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Eretz Yisrael: our Right and Responsibility

The nature of our relationship to Eretz Yisrael must be based on a Torah perspective


Rabbi Chayim Soloveichik

The nature of our relationship to Eretz Yisrael must be based on a Torah perspective. In Shemot 13:11 the Torah tells us: "When God will bring you to the land of the Cana'ani that He has promised you and your forefathers and has given it to you...." Rashi detects repetitiveness in this verse. Once the Torah states that we have arrived in Eretz Cana'an it should be obvious that the land was given to us. Why then does the verse conclude with the words "that He has given it to you"? Rashi explains that the end of the verse teaches us how we should perceive our connection to Eretz Yisrael. We should not see Eretz Yisrael as an inheritance, but we should see Eretz Yisrael as a present that we received only today. Rashi's interpretation seems to conflict with the notion that Eretz Yisrael is inherently ours due to the fact that our forefathers lived there. Furthermore, the idea mentioned by Rashi that Eretz Yisrael is not an inheritance for the Jews is also troubling since it seems to contradict a verse in Parashat Vaera 6:8, where God tells Moshe that He will give the Jews the land of Israel as an inheritance. How then are we to understand the Rashi in our parasha?

It might be suggested that, even according to Rashi, Eretz Yisrael is our inheritance as the verse states in Parashat Vaera. The land cannot be taken away from us, for we received it from our forefathers. However, when a person receives an inheritance his attitude might be that he doesn't have to work hard to build it up; after all it is only an inheritance. Rashi points out that Eretz Yisrael is not just an inheritance. We have to see the Land of Israel as a present that was just received. Eretz Yisrael cannot be perceived as a land that our forefathers already built up, not requiring any effort on our part. The Torah is telling us that in every generation Jews have to see Eretz Yisrael as a land which God has just given us, mandating that we all see it as our responsibility to build the land.
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