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Let Them Eat Cake

Let Them Eat Cake


There was once a beautiful land.

Enchanting, exalted, devout and knowledgeable.

Stalks of grain grew wonderfully tall in tandem with the songs of the Levites, as they played their lyres, sounding cymbal and trumpet, and chanted sweet psalms in the Courtyard of G‑d.

Spread palm leaves swayed slowly and happily, stimulated by worshipers with arms raised heavenwards, swaying with devotion in the Sanctuary of G‑d.

Its air was kept fresh and invigorating by colored clouds of compounded spices, regally rising from cradles of coal in the inner Chamber of the Creator.

Sparkling brooks flowed energetically, inspired by streams of jubilant pilgrims bearing fruit-laden baskets to the City of our L-rd.

Eager ears of wheat perked to catch the phrases of praises sung by faith-filled farmers in the Fields of G‑d.

Merry clusters of enormous grapes nurtured wombs filled with sweet gladness, to be poured out in ecstatic song beside the Almighty's Altar.

Encouraged by the gleaming globes along the golden branches of G‑d's Candelabra, radiant olives glistened in the sun.

Bulging pomegranates perfumed the territory preferred as the terrestrial Palace of G‑d.

A soul-nourishing blend of spiritual and mystical buttered each slice of breadAncient fig-trees drew their leaves together, enticing men of wisdom to sit in their shade and discuss G‑d's laws, while goats with wise and wistful eyes gazed silently over their shoulders.

Where children assembled to be instructed in G‑d's teachings and ways, trees adorned their branches with sweet nuts, their shells shimmering in the sunlight like galaxies on a clear night.

Before each fallow Sabbatical Year, grasses and grains dutifully tripled their efforts.

Gentle rainfall massaged silent gardens and rinsed empty lanes each Shabbat Eve, after all had gathered in their homes to feast and sing with their families in honor of G‑d's day of rest.

Sages and mystics kissed the sacred soil, finding their intellect sharpened by its atmosphere.

Even the Supreme Court would not determine the annual calendar without first consulting the land's blossoms and buds.

Oh, what a land! Saturated with divine purpose. Its blessed yield was distinguished with extraordinary nutrition and satiation, enhancing wisdom and faith. A soul-nourishing blend of spiritual and mystical buttered each slice of bread. Each mouthful of produce was flavored with the supremacy of spirit over matter. Within each skin of fresh milk and portion of preserved cheese, heaven's smile had been fully absorbed.

Naturally, such a spiritually sensitive land could not stomach centuries of sin by those who grew immune to its wonder, attributing its marvel to their own prowess or imagined deities.

Not surprisingly, every ruler on earth desired this landNot surprisingly, every ruler on earth desired this land, far smaller than their own empires, but predominant in blessings and spirit. Their own provinces boasted military might and material competency, but severely lacked soul. From the ends of the earth, emperors envied the invisible dancing flame of G‑d's chosen dales and flourishing pastures.

And so, eventually, the Children of G‑d were driven from their land by the mightiest armies of the ancients. Its thriving populace was butchered by the millions, and their remnant removed at the cruel point of the extended and greedy Roman spear. Stooped in fetters, weeping alongside His people, His hot tears stinging the cosmos and rapidly dissolving centuries-worth of misconduct, G‑d allowed His House and land to be ploughed over.

Its heart was broken.

The land of beauty and spirit withered overnight, becoming astonishingly introverted:

It curled up and shrunk, like a threatened porcupine, sending bristling briars where goodness once grew.

Like an alarmed tortoise, it retracted its trees into its deepest self, hiding its excellent grains under the coarsest of cloaks.

Like a frightened ostrich, it buried its proud head of bountiful blessings under deep layers of unforgiving sand.

Like a cornered cat, it hissed menacing threats of desolation and plague at would-be settlers.

