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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Ha'azinu

Parashat Ha'azinu

And His Land Will Atone for His People

burial in the land of Israel is equivalent to burial under the altar; The first to insist on burial in the Land of Israel was our forefather, Jacob; Anyone who lives in Eretz Israel, and dies there, is destined to inherit the world to come
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The closing words of Ha'azinu's song, "Vekhiper admato amo," "And His land will atone for His people," teach us that the land of Israel can achieve atonement for the people of Israel. This is why Chazal emphasize the importance of burial in Eretz Israel. Connecting the word "admato" mentioned in our verse with "mizbe’ah adama," "earthen altar," the Talmud goes as far as to say that burial in the land of Israel is equivalent to burial under the altar, the site of atonement. Due to its inherent holiness as God's land, all of Eretz Israel is equated to the place of the altar.

The first to insist on burial in the Land of Israel was our forefather, Jacob. Jacob wished to be buried in Eretz Israel, not only for the personal spiritual benefit that he would derive, but also for a much more profound reason. The Meshekh Hokhmah argues that Jacob wished to prevent the assimilation of his offspring into Egyptian life and culture. Jacob impressed the centrality of Eretz Israel upon the national psyche of his descendants. Many Jews throughout the generations, who were unable to come to Israel during their lifetimes, echoed Jacob's sentiments and instructed that they be buried there. They too wanted to impress upon their own families and communities that they are but temporary dwellers in a foreign land.

In Midrash Mishlei, Rabbi Levi's version of the derashah regarding "vekhiper admato amo" reads in a slightly different manner. He says that anyone who lives in Eretz Israel, even for a single hour, and dies there, is destined to inherit the world to come. According to Rabbi Levi, burial alone does not do the trick; living in the land is essential. The Talmud relates Rabbi Elazar's reaction to the death of Ulla, his student, outside of Eretz Israel: "You, Ulla, should die in an unclean land!" Hearing that Ulla's coffin had arrived, Rabbi Elazar declared: "Receiving a man in his lifetime is not the same as receiving him after his death."
Jacob was unable to return to live in Israel, but his descendants living in our present, unique times, are welcome to return. May we all merit to live long lives in the Land of Israel.

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