Tuesday, June 05, 2018

In Praise of Eretz Yisrael

by HaRav Mordechai Greenberg
Nasi HaYeshiva, Kerem B'Yavneh

Parshat Shelach is the parsha of Eretz Yisrael. In these days, when the media reports seem to lead to the conclusion that the vision of a "complete Eretz Yisrael" is totally lost, and the nation has turned its back to its source, there is a special need to emphasize the connection of our parsha to all generations.

Maran Beit Yosef, in his book "Magid Meisharim" (in which he wrote the words of his heavenly "Magid"), deals with the contradiction between Parshat Shelach and Parshat Devarim. In our Parsha, it says that G-d commanded Moshe to send the spies, whereas in Parshat Devarim it says, "All of you [Bnei Yisrael] approached me." (Devarim 1:22) Furthermore, why was there a need to check if the land was fertile or lean, since Hashem had already promised them that it is good and spacious?

The Magid explained to him that Bnei Yisrael in that generation were not worthy of entering the land after all the trials that they tested G-d. Yet, G-d, in His mercy, planted in their minds to ask to send spies so that they would appreciate it and tell its praise, and that would be the merit that would allow them to enter the land. The two parshas are, thus, two sides of the same coin: G-d caused them to ask to send spies, and, in fact, Yisrael did ask. However, the princes of the tribes did not stand up to the test, and didn't tell its praise.

From that time, it is incumbent upon the leaders of Yisrael to tell the praise of Eretz Yisrael, to rectify in this way that which they sinned when they disgraced it.

In Midrash Eichah (1:23) it says on the pasuk, "The entire assembly raised up and issued its voice; the people wept that night" (Bamidbar 14:1), that the Hebrew word "raised up" (va'tisa) has the connotation of a debt; that is, a bad debt that they will have to repay throughout the generations, as it says, "When you make your fellow a loan (tasheh)." (Devarim 24:10) "The entire assembly raised up," the entire assembly became obligated to pay this debt.

The sefer "Eim Habanim Semeichah" writes about this:

In vain we pray in all the synagogues and batei midrash, "Our Father, our King, erase in Your great mercy all of our notes of indebtedness," so long as the debt of despising the coveted land still exists on us ... How can we pray that He erase this debt from us, since we are obligated to pay and we have the ability to rectify this?!

We find in the history of our nation that there was severe punishment for our foreign attitude towards the land. In the Sefer Rokeach (by R. Eliezer of Worms) it says:

Ezra the scribe sent letters to all the cities of the Diaspora that they should go up to Eretz Yisrael. This letter also came to the country of Ashkenaz (Germany) to the city of Worms, and they responded to him, "You live in the big Yerushalayim; we will live in the little Yerushalayim," because they were very important in the eyes of the officers and the non-Jews, and were very rich and dwelled there in peace and tranquility, Therefore great and harsh decrees are more frequent in the land of Ashkenaz than in other communities."

We, more than any other generation, feel to what extent these words were fulfilled!

Only through strengthening the love and yearning for Eretz Yisrael can we rectify the sin of the spies, as R. Yehuda Halevi writes in the conclusion of the Kuzari: Yerushalayim will, indeed, be built [only] when Bnei Yisrael will desire it with the greatest desire until they cherish its stones and dirt!

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