Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Torah and Eretz Yisrael

By HaRav Mordechai Greenberg
Rosh HaYeshiva, Kerem B'Yavneh

The Torah says about two things that they are a morasha (heritage) of Israel, Torah and Eretz Yisrael. It says about the Torah, "The Torah that Moshe commanded us is the heritage of the Congregation of Yaakov" (Devarim 33:4), and about Eretz Yisrael it says, "I shall give it to you as a heritage." (Shemot 6:8) Both of them are also referred to as gifts. About Eretz Yisrael it says, "I shall give it to you," and also about the Torah it says, "For I have given you a good teaching, do not forsake My Torah." (Mishlei 4:2) Similarly, it says about the receiving of the Torah by Moshe, "You ascended on high ... you took gifts of man." (Tehillim 68:19)

The difference between a gift and a heritage is, that in order to receive a gift, the willingness of the recipient and an act of acquisition are necessary, whereas regarding an inhertance there is no need for any of this, and it is transferred to the person without his consent.

However, Chazal reveal another facet of the expression morasha, that even this requires effort in order to convert it from a heritage into an inheritance (yerusha). It says in the Yerushalmi (Bava Batra ch. 8:):

R. Hoshia said: Everywhere that it says morasha it has the connotation of uncertainty.They asked: But doesn't it say, "the heritage of the Congregation of Yaakov?"He answered: There is nothing more doubtful and weak than it (when a person first begins to learn), but after he toils in it -- he understands it all (and "inherits" it).

In the Mishna Avot (2:17) it says, "Prepare yourself to learn Torah, for it is not an inheritance of yours." The same question is asked, doesn't it say, "the heritage of the Congregation of Yaakov?" Rather, morasha connotes a degree of uncertainty. Namely, from the perspective of the one who is bequeathing, he entrusts it to the inheritor. However, from the side of the inheritor the connection is weak, until he prepares himself for it, toils and justly merits it as an inheritance. Israel and Torah, both of them are morasha. From the end of the One who is bequething them, no one else has a share in them, and they are Israel's alone, but to actually inherit them, Israel needs acquisition and toil.

Furthermore, the two of them are mutually conditional. Just as there is no Eretz Yisrael without Torah -- "If despite this you will not heed me ... I will lay your cities in ruins ... And you, I will scatter among the nations" (Devarim 26: 27-33) -- so, too, there is no Torah without Eretz Yisrael, "because the primary purpose of the mitzvot is for those sitting in the land of G-d," as the Rambam writes in Parshat Acharei Mot. Thus, Hashem said to Avraham, "Go for yourself from your land ... to the Land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation." (Bereishit 12:1-2) What is, "a great nation?" -- "And which is a great nation that had righteous decrees and ordinances, such as this entire Torah that I place before you this day?" (Devarim 4:8)

The connection between Torah and Eretz Yisrael is expressed through the active participation of the Sefer Torah in the entrance to the Land. In Parshat Behaalotecha Moshe says, "We are journeying to the place of which Hashem has said, 'I shall give it to you,'" and the first step is -- "When the Ark would travel Moshe said, 'Arise Hashem, and let Your foes be scattered.'" (Bamidbar 10:29,35)

Similarly, in the beginning of Yehoshua (1:6-8; 3:3), the entrance to the Land is linked to the Torah:

Be strong and corageous for it is you who will cause this people to inherit the Land that I have sworn to their fathers to give them. Only be very strong and courageous, to observe, to do, according to the entire Torah that Moshe My servant commanded you ... This Book of the Torah shall not depart from your mouth.

They commanded the people saying, "When you see the Ark of the Covenant of Hashem, your G-d, and the Kohanim, the Levites, carrying it, then you shall move from your place and follow it.

Furthermore, just as the entrance of the Ark symbolizes the possession of the Land, so too the hiding of the Ark symbolizes the beginning of the exile. Thus, King Yoshia tells the priests before their descent into exile, "You no longer have any carrying of your shoulder." (Divrei Hayamim II 35:3) Chazal derive from here that he instructed them to hide the Ark, which was carried on the shoulder.

Therefore, Chazal said, "When Israel were exiled, there is no greater bittul Torah than this." In contrast, we see in our own times that as Israel are gathered, the Torah also is gathered and increases in the Land.

However, the recent years have taught us that Torah and Eretz Yisrael are still in the state of morasha and not yerusha, and they are of the things that are acquired through affliction. We must prepare ourselves to acquire them, since they are not an inheritance for us.

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