Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Shmot
To dedicate this lesson

The Torah study is dedicated in the memory of

Asher Ben Haim

Parashat Shmot

Moses & Eretz Yisrael


Rabbi Yehuda Gelman

Shemot 5763
In Devarim Rabbah, Chapter 5, Rabbi Levi portrays Moses as arguing with God to allow him to enter the Land of Israel, just as He has allowed Joseph’s bones to enter. God replies that Joseph’s bones will enter because when Joseph stood before Pharaoh, he "acknowledged the Land of Israel" as his land, declaring that he was from the land of the Hebrews (Bereishit 40:15). Moses, however, will not be buried in the Land of Israel, because when he escaped from Egypt to Midian, he allowed Yitro’s daughters to present him to Yitro as an "Egyptian man" (Shemot 2:19).

This Midrash is difficult. Joseph could, indeed, say that he was from the "land of the Hebrews." But Moses could not make such a statement. He was an "Egyptian man." He traveled on an Egyptian passport. He had never set foot in the "land of the Hebrews." Moses could perhaps have said that he was a Hebrew, but not that he was from the land of the Hebrews. Why then was he denied entry into the Land?

In the eyes of R. Levi, to declare you are a Jew is equivalent to acknowledging the Land of Israel as your land. The connection between the Jewish people and the Land is an intrinsic, essential one. Therefore, had Moses said, "I am a Jew," his declaration would have been an acknowledgment of the Land of Israel as his land. This he could very well have said, even though he traveled on an Egyptian passport. His failure to make such a statement reflected a weakness in Moses’ connection to the land.

R. Nachman of Breslav said: "Wherever I go, I am going to Eretz Yisrael."

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