Friday, November 30, 2012

Derache'ha -- Israel

I am Eliyahu, a student at Yeshivat Midrash Shmuel. I have learned previously in Yeshivat Ner Israel in Baltimore, MD and in Yeshivat Ruach Chaim in Jerusalem. Eitan Divinsky, an esteemed colleague of mine and a budding talmid chacham, has kindly asked me to share my weekly Divrei Torah on his blog. It is my honor and privilege to share my writings on such an esteemed platform. Shabbat Shalom!

דְּרָכֶיהָ   The Torah's take on life - and all it throws our way.
             It's an undisputed fact that Eretz Yisrael holds a special place in the heart of every Jew. Through thick or thin, every member of our people supports the land in every which way they can. In times of turmoil, Klal Yisrael gather together to pray for a ray of light; and in times of peace, preservation of the land is always on the tips of our tongues. We shall attempt to explore this deep-rooted affection for the land of Israel and in the process, understand why it is such a central focus in our religion.
            The foundation begins in Sefer Bereshit, in which the Torah details the covenant made between Hashem and Avraham Avinu (known as the "Covenant of the Parts"). While on Israel's soil, Hashem promises Avraham that the land on which he stands will be promised to his offspring, the Jewish people (1). Immediately, at that point, the land became infused with an extraordinary level of holiness not found in any other part of the world. Eretz Yisrael became the epicentre for spirituality of the world forever more.
            Plenty of evidence for the holiness of Eretz Yisrael can be found in many places throughout Chazal. According to one Gemara, the land of Israel receives the first rains, while the rest of the world only gets that which is left over (2) - a proof that Hashem's "nature" system revolves around Eretz Yisrael. In Tractate Pesahim, the Hahamim list three groups of people who are assured a portion in the world to come: one who raises his children to learn Torah, one who makes Havdala over a cup of wine (after Shabbat), and one who lives in Eretz Yisrael (3). Furthermore, another Gemara declares that one who walks 4 cubits (around 8 ft.) in Israel is another candidate for a spot in the world to come (4). Seeing as the land is injected with intrinsic holiness, just being on its terrain can produce a tremendous merit!

            In contrast, just to further stress the point being made, there are sources which speak quite negatively about living outside of Eretz Yisrael. In fact, it is explicitly codified in the Rambam's writings that one should preferably reside in Israel over the Diaspora, even if the city in Israel is populated by non-Jews, and the city in the Diaspora is populated by Jews (5). There even exists a prohibition to leave Eretz Yisrael if no good reason to do so exists (6). Our Sages expound from the verse: "So that your days and the days of your sons will be lengthened one will have length of days if he is on the land (7), but if he is outside of the land, he will not (8).
            This is encapsulated in a famous remark made by the Ramban in his commentary on the Torah where he says that a mitzva performed in the Diaspora is only preparation for mitzvot performed in Eretz Yisrael (9). With one swift blow, the Ramban turns life in Israel from an advantage to an absolute must for one who is interested in performing the commandments to their utmost requirements.
            This is the level of Eretz Yisrael. It's Hashem's chosen land for His chosen people. It's on this basis that the Ramban, in the same piece of commentary, claims that the land of Israel does not tolerate lax mitzva observance. Abominations such as gay parades and nightclubs in the land which Hashem has selected as His home will ultimately cause the initiators to be "spewed forth from the land." (10) These types of things are to remain on the other side of Israel's borders, as the kedusha inherent within simply cannot handle sin and promiscuous behaviour.
            Love for the land is fueled by the fact that Hashem chose it. It is in Eretz Yisrael where the Jewish people belong - not Uganda, as a certain "visionary" once tried claiming. There's a huge gain in having a group of Jews living together, but when the group is found in Eretz Yisrael, a divine match is made - two holy entities complimenting one another - something which simply cannot be attained anywhere else in the world.
            We are fortunate to have the land of Israel in our possession, but it is definitely not the final stage. When it is ruled by Melech Ha'Mashiach, its kedusha will vibrantly flourish on a level which we cannot even begin to conceptualize. It's up to us. Showing interest in the land for what it is - the driving force behind nearly all of the events in the Torah which defines our people - will hopefully prove to be a step closer towards the final redemption, where we will merit to see Eretz Yisrael in its full untainted glory.

שבת שלום!

1. Bereshit 15:18
2. Ta'anit 10a
3. Pesahim 113a
4. Ketubot 111a; Rambam, Hilchot Melachim 5:11
5. Rambam, Hilchot Melachim 5:12
6. Ketubot ibid.
7. Devarim 11:21
8. Berachot 8a
9. Ramban, Vayikra 18:25
10. Vayikra 18:25

1 comment:

  1. Eliyahu, thanks so much for joining (our!) blog! You did a wonderful job in this article! I'll open up the discussion by asking you: There's a large and vibrant religious community in the Diaspora. What's their excuse? How do they deal with the question of "Why aren't you living in Israel?" Please provide some insight into this. I've been asking this question for a long time.


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