All the while, its beloved people were scattered like seeds across the furthest oceans, falling haplessly into foreign furrows. No sooner had they taken root in the soulless soil, then their communities were uprooted and their crop plundered. Again and again, for two thousand years. While the land of wonder lay strikingly still, barely conscious, its children were tossed like tissues in a tornado, overly sensitive even to the fluttering of a single foreign leaf.

But we never forgot home. Despite millennia of exile, in times of benevolence and centuries of sorrow, we constantly recall our promised role as the land's divinely ordained inhabitants. In our heart, soul and destiny, we forever carry the deed to our land. As the seasons repeat themselves endlessly, we lovingly reiterate G‑d's golden verses of promised reunion.

How could we forget the land of our birth, when the scent of its sacred soil still lingers within our soul? Indeed, it is only the extreme misfortunate who prolonged exile has caused to forget the identity of his own soul, who can also relinquish his parent-soil. To forget the land is to forget ourselves.

And so, we sample splendid wines from France's boastful vineyards; healthy cereals from America's proudest grains; Europe's sterling yields; exotic products of Asia; waters stolen from the Alps; and spices from the ends of the earth — but they all taste distinctly…physical.

Locked in their own corporeality, these foreign products appear as nothing more than material expressions of earth's creativity, crowned with heaven's reluctant nod. The apathy and ignorance of unsacred soil attributes the astounding miracle of its growth to nothing more than the ambiguous "wonders of nature." Lacking purpose and destiny, these foods appeal to the palate uninspired by the radiance of G‑d's Palace.

Sampling these grains, we sigh at the soil of our sojourn: This is barley? Spelt? Oh, how sorely your fields lack the spiritual dance of the Living Land…! You call this milk? Cheese? How blankly your cows stare, completely insensitive to the purpose of existence…!

But then, we catch ourselves. After all, there is deeper meaning to our exilic ride around the globe. Sins aside (our dues have been collected repeatedly with suffering unparalleled in history), we were exiled to foreign pastures on a higher mission:

Our despoilers are like bees in G‑d's global garden, plundering nectar but distributing pollenTo breathe divine life into these dry bones; to raise these uninspired grains to a higher existence, allowing them to glimpse their own souls and thus taste a sampling of the Holy Land.

To introduce some of the spirit of our eternal land into the mundane; expanding the borders of G‑d's blessed territory to wherever we temporarily sink our roots.

Our despoilers are like bees in G‑d's global garden, plundering nectar but distributing pollen. Far from diminishing our land via conquest and dispersion, as intended, they have unwittingly acted as G‑d's agents of its ultimate proliferation – for now its sacred seeds have blown worldwide and are sown throughout the globe.

And so, when our soul requires additional sparks to feed its mission on earth, our host-land exults. When our inner ear tunes in to the cry of anguished grains, begging for a life beyond the chaff of materiality, we approach our table. Great indeed is the elation in foreign vineyards and fields when we obey G‑d's command to invite underprivileged produce to our festive meals on Shabbat and Holy Days.

We grasp our fork with purpose and raise our cup with an awareness that dates back to centuries of experience in the Land of G‑d – there, everything from moss to mist proclaimed the truth: From non-existence to existence, all is constantly re-generated by the word of G‑d.

Before permitting the produce into our bodies, we pronounce the mystical formula of elevation: Boruch atah…shehakol nihiyah bidvaro! When stripped of charm and profundity and condensed into the uninspired language of mortals, this sparkling incantation in the holy tongue translates, "Blessed are You, L-rd our G‑d, by whose word all things came to be!"

Specific branches of earth's yield require more personalized invitations to their elevation, and we comply – "…Who creates the fruit of the vine!", "…the fruit of the tree!", "…Who brings forth bread from the earth!"

As the newly-inspired nutrients dance their way through our blood stream, we know that in an hour or so, we will release their energy into our prayers and Torah studyIf that weren't enough to convert erstwhile enemies into sacred territory, we share a Torah thought – to the absolute delight of the toast and tea – with other eminent elevators of mundane materials at our table. As the newly-inspired nutrients dance their way through our blood stream, we know that in an hour or so, we will release their energy into our prayers, Torah study, encouragement of the downtrodden, and uplifting of the infirm.

