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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Lech Lecha

Parashat Lech Lecha

Viewing Eretz Yisrael

Dedicated to the speedy recovery of
Inbal Bat Alon
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At the beginning of Lekh Lekha, Avraham and Sarah become the first olim, leaving their birthplace for the eternal homeland. They arrive in a country similar to the modern State of Israel, one that awaits redemption and return - as the Canaanite nations "still" inhabit the Land (12:6). This raises a question that remains timely, what advantage is there for a Jew to live in Eretz Yisrael if this is not yet the appointed time?

The Sifre answers this question by contrasting similar scriptural incidents involving Avraham and Moshe. "There are two viewings, a pleasant one and a painful one. By Avraham it says: 'Please raise your eyes and look out from where you are' [Bereishit 13:14]; this is the pleasant viewing. By Moshe it says: 'Ascend to the top of the cliff and raise your eyes' [Devarim 3:25]; this is the painful viewing."

When Avraham viewed the Eretz Yisrael of future promise, the one to be inhabited by his children, he was already standing within its borders. Although this vision would not be fulfilled in his lifetime, from where he stood, elevated by the holiness of the land, Avraham's view was pleasant. (See also Meshekh Chokhmah). In order for Moshe, then 120 years old, to get even a fleeting glimpse of the land, he first had to climb a tall mountain. Moreover, at the very moment he gazed so longingly upon it, he was fully aware that he would never enter Eretz Yisrael. This was, no doubt, a painful viewing.

The advantage to living in Israel today, as we learn from this Sifre, is that from within its borders we may merit to see the world through the pleasant "rose colored glasses of the future geulah, redemption, in spite of the intensity of our present, continuing galut, exile…
Rabbi Steven Ettinger
Rabbi Steven Ettinger was an Associate Professor and Director of the Graduate Tax Program at The Thomas Cooley Law School. Currently, he is counsel in international tax matters for PWC in Israel and an Adjunct in the law school in Herzliya.
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