The Significance Of Eretz Yisrael
- HaRav Avigdor Nebenzahl
- Jul 1, 2010
"The daughters of Tzlafchad drew near" (Bamidbar 27:1). Rashi points out that this section is adjacent to the description of what happened to the generation that wandered through the desert: "For Hashem had said of them 'They will surely die in the Wilderness', and not a man was left of them, except for Calev son of Yephune and Yehoshua son of Nun" (Bamidbar 26:65). The proximity of these two sections points out the sharp contrast between the two - the men of this generation were guilty of: "they despised the special land" (Tehillim 106:24), thus it was decreed that they all die in the desert. The women, in the other hand, such as the daughters of Tzlafchad, had a tremendous yearning for a portion in the land of Israel. This desire was so great that they asked Moshe: "Give us a possession among our father's brothers" (Bamidbar 27:4).
What is not clear at this point is how does the fact that they wanted to inherit what had belonged to their father indicate their tremendous love for the land? Had it been decreed that the Jews be destined to remain in the desert, or that they have no land at all, would they not have asked for the right to inherit whatever their father possessed? What if Tzlafchad would not have been entitled to any land, and had died leaving behind only gold and silver, would they not have asked for this? Is this really clear proof that they had a strong love for the land?
I believe that the proof lies in their choice of words. They asked Moshe to give them an "achuza", a foothold in the land of Israel, not a mere piece of property. This as opposed to the generation of the desert who had no desire for any piece of Eretz Yisrael. We know that these two occurrences did not happen at the same time, for the incident with the spies when they rejected the land happened on the second year after the exodus, whereas the incident with the daughters of Tzlafchad took place the fortieth year. In any event, the generation of the desert rejected the land - it is even during the fortieth year that Moshe suspected that the tribes of Gad and Reuven, by not wishing to cross the Jordan, were guilty of: "Behold - you have risen up in place of your fathers, a society of sinful people" (Bamidbar 32:14). (As it happened, Moshe's suspicion was unfounded). By asking for a portion of the land of Israel, the daughters of Tzlafchad demonstrated its importance.
Chazal praise the daughters of Tzlafchad: "The daughters of Tzlafchad were wise, they were expounders of Torah, and they were righteous" (Baba Batra 119b). The Gemara explains that they were wise because "they spoke in a timely fashion", they posed their question to Moshe precisely when Moshe was studying and teaching the laws of Yibum, levirate marriages. They also did not engage in wasteful, idle talk. I thought perhaps the name Tzlafchad is a mnemonic for "tzidkaniot", righteous (the letter "tzaddi"), "lo patpaniot", do not engage in idle conversation, (this accounts for the second and third letters "lamed" and "pei"), "chachmaniyot", wise (the letter "chet"), and "darshaniot", expounders of Torah (the letter "daled").
Simply requesting an inheritance does not display any love for the land. Non-Jews also demand what is rightfully theirs. There are court cases after court cases debating issues regarding rightful heirs to the possessions of the deceased! What made these women wise was that they understood the true purpose of inheriting from their father. They did not simply desire his gold, silver, or even his portion in the Land of Israel. They realized that the purpose of inheritance was to provide a "tikkun", correction, for the soul of the departed. The Torah mandates that inheritance go to the next of kin. If there is a son, the son inherits, if there is not a son, then a daughter, and so forth as prescribed by the Torah in our Parsha. The reason the inheritance must go to relatives is because when one inherits their father's land, one can provide a "tikkun" for the father's soul.
The same can be said of Yibum - if a man did not merit having children, then it someone else must have children to build up a family from his wife. The Rambam brings in the name of the Rishonim that although the exact law of Yibum only applies to the deceased's brother, the deeper meaning of this halacha applies to other relatives as well. We see that the story of Yehuda's relationship with Tamar is referred to as one of Yibum, as is Boaz's marriage to Ruth. Although the strict halacha does not apply to other relatives, the "tikkun" can certainly be accomplished by other relatives.
The daughters of Tzlafchad applied this principle to all inheritance. Hashem gave a man a wife, as well as all his worldly possessions in order to serve Hashem. If a man was unable to use to the utmost what he had during his lifetime, in serving Hashem, his next of kin can provide a "tikkun" for that situation by inheriting it and using it in the correct manner. I believe that this is how my Rebbe HaRav Dessler z"l understood Tzlafchad's daughters asking Moshe for the opportunity to inherit what was rightfully their father's.
