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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Vayeshev

Parashat Vayeshev

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"Vayeshev Ya’akov be’eretz megurei aviv." "And Ya’akov dwelt in the land in which his father sojourned" (Bereishit 37:1). Rav Menachem Mendel Kasher, in his Torah Shelema, cites a peculiar Midrash on this verse: "Ya’akov said: ‘The land that my fathers desired to live in, I won’t live in?’ ... From here we learn that one who does not live in Eretz Israel is considered as one who worships false gods."

The Midrash appears to be a non sequitur. How does the fact that Ya’akov’s father and grandfather desired to live in Eretz Israel make someone who lives outside of Israel comparable to an idolator?

The Midrash is teaching us a fundamental lesson. To have dreams, desires, and priorities that are different from those of the many generations of Jews that came before us is tantamount to heresy. A good gauge of our commitment to true Torah values is the extent to which we yearn for that which our forbears yearned.

For centuries Jews worldwide prayed and yearned for the day that would herald the possibility of returning to Eretz Israel. If we do not long for the same, we are forsaking the value system of Judaism.

The Rambam in Hilkhot Melakhim 5:11 states: "The great Sages used to kiss the borders of Eretz Israel, kiss its stones, and roll around in its dust." In this "halakha" the Rambam is teaching us that we are supposed to develop a love for Eretz Israel. Just as those who came before us kissed its stones and rolled around in its dust, so too must we cultivate that love and yearning.

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This is a weekly column contributed by Aloh Naaleh an organization devoted to motivating Jews to make Aliya.
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