We have discussed the fact that the land of Israel is blessed in all regards, and that its blessing is of a very concentrated nature. In contrast to the land of Israel, other lands boast quantity, enormity. The Torah calls the land of Israel "a land wherein you shall eat bread without scarceness; you shall not lack any thing in it" (Deuteronomy 8:9). What does it mean to eat with scarceness? It means eating in a state of poverty (according to Ibn Ezra).
When a person is poverty-stricken, he develops a new attitude to food. Such a person does his best to fill his stomach with satiating foods in order not to feel the hunger. He likewise distances himself from things that entice and stimulate the appetite, lest they generate a hunger that cannot be satisfied. Accordingly, Reish Lakish would say that when he was impoverished he would not eat vegetables, so as not to intensify his hunger. When a person is in poverty, his menu consists of necessities, not luxuries.
What is meant by the end of the verse, "you shall not lack any thing in it"? Does the land of Israel really contain everything?
7 - The Condensed Blessing
8 - "You shall not lack any thing"
The sages of the Talmud (Berachot 36b) go out of their way to explain what this "any thing" is that is not lacking. "Even pepper," they answer. By singling out pepper, the sages wish to teach us that the land of Israel contains more than just the necessities for existence; it contains spices, condiments that do not satiate man but only enhance the food and stimulate the appetite. "This teaches you that the land of Israel lacks nothing" (ibid.). There is no reason to worry that a person will become enticed by some dish and will not be able to satiate himself.
When our sages sought to underscore the greatness and wealth of Antoninus and Rabbi, they noted, "Their tables were never without raddish and horseradish, neither in the sunny season, nor in the rainy season" (Avodah Zara 11a). The sages single out spicy condiments that stimulate the appetite.
The Torah praises the land of Israel, calling it "a land whose stones are iron, and from whose hills you will quarry copper" (Deuteronomy 8:9). Precious metals are not mentioned in the verse, and this is to teach us that the absence of silver and gold is not a shortcoming in the land of Israel (Ramban).
By contrast, in the Torah's description of the continents and rivers, we read about the Pishon River "that encircles the entire land of Chavila, where gold is found." There, outside the land of Israel, where it is the physical realm that dominates, gold is necessary. But in the land of Israel, a lack of gold is not considered a deficiency, for this is the "land of life"; what matters here is life and whatever supports it. Therefore, when it comes to food, "you shall not lack any thing in it" - the land of Israel contains everything essential to facilitate health and foster vitality. But the absence of luxuries like gold and precious stones is not considered a deficiency.
According to the Jerusalem Talmud, when the Torah calls the land of Israel "a land whose stones are iron," it does not mean that it possesses actual stones of iron, in the sense of the mineral. Rather, it is saying that the land possesses stones that are as hard as iron. The Ramban explains: "The verse praises the Land, for it contains quarries of valuable stones, hewn stones from which walls and towers may be built, not like Egypt and many other lands where people dwell in houses of clay."
Here, then, the land of Israel is deemed worthy of praise due to its sturdy, reputable living quarters, due to the fact that its buildings can be quarried from its own hills.
The land's praiseworthiness also stems from the fact that its rainfall hinges upon the moral level of its inhabitants. It enjoys special providence: God looks over it "from the beginning of the year until the end of the year" (Deuteronomy 11:12). Therefore, its rainfall is proportionate to the scruples of its inhabitants, and its bounty does not come naturally (see Ramban on ibid. 11:10).
As a result of its water shortage, Israel has succeeded in taking the fullest possible advantage of its water. Israel's drip method of irrigation has captured the interest of many countries in the world - both older countries with centuries of experience in agriculture, and younger countries that have only recently been granted independence.
When the Soviet Minister of Agriculture visited Israel, he admitted that the young State of Israel had made great advances in agriculture, so much so that a superpower like Russia, with a long agricultural past, is able to benefit from Israeli resourcefulness and know-how in agriculture.
Our great advances in agriculture in such a short period of time no doubt evoke the admiration of many other nations. Just look at what the settlers of Gush Katif managed to do. They succeeded in developing a thriving agricultural industry from barren sand dunes.