It would seem to reason that "achuza", a stronghold, in Eretz Yisrael is a tremendous "tikkun". The land of Israel is one that is completely designated for serving Hashem. Their love for the land is demonstrated by their realization that the main "tikkun" they can give to their departed father's soul is having a portion in Eretz Yisrael. Although anyone, even non-Jews, has a love for their place of birth, Tzlafchad's daughters view Eretz Yisrael as not just a piece of property but as an opportunity to achieve a "tikkun" for the soul.
The Torah relates to us how Yaakov Avinu purchased a field "He bought the parcel of land" (Bereishit 33:19). The Torah related this incident because purchasing a field in the land of Israel is akin to acquiring for oneself a portion in the world to come. If one would be able to go to the TABU (in the state of Israel, this is where ownership of property is registered), and register in his name a portion in the next world, that would be ideal. Given the difficulties involved in that, the next best thing is to have a share in the land of Israel. The daughters of Tzlafchad felt that through them, their father would merit a share in the land of Israel and thus in the next world. Although one may argue that if inheriting the land is what provides the "tikkun", then it need not necessarily be them that inherit, perhaps if his brothers who are next in line inherit, the same "tikkun" will be accomplished, but they understand that the "tikkun" is greater if closer relatives such as themselves are the heirs.
The expression they used in their request: "why should the name of our father be omitted from among his family" (Bamidbar 27:4), is the same "lama nigara" "why should we be diminished" (Bamidbar 9:7) lamented by those who were ritually defiled and feared not having the opportunity to bring the Korban Pesach. Just as "lama nigara" refers to a lack in a spiritual sense, Tzlafchad's daughters were worried about "lama yigara", the spiritual life of their father. Why should he lose out an opportunity to have a stronghold in the land of Israel and in the next world? Those who complained in the desert did not value the importance of the land, Tzlafchad's daughters did. Here was an opportunity to continue Tzlafchad's service of Hashem - while it is with all the worldly possessions he left, most importantly with his share in the land of Israel.
As a child develops, he initially has an awareness of his mother as the source of milk and nourishment. At a later stage, the child begins to become cognizant of his father. He recognizes the father by comparing certain of his actions to the mother. At first he notices that this woman who nourishes him is also constantly looking after him. At a certain point he begins to notice that the father also at times comes over and takes care of him. Slowly but surely, he begins to understand the rest of his family - there is not only a father and mother but there are siblings as well. He develops recognition of these figures that take care of him as opposed to other people he may observe in and out of the house. We are of course assuming that the father does have the time and desire to take care of his child, for not every father does.
Does the child really comprehend all that a father really is? In his little world, he is incapable of any deeper understanding. He does not understand that the father is the provider, that he educates him, and that he renders halachic rulings in the house. A child of a year old cannot possibly grasp this, to him the father is one who once in a while changes his diaper and takes him for a walk.
His father may be a tremendous Talmid Chacham - yet he cannot distinguish between a father who may have a deep understanding of every Tosafot and Ri"f and a father who recites to his child the pasuk "Torah tziva lanu Moshe" "The Torah that Moshe commanded us" (Devarim 33:4) that every religious Jew knows and teaches his child. His father may also be one very actively involved in "chesed", yet the child has no way of appreciating this. At a certain point he notices that his father takes him to shule, he now can say of his father that he davens in a shule. He has no grasp of the extent of his father's greatness. The more he grows the more he is able to appreciate the extent of the greatness of each of his parents.
At a young age, his grasp is only on a superficial level. Knowing that a person has arms and legs and facial features is not called knowing. He does not see the person within him, one who may be great in Torah, "yirat shamayim", or character. A love for the land of Israel can be viewed in a similar fashion.
One's love for Eretz Yisrael can be superficial, with no meaning and no depth. It is possible to describe the beautiful scenery, the breathtaking views which the Torah describes in terms of "a land of hills and valleys" (Devarim 10:11). The hills of Yerushalayim change colors when the sun sets, there is no question that this is a magnificent sight. The Kuzari points out that the climate of Israel is a happy medium, not too hot and not too cold. But this is not the essence of Eretz Yisrael. The Torah describes the land in terms of "a land of wheat, barley, grape, fig, and pomegranate" (Devarim 8:8), its fruits are very tasty, it is "a land flowing with milk and honey" (Shmot 3:8). In addition to all of this being true simply by virtue of its being written in the Torah, we can see this with our own eyes. But this too is not the true character or Eretz Yisrael.
