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