Israel Forever

For the week ending 21 June 2003 / 21 Sivan 5763

A Gift and Its Conditions

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

Slandering Eretz Yisrael is a serious sin. In the Torah chapter of this week we learn of the serious consequences which our ancestors suffered as a result of giving credence to the slanderous report of the spies whom Moshe sent to scout the land which G-d had promised them, ignoring his assurances that it was the ideal homeland for them.

On the one hand, living in Eretz Yisrael has never been too easy. Our Sages tell us that this land was presented to us as a precious gift but one that is accompanied by suffering. The reason why we have, throughout history, suffered famine, war and even exile, is to save us from falling into the trap of human conceit that we are not dependent on G-d who gave us the land and can abandon His commandments. The secularist slogan of "taking our fate into our own hands" is what makes it necessary for G-d to challenge us with security and economic situations beyond our own control.

But if we have criticism of neighbors and leaders who fail to appreciate this perspective we have no qualms about the value of the land itself. Two Talmudic Sages, Rabbi Ami and Rabbi Asi, used to take precious time from their Torah study to move to a more comfortable spot to avoid the discomfort of cold in the winter and heat in the summer. They did so in order to avoid complaining even about the weather in Eretz Yisrael.

We must always love the land which G-d gave us and pray that the Jews with whom we share it today will also learn to truly understand the meaning of the gift and G-ds conditions for enjoying Israel forever.

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