We can even add that we need the land for security purposes, one can call it "pikuach nefesh" to give up land. This, however, does not display the uniqueness of the land for had there been a Jewish kingdom in Hungary or Algeria, using this argument it would be forbidden to hand over any land over there to the non-Jews too. It happens that we are living in Israel now, so giving back a part of Israel poses a life threatening danger to us. Perhaps one can praise Eretz Yisrael by saying that it provides us with a place to live and prosper (although one may be tempted to say that it is America that is sustaining us, the land of Israel also does!) - had we lived elsewhere we would praise that land for providing us with a home and sustaining us.
All of the above is true, but simply recognizing these values in Eretz Yisrael does not define a love for the land. These are all a superficial appreciation of Eretz Yisrael, everything mentioned above could just as well apply to areas in Chutz la'Aretz. There are many places with good climates and nice views. There are delicious fruits in other parts of the world as well, perhaps not as good as in Eretz Yisrael, but certainly tasty and edible. The wheat used today is imported from Canada and other places - Israel is not the only place that produces wheat. We certainly must be grateful to Hashem for giving us a land of wheat and barley. The wheat and barley, however, are not what make Eretz Yisrael unique.
R' Yonah Emanuel posed the following question. The Torah describes Eretz Yisrael "eretz chita useora ..." and then commands us "You will eat and you will be satisfied and bless Hashem, your G-d, for the good land that He gave you" (Devarim 8:10). It would seem from here that we are not required to thank Hashem for the crop of Chutz la'Aretz. There are no halachic authorities who rule that Bircat Hamazon recited outside of Israel, or even in Israel but after partaking in food grown and produced in Chutz la'Aretz, is only Rabbinic in nature. The Torah obligates one to recite Bircat Hamazon after partaking of bread - the authorities dispute whether or not one must be satiated from it.
There are those who say that there is a Torah obligation to recite a "bracha achrona" after having eaten from the seven species of Eretz Yisrael. There is no authority, however, that distinguishes between one who ate a fig grown in Turkey or in Israel. The dispute is whether the Torah obligates us to recite a "bracha achrona" on figs, where they are grown does not figure into this dispute. How then do we know that one who eats in Chutz la'Aretz or partakes of food produced and grown in Chutz la'Aretz is obligated in Bircat Hamazon?
Although what I am about to say seems to contradict the words of Chazal, perhaps I am permitted to say this for "shivim panim laTorah" "the Torah has seventy faces". In Parshat Ekev there are two sections dealing with the uniqueness of the land of Israel. In the first one Moshe relates what happened in the desert "You shall remember the entire road on which Hashem, your G-d, led you these forty years in the wilderness" ... "He fed you the manna that you did not know, nor did your forefathers know, in order to make you know that not by bread alone does man live" ... "For Hashem, your G-d, is bringing you to a good land; a land with streams of water, of springs and underground water coming forth in valley and mountains, a land of wheat, barley, grape, fig, and pomegranate" .. "ve-achalta vesavata uverachta" "You will eat and you will be satisfied" (Devarim 8: 2-10). After that there is a very stern warning "Take care lest you forget Hashem, your G-d" ... "who leads you through the great and awesome wilderness - of snake, fiery serpent, and scorpion, and thirst where there was no water" (Devarim 8:11,15).
In the second section, near the end of Parshat Ekev, the Torah tells us "For the land to which you come, to possess it - it is not like the land of Egypt that you left, where you would plant your seed and water it on foot like a vegetable garden" "but the land to which you cross over to possess it is a land of hills and valleys; from the rain of heaven will it drink water" "a land that Hashem, your G-d, seeks out; the eyes of Hashem, your G-d, are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to year's end" "vehaya im shamoa" "It will be that if you hearken to My commandments" (Devarim 11:10-13), the rest we recite twice daily there is no need to quote it here.
