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Parashat Hashavua: Why Specifically in Eretz Yisrael?

The desired Garden of Eden is here in Yerushalayim..


Rabbi Yossef Carmel

Tishrei 29 5783
Eretz Yisrael appears as the promised land for the offspring of Avraham in Parashat Lech Lecha. During the first 2,000 years of Creation, which Chazal call the period of tohu (void), the Land does not seem to play a prominent role in the history of mankind. This is surprising, considering that the even hashtiah, upon which the world was established, is found there, in Yerushalayim. The desired Garden of Eden is also there.

The Rambam (Beit Habechira 2:1-2) gives special standing to the Land. He says that the altar of the Beit Hamikdash was destined for a special location, chosen by Hashem. He both finds biblical support and cites oral tradition that it was the place at which Avraham bound Yitzchak before Hashem. It was also the place of Noach’s altar after the flood, the place of the offerings of Kayin and Hevel, and the place from which Adam was created and where he brought an offering after his creation.

In our parasha as well, Eretz Yisrael has a special status behind the scenes. The gemara (Zevachim 113a, as does Shir Hashirim Rabba 4) cites an opinion that there was not rain of the flood there and that is therefore from there that the dove brought the olive leaf. There is a hint at this in the prophecy of Yechezkel (22:24) who refers to the Land as "not rained upon in the day of anger." Chazal are thus teaching us that Eretz Yisrael is a unique place, which is different from any other place mentioned in Tanach.

The end of the parasha shines a negative light on Noach’s son Cham and two of his sons, Cana’an and Kush. Cham and his younger son, Cana’an, reached lowly spiritual levels and were thus subject to Hashem’s curse, reminding us of Hashem’s reaction to the sin of the snake (see Bereishit 3:14,17).

Kush was the firstborn son of Cham and the father of the infamous Nimrod, who was the blasphemer who rebelled against the Creator (ibid. 10:8-9). He led the people of the Tower of Bavel and spoke connivingly to forsake Hashem. He knew about Hashem and intended to oppose Him. Tzidon was Cana’an’s firstborn. His city was on the northwestern boundary of Eretz Cana’an, which stretched all the way to Sodom and Amora (ibid. 19), whose people became the symbol of evil.

If so, Parashat Noach is an introduction of sorts to the story of the Nation of Israel, the descendants of Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov, Sarah, Rivka, Rachel, and Leah. In fact the very end of the parasha introduces us to Avraham’s sojourns in Eretz Yisrael. The reason that Avraham was to go specifically there is alluded to in the parasha’s first section, dealing with the flood, which the Land evaded. It is a Land that is designed for living in sanctity and purity, which is why it did not require purification by means of the flood. On the other hand, after the flood, it required spiritual mending due to the horrible behavior of the descendants of Cham.

May we merit to follow in the footsteps of Avraham, on a path of charity and justice. May we discover the unique potential of Eretz Yisrael and serve as an alternative to the sinful ways of the Land’s original occupiers, Cham, Cana’an, Nimrod, and the residents of Dead Sea region.
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