Your enemies will be desolate upon it
Written by the rabbi
Dedicated to the memory of
Yosef ben Yaakov
In the middle of the Tochachah, the Torah states: "I will make the Land desolate; and your enemies who dwell in it will be desolate upon it" (26:32). Chazal see this verse as a "silver lining" in the dreadfully dark cloud of Jewish suffering throughout the exile: "This is a good measure. [It means] that the Jews will not say: 'Now that we have been exiled from our Land, our enemies will come and find satisfaction on it.' For [the verse] says: 'And your enemies who dwell in it will be desolate upon it' – even your enemies who come afterwards will not find satisfaction in the Land" (Torat Kohanim [Sifra], ibid.)
What is most striking about this Midrash is its historical accuracy. For close to 2,000 years, Eretz Yisrael was in a state of ruins. No nation was able to make it flourish, until the Jews began to return around 150 years ago. In the mid 1200's, the Ramban wrote: "Ever since we left it, it has not accepted any other nation; and they all try to settle it, but are unsuccessful." And in the mid 1800s, Mark Twain described the Land as follows: "It is a hopeless, dreary, heart-broken land… Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes… (The Innocents Abroad, chap. 56).
The fact that this prophecy has come true in our times is more than just historically impressive. According to Chazal, the rejuvenation of Eretz Yisrael is the clearest sign of the imminent redemption (see the words of R. Abba, Sanhedrin 98a, and Rashi's comment, ad loc.)
It is a great privilege to be living at a time when the clearest signs of redemption are coming to pass before our very eyes. This privilege, however, comes with some obligations, like appreciating what God has given us and returning to His Land to help it flourish even more.
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