What are the differences between these two sections? If they are two ways of saying the same thing, the Torah had no need to repeat it. The latter section provides us with true insight into the uniqueness of the land, for it is the only land where "Hashem, your G-d, seeks out; the eyes of Hashem, your G-d, are always upon it", Hashem watches over it. If you are righteous there will be rain, if not, then the opposite will be true. This is the uniqueness of Israel as opposed to Chutz la'aretz, this is the land where Hashem watches us and runs the land accordingly. Although Hashem's eyes, if we can speak in such terms, are everywhere in this world, the central focal point is Eretz Yisrael. As a matter of fact, Rashi asks "but does He not care for all lands? ... however, it is as though He cares only for it, and by means of that caring, which He cares for it, He cares for all the lands together with it" (Rashi on Devarim 11:12). The main "hashgacha" of Hashem is in the land of Israel.
The first section, where the pasuk obligating us to recite Bircat Hamazon appears, at first glance does not refer specifically to the land of Israel. The Torah at this point is describing to us the differences between a desert and habitable land. There were miracles in the desert: the manna fell from heaven, the desert was full of serpents, scorpions, and a tremendous thirst without any water in sight requiring Hashem, through Moshe Rabeinu, to miraculously produce water. What occurred in the desert defied the laws of nature. Hashem now brought the nation into the land of Israel where everything appears to our eyes as being natural. There were wheat and barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates. There were springs, underground water, all without the need for Moshe to strike at a rock.
These psukim do not seem to necessarily refer to the land of Israel. All the Mediterranean countries are rich with "chita useora gefen te-eina verimon, eretz zeit shemen udvash", some more some less. In halacha, these species are mentioned as items that show the praise of the land. Moshe is not only telling us that these species appear in Israel as well as Turkey, these species characterize the land. Although grapes of the size the spies brought back cannot be found elsewhere, the specific size of the grapes found in Israel is not mentioned here, only the fruits that exist there are mentioned.
Being that this section does not specifically relate to what makes Eretz Yisrael different from Chutz la'Aretz but rather what makes a habitable land different from a desert, therefore wherever one eats natural bread and drinks natural water, one is required to bless Hashem, to thank Him for not living in the desert, but rather in a place where these items are available.
Eretz Yisrael's uniqueness is not in its wheat and barley. It is in being a land that "Hashem doresh ota". When one realizes this, then one truly understand the character of the Land of Israel. Hashem's eyes are always on Eretz Yisrael, rain will be provided based on whether the people deserve it. Eretz Yisrael is a land for learning Torah. It is true that many of the other lands were graced with the presence of many Torah giants throughout the centuries. The Talmud Bavli in its entirety was written in Bavel, Rashi was written in France and Ashkenaz. The Ri"f and Rambam were also written in Chutz la'Aretz. Despite all this, the land of Israel is one more suited for learning and growing in Torah. Had the Ri"f lived in Israel he would have been even greater than he was. Since it was decreed that we be scattered throughout the lands and amongst the other nations, we needed to have the Ri"f in Spain and not in Israel. Had we been more meritorious, the Ri"f, Rambam, Rashi, and Rabeinu Tam all would have lived in Eretz Yisrael.
Rav Dessler testified about himself that he attained more, in an easier manner in Israel than he did in Chutz la'Aretz. A great man can feel that he has achieved more and of a different nature in the land of Israel. Regarding the differences between being in Israel and Chutz la'Aretz, the Gemara tells us: "Abaye said: and one of them is as good as two of us, Rava said, when one of us, however, goes up there he is as good as two of them" (Ketuvot 75a). The Gemara does not say that one from Israel who goes to Bavel becomes like two in Israel, only the opposite is true - the act of Aliyah - ascending to Israel is different in essence.
The Gemara states that one who is guilty of a capital crime and runs away from Chutz la'Aretz to Eretz Yisrael, will have his sentence revoked. Perhaps this is due to the merit of being in Israel, perhaps the courts there will find sufficient evidence on his side to cancel this judgment, something they did not find in Chutz la'Aretz. Although he is not being judged on his fulfillment of Mitzvot associated with the land, yet perhaps the strength of the Torah in Israel is such that a merit will be found on his side, that was not discovered in Chutz la'Aretz. This is the character of Eretz Yisrael, a place designated for Torah and holiness. There were many holy people in Chutz la'Aretz such as the Gr"a and others, yet in Israel it is easier to attain that level. This is the land of prophecy. The Kuzari writes that all the prophets prophesied either in the land of Israel or about it. This is the land designated for serving Hashem and performing the services of the Beit Hamikdash.