You can be sure that by now, that foreign pastry with its smug strawberries and cream is well on its way to the Holy Land – and that in its ascendancy, the soil of its origin has been drawn one step closer to the Courtyard of G‑d.

Raising our voices to G‑d, we begin with well-placed gratitude: Hazan et ha'olam … Al hamichiyah… Thank You for providing us with nourishment and life-sustaining food, just as You generously provide for all Your creatures, wherever they may be and at all times – even in this land and era of divine concealment.

Having partaken of foreign bounty and released its soul from captivity, we are again reminded of our own captivity and the bountiful land of our own soul.

How long must we languish? Until when must our home lay inverted in mourning?

And so, we immediately continue with our sincerest plea: Rachem na…! But dear Father in Heaven – please have mercy on the most desirable, marvelous and spacious land that You bequeathed to our fathers! Return us home, to again delight in its divinely inspired bounty! Rebuild Your earthy palace and Holy Temple and we shall again serve You in purity of mind, body and spirit! Mystical fragrance of incense-offerings and stirrings of sublime melody shall once more waft throughout the fabric of our homeland, currently desolate of divine vividness and woefully introverted.

Some things are so very astounding that the casually passing mind refuses to notice the wonder.

It is a historical, indisputable fact, that for close to two thousand years without the slightest interruption, millions upon millions of devout Jewish men, women – and even tiniest toddlers just learning to talk – have recalled their enchanted G‑d-given land and entreated the Almighty to witness its physical and spiritual resurrection. But they have done so not only on Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah, not only on the Festivals and Shabbat, not only at the three daily prayer services, at weddings, funerals, and all occasion in between — but also after every meal… and even each and every time they have eaten a piece of cake…!

Yes, my dear landsmen, with each bite of grain for centuries, be it bread, bagel, pasta, pastry, cake or pretzel, we have embraced the rejected soul of territories worldwide and introduced them to the Land of G‑d, while at the same time rejecting their unsacred bodies – the foreign soils – much as their inhabitants have always considered us alien and inferior. And with each slice of bread for millennia, we have renewed our claim to the Holy Land.

Which other land in history can boast of more loyal sons and daughters? Who among the vast family of nations displays such insatiable desire for G‑d's overt presence than "the smallest of peoples" that G‑d calls "My child, My firstborn, Israel"? There cannot be the slightest doubt that such extreme, unparalleled devotion will be ultimately rewarded:

With the imminent Redemption, we shall return home – to a land more aesthetically enchanting, more physically robust and productive, and more spiritually profound and revealing than ever before. Our sacred soil will eagerly implement its long-suppressed dream – lovingly embracing its children with miraculous bounty and a dancing spirit of exposed divinity.

With each bite of bread, bagel, pasta, pastry, cake or pretzel, we embrace the rejected soul of territories worldwideG‑d will reward our loyalty. With the applause of every nation on earth, under the influence of divine revelation, true peace and prosperity, our land will expand and be re-divided among the Tribes of G‑d, facilitating our return to a new and ancient spacious home. Its soil will part with tender joy, regenerating our lost generations, who will rise to blissful life in the era of G‑d's reconciliation with mankind and the universe.

"Those who sow in tears will reap in joy." In that promised era, our combined generations of worldwide efforts will be activated, rendering the entire universe a garden, home, temple and palace for G‑d – a global Holy Land. Yet even then, nothing will compare to the glory of our Holy Land. Rather, in that blessed era, even the intense Mediterranean sun will pale before the divine splendor filling the cosmos – radiating from the reunion of a perpetual people with an eternal land that they won back with one, and another, and yet another, meditation and prayer over a piece of cake.

