To the State of Israel and all its inhabitants,
I remember the night we bonded forever. My father told me that Aliyah (immigration) to the land of Israel is the most important thing I will ever do in my life, and that we came to Israel in order to help build it. I was seven years old. Upon our arrival at the airport, I remember I lifted my head up, looked around, thinking: my father was right. Israel was in the process of building, and there is so much to do. It's a good thing we came.
Ever since that night, when my feet touched the ground of Israel for the first time, I found myself walking your paths, my beloved Israel, spiritually and physically. Therefore, I choose to address the value of Derech Eretz (Courtesy).
Our sages teach us about the relationship between “Derech Eretz” and Torah. One of the most famous teachings says that “Derech Eretz came to the world before the Torah." Which means that the understanding about proper human behavior predated receiving the Torah on Mt. Sinai, as it appears in the next source: “...Derech Eretz preceded the Torah by twenty six generations, as it is said to keep the path of the tree of life” (Yalkut Shimoni, Genesis 3, 24).
In a different source, the Torah and “Derech Eretz” are mentioned together, and the emphasis is that “Derech Eretz” is good for the Torah, and the combination of the two makes the Torah even more beautiful for its readers: “Rabban Gamliel the son of Rabbi Yehuda the president says: Beautiful is the study of Torah with “Derech Eretz”, for the striving of both makes one forget sin. And all Torah that does not have work accompanying it is ultimately nullified and drags [in] sin. And all those who are involved with the community (doing communal work) should be involved for the sake of Heaven…” (Mishnah Avot, chapter 2, 2).
These two sources teach us that in every given time, learning Torah must be connected to “Derech Eretz”, to reality and to proper behavior and conduct between people. It is a big effort. It requires investment and dedication. It is not possible to expect that the connection will arrive on its own, but we need t o be mindful of it and strive to achieve a reality in which Torah is with “Derech Eretz”, and “Derech Eretz” is with Torah, all the time.
I wish for you, my beloved country, that there will always be men and women that will work hard to combine the Torah with “Derech Eretz”, each with their special presence in the world.
There is still so much to do, but the more people are mindful of the two, the better.
Rabbanit Devorah Evron, is the Director of The Susi Bradfield Women’s Institute of Halakhic Leadership (WIHL) at Midreshet Lindenbaum – Ohr Torah Stone and serves as a Religious Spiritual leader at Bar Ilan university. She is a graduate of Halacha (Jewish Law) teachers program in Beit Morasha and Beit Midrash for Israeli Rabbis at the Shalom Hartman Institute and Hamidrasha in Oranim. She teaches Halacha and Talmud, and holds an MA in Gender studies, and is especially concerned with questions of Halachic Feminism. An active member in “Beit Hillel” and “Kolech”, she lives in Mitzpe Netofa. She is married to Yuval, and is a mother and a grandmother.