The Ramban tells us, and Rashi alludes to it, that the true service of Hashem can only be fulfilled in the land of Israel. Mitzvot in Chutz la'Aretz are only a matter of "hatzivi lach tziyunim" "Make road markers for yourself" (Yirmiyahu 31:20). This does not mean to say that in Chutz la'Aretz one is not obligated in Mitzvot. There is a Torah commandment to observe Shabbat and the first day of Yom Tov even in Chutz la'Aretz. The true cleaving to Hashem that comes from serving Hashem, however, can only be attained in the land of Israel.
The Kuzari writes that the redemption will come when there is a great yearning for it. The yearning must not be simply for the good weather and beautiful scenery. The people must realize the true value of Eretz Yisrael, recognition of its holiness, a realization that this is the way to become close to Hashem.
They must realize that the land is one that "Hashem Elokecha doresh ota", Eretz Yisrael is a place for that which is "chayenu veorech yamenu" "our life and the length of our days". Figs and grapes are all very well but one can survive without them. One cannot survive without Torah and Mitzvot. In the bracha following the haftarah we recite "rachem al Zion ki hee beit chayenu" "Have mercy on Zion for it is the source of our life", it is the source of our life, for this is the place one can truly serve Hashem. We know that "Ein Torah keTorat Eretz Yisrael" "There is no Torah like the Torah of Israel", the true fulfillment of Mitzvot is here, therefore Zion is our "Beit chayenu" "source of our life". The daughters of Tzlafchad understood this and valued and loved the land of Israel. One who does not realize this, understands Eretz Yisrael the way a young child understands his father, he does not appreciate the true character but only knows him on an external level.
These days of "Bein Hametzarim" we are mourning the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash. Not having a Beit Hamikdash means not being able to serve Hashem to the fullest extent. We mourn not being able to bring sacrifices, not seeing the Sanhedrin in the Lishkat Hagazit, and not having the kingdom of Dovid - the great spiritual kingdom from the tribe of Yehuda. There were kings in Israel from other tribes as well, yet Yaakov Avinu knew that Yehuda was chosen as the tribe from which the true kingdom would descend.
Today we have prayer in place of sacrifices. When we are more meritorious our davening will be in addition to performing the various services in the Beit Hamikdash. During the times of the Beit Hamikdash they also prayed when the sacrifices were brought. Today our davening is a mere substitute for what once was.
Only when we understand what we are missing can we properly mourn, otherwise our mourning is superficial, it is mere lip service. "All those who mourn for Yerushalayim will merit to witness her joy" (Taanit 30b), only one who mourns the loss of what Yerushalayim really is will truly merit rejoicing in its restoration. Yerushalayim is not beautiful buildings, certainly not stadiums or stores that are open on Shabbat, that is Greece not Yerushalayim! In the true Yerushalayim, the stores are closed on Shabbat, the Beit Hamikdash is restored and the daily services are performed, the Sanhedrin is in the Lishkat HaGazit, the nation is one filled with Torah and "yirat Shamayim".
In the true Yerushalayim, people are coming to partake in their Maaser Sheni "so that you will learn to fear Hashem, your G-d, all the days" (Devarim 14:23). Chazal explain that while in Yerushalayim one had the opportunity to observe the Kohanim perform their service, the Sanhedrin, the kingdom of David on its throne. By being in Yerushalayim and observing what is happening one was instilled with fear of Hashem. One who truly feels the void and mourns what is lacking is the one who, speedily in our day, will merit rejoicing with it.
HaRav Kook explains that in addition to this rejoicing being a form of reward for having properly mourned the destruction, this is a natural reaction as well. One who feels something is missing from his life will rejoice at finally having it. One who does not feel the void will have no reason to rejoice when it is filled. One who is bothered by a question he has on the Rambam will rejoice when he finds an answer, one not bothered by the question will have no reason to rejoice, as we ourselves can testify. Only when we feel that we are missing the Beit Hamikdash and the sacrifices, how we miss the Sanhedrin, the Kingdom of David, and the Urim veTumim can we merit the joy that will come in their restoration. With Hashem's help all these things will be properly restored and we should merit being in Yerushalayim "lemaan tilmad leyira et Hashem Elokecha kol hayamim".