Illustrations by Chassidic artist Michoel Muchnik.
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Anonymous March 10, 2015

Wow ! this was the most amazing thing I've possibly ever read! Extremely inspirational and beautifully, very poetically written.
See, all this gluten-free business? Forget about it ! Eat your cake and bread and bring the geulah now! Reply

Binyamin Israel March 8, 2015

Such poetry and art, a gracious read and inspiring portrayal of our golus. Thank you Reply

Chaim Brooklyn October 13, 2014

Beautiful article What an exceptionally beautiful article. Such a terrific explanation of Eretz Yisroel and its connection to Hashem, along with the connection of Am Yisroel. Fantastic. Reply

Dina Estreicher Toronto, Canada July 3, 2014

Refreshing and inspiring to come upon such a beautifully expressed Jewish article. It was engaging, appealing and a magical read. Please continue to share your talent with us...Thank you. Reply

Anonymous via July 20, 2010

absolutely beautiful article Reply

eon COBL July 14, 2009

now that I think of it its not unlike the temple scene from the fountain, the exchange below
(cheese movie, but it has its highs) Reply

Yaakov July 13, 2009

You've described it perfectly, eon!
Israel is a rare sunflower surrounded by a raging storm of weeds. For while it is bent on preservation, even seeking calm with neighbors who constantly spread venomous shoots in its direction, every other country in the region has always sought nothing but eradication.
Nevertheless, to call them weeds is not really appropriate, since it implies there is no hope at all.
Anyway, such talk certainly won’t produce flowers. Rather, as you so wisely “suggested,” sowing other blooms that, like Israel, seek only sunlight and warmth, is the ultimate challenge.
Although I may have deviated somewhat from your original intention, let me agree on one point – “If Israel is a holy land, then the israelis must be really bad gardeners.” They indeed need to improve their efforts at cultivating the land as befits a holy land; that would also undoubtedly help their material security as well as improve the character of their neighbors. Reply

eon July 13, 2009

A plant that eradicates all other plants around itself is a weed. No number or variety of weed species will make a garden, so this is not so much about diversity or specialization. The real question is how to sow (other) flower species. Reply

Yaakov July 12, 2009

remove your swords, let us plow Who asks a brain surgeon for a back massage, or a nutritionist for open-heart surgery?
Who hires a wizard in vineyard-cultivation to lay a lawn, or an expert sheep-handler to tend to prize roses?
Each country has its particular soul and requires its own people – sons and daughters of that same soul.
Elsewhere, the lines may be somewhat blurred without too much mishap, but certainly for the extremely sensitive soul of G-d’s chosen land, sons and daughters born of foreign souls can only provide confusion and disappointment at best. The Land of Israel requires Israelites (i.e., Jews, soul-descendants of our patriarch Israel; not necessary “Israelis”).
G-d warns His children that even they will be rejected – “puked out,” to use His precise expression – by the Land, whose high sensitivity cannot stomach abundant sin. But, He promises, after centuries of lying fallow while we sow lands worldwide, we and He, His Torah and Land will completely reunite for eternity – to the benefit of all. Reply

eon COBL July 11, 2009

Swords to plows, anyone? If Israel is a holy land, then the israelis must be really bad gardeners, as they will not allow others to be gardeners. They don't understand that people are part of the garden - this includes both themselves and others. Reply

David Chester Petach Tikva, Israel July 2, 2009

Return to the Land How very beautiful to read of what our ideal Land used to be like, and to realise how different the reality of living here is today!

When we recite the blessings after a meal we give thans for the Land as well as for the food. Surely there is a message here. It is not simply that in order to grow the materials used in the cake that we need some land, it is also that this land as given by G-d is not to be spoiled or abused. Yet that is what is happenning.

Land which we and our fathers bought back using KKL collected sums is now being sold as if it were private land and not something in which all of Israel has a part. Our land is too precious for its use to be withheld by speculators in order to gain by its rising value. The Land of Israel should be leased by the government for use by its people. The proper returns on the cake which we enjoy, should be sent for use to the legal owners. Reply

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