Beit Midrash

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To dedicate this lesson

Only Jews Who Acknowledge Israel Can Belong To It

...The fact that Moshe wasn't buried in the Holy Land is not a punishment ... but is rather the straight-out reality! That is, whoever does not acknowledge that the Land is his, no matter what the reasons for this might be, simply does not belong to it; the Land does not want him...


Tevet 5 5783
Translated by Hillel Fendel

In delineating the borders of the Land of Israel, the Torah states: "up until the great river, the Euphrates" (D'varim 1,7)
. Rashi there, and in B'reshit 15,18 as well, explains that the Euphrates is actually not such a great and large river, and was even listed last – but it is called "great" simply because it was mentioned together with the Land of Israel.

That is, the Euphrates is not even in the Land of Israel; simply because it is mentioned in connection with the Land, the Torah values it as "great." We can therefore reason as follows: If the Land of Israel grants importance to that which is "next to" it, how much more so does it confer value upon whatever is in it! Those who are in Eretz Yisrael merit a great spiritual ascent. The Torah states, "the gold of that land is good" (B'reshit 2,12) – and the Sages derive: "There is no Torah like the Torah of the Land of Israel" (Midrash Vayikra Rabba 13,5). That is, Torah scholars who study Torah in the Land, their Torah learning is greater than when they study outside the Land.

Similarly, the prophet states: "For from Zion shall come forth Torah, and the word of G-d from Jerusalem" (Michah 4,2) – meaning the entire Land of Israel, as is evident from Tractate B'rachot (top of page 63b). The Sages also said that prophecy is not revealed outside Eretz Yisrael; the Prophet Yonah ran away to Tarshish so that he would not be able to receive prophecy [see Yalkut Shimoni and Rashi explaining the beginning of the Book of Yonah, as well as Radak and Ibn Ezra on verse 2 there].

This shows that even for one who was in the Land and merited to receive prophecy, this ability does not last when he leaves the Land; he is downgraded to a lower level and prophecy no longer comes to him.

The Land of Israel is praised also in Tractate Nedarim, page 22a, which states that when Rav Yochanan heard that a Jew killed someone, he could not understand how a Jew living in the Land could get that angry. R. Yochanan said, "The Torah warns us that G-d will give us an 'angry heart' (D'varim 28,65) – but this is only outside the Land, so how could he have become so angry?"

The answer given there is that the murderer had not yet crossed over the Jordan River into the Land of Israel. That is, though the Transjordan area is holy with Eretz Yisrael sanctity, it is on a lower level of sanctity than the rest of the Land; the Omer offering could not be taken from there, for instance. Thus we see that this small difference between the sanctity of the Land of Israel-proper and Transjordan is so significant that while in the latter, one might get so angry that he would kill someone, the rest of Eretz Yisrael is so holy that such a thing is not possible.

Another explanation is brought in the Shitah Mekubetzet, which explains that Rav Yochanan was not surprised that a murder could happen in the Land of Israel; he was surprised rather that Ulla – who was there at the time of the murder – expressed fear of the murderer. R. Yochanan said: "How is it possible that you had a 'frightened heart' in the Land of Israel?!" That is, the sanctity of the Land acts upon our soul and helps relax us from all sorts of fears. This is a lesson for us here in the Yeshiva as well: its holiness can similarly help us to be serene and overcome various challenges.

Acknowledging Our Land

But this raises a great question about us: We live in Eretz Yisrael, yet we do not sufficiently feel the great ascent and influence it has upon us!

The explanation for this can be found in the following Midrash of our Sages: "Moshe asked G-d, 'Why are the bones of Joseph being brought up into the Land, while I myself am not permitted to enter the Land?" G-d said, "Joseph acknowledged his Land – when Potiphar's wife referred to him as a Hebrew (B'reshit 39,14), and he confirmed this by later saying that he had been stolen from the Land of the Hebrews (ibid. 40, 15) – and therefore he is buried in his Land; but you, Moshe, after the daughters of Jethro referred to you as "an Egyptian" (Sh'mot 2,19), you did not protest – and so you are not buried in your land."

But there is something else very remarkable about this Midrash. For when Moshe did not protest being called an Egyptian, he was also not protesting being called a non-Jew! Yet the Midrash has no problem with that (perhaps because it would have been dangerous for him to admit that), and has a problem only with the fact that he did not "acknowledge his land." How can this be?

This shows that the fact that Moshe wasn't buried in the Holy Land is not a punishment – for then he would have been punished also for not protesting at being called a non-Jew – but is rather the straight-out reality! That is, whoever does not acknowledge that the Land is his, no matter what the reasons for this might be, simply does not belong to it; the Land does not want him.

What this teaches us is that although Eretz Yisrael is a "land on which G-d's eyes are always upon" (D'varim 11,12), still, in order to actually receive this abundance, we must belong to the Land, acknowledge it as ours, and recognize its special importance. Only thus can one come under its unique influence.

The Torah quotes the daughters of Tzlofchad as saying, "Give us an inheritance among our father's brothers" [Bamidbar 27,4]. Rashi cites a Midrash stating that in the merit of this request showing their love for the Land, the women were not sentenced to death in the desert as were the men, who said, "Let us appoint a [new] leader and return to Egypt" (Bamidbar 14,4).

The Sages determined that the women's request for a portion in the Holy Land was not just that they wanted property, but rather stemmed from their love of the Land. They recognized the greatness of buying a share in Eretz Yisrael, and thus were allowed to enter it and be saved from the decree of the Twelve Spies who showed that they did not want the Holy Land.

And it is likely that this explains why Israel was forgiven for their Sin of the Golden Calf, but not for the Sin of the Spies, for which they [the men] all died in the desert. The reason is that their sin was in speaking ill of the Land and showing that they did not want it. There was no choice but for them to die without entering the Land, because they thus showed that they did not belong to the land and did not deserve to enter it.

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