Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Va'etchanan
To dedicate this lesson

The Torah study is dedicated in the memory of

Asher Ben Haim

Parashat Va'etchanan

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Rabbi Yehuda Gelman

5766
The Chief Rabbinate declared a religious holiday. The Israelite nation had just defeated Sichon and Og in battle. In the "Nationalist" synagogues in the desert encampment, Hallel was being said with a blessing. Encouraged by the victories, Moshe sees this as an opportune time to beseech God to allow him to enter the Holy Land. God says no. From here we learn that God’s promise of the Land of Israel is not an unconditional one. It can be defeated by sin.

This is the second time we learn this lesson. The first time was when the promise to bring the generation of the Exodus to the Holy Land was defeated by the sin of the Golden Calf. The subsequent attempts to force God’s hand were met then with utter defeat. Alas, there is nothing inevitable about a particular group of people’s possession of the land. No victories are a sure sign that the promise will be fulfilled for them. We must merit possession of the land. In extreme circumstances, God might grant us a place in the land without merit, to save us and to succor us. But that is not the rule. The rule is that when we do not merit it, we will be doomed to see the land from afar, without being able to enter.

We can desire the Land of Israel with great yearning, but that does not constitute sufficient merit. No one wanted to enter the Land more than Moshe, yet sin kept him from his desire. To deserve the Land we must become a society of spiritual excellence in all spheres of life, a nation of decency, in government and personal relations. Obsessive concentration on "Eretz Yisrael" should yield to concentrating on creating before God a meritorious nation. "Because of our sins, we were exiled from our land."

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