Love of the Land
Selections from classical Torah sources
which express the special relationship between
the People of Israel and Eretz Yisrael
THE TORAH AND THE LAND
In our Pesach Special we called attention to the
arrangement of the long list of expressions of gratitude to Hashem
in the "Dayenu" song which suggests that the gift of
Torah was an indispensable prerequisite to the gift of the land
of Israel. For our Shavuos Special, focusing on the Festival
of the Giving of the Torah, we offer the following insight on
the special dimension which Eretz Yisrael lends to the quality
of Torah observance.
In the second chapter of the Shema which we recite each morning and evening we repeat Hashem's warning that turning away from Him to worship idols will result in being exiled from the land which He has given us. This is immediately followed by the commandments of tefillin and mezuza.
This connection is explained by the Midrash (Sifri Parshas Eikev) with a parable.
A king became angry with his wife and sent her off to her parents' home. As he banished her he instructed her to continue wearing her royal jewelry even while she was away so that she would be familiar with them when she eventually returned to his palace.
In similar fashion Hashem instructed His beloved people as He banished them from His palace, Eretz Yisrael, to continue being distinguished with their mitzvos so that they would be familiar with them when they returned.
Tefillin and mezuza are mitzvos which are not dependent on living in Eretz Yisrael, unlike the many mitzvos relating to agriculture, and they are as incumbent on a Jew outside of Eretz Yisrael as upon one in the land. Why then is this connection made between these mitzvos and the land?
The answer lies in the unique spiritual status of Eretz Yisrael, which is directly ruled by Hashem without the involvement of angels or any other heavenly forces. Mitzvos fulfilled in Eretz Yisrael therefore have the ultimate spiritual quality, alongside which those fulfilled outside of the land are of only secondary quality. This is communicated in the statement of our Sages (Sifri Parshas Re'eh) that living in Eretz Yisrael is equivalent to all the mitzvos of the Torah. This unique status of Eretz Yisrael is also expressed in the land's sensitivity to sin. The Torah warns us that Eretz Yisrael is not like other lands and it will vomit out those who contaminate it (Vayikra 18:25). When the Kuttim (later known as the Samaritans) were brought to Eretz Yisrael by the Assyrian conqueror Sancheriv to replace the Ten Tribes he had exiled, they continued to worship idols and Hashem sent lions to devour them (see Melachim II chapter 17). In their native land they were not punished in such swift fashion, but Eretz Yisrael cannot tolerate idolatry.
Hashem sanctified the nation dwelling in His land by commanding them mitzvos and warned them that if they contaminate this land with idolatry or licentiousness the land will vomit them out.
"Love of the Land" is therefore not expressed by merely mouthing patriotic slogans but by maintaining a standard of loyalty to Hashem's Torah and living according to the moral standards set by the Torah, which will grant us the privilege of remaining in our beloved land with security and sanctity.
(Adapted from Nachmanides Commentary on Vayikra 18:25)
Written by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach, Dean, Ohr Somayach Institutions
General Editor: Rabbi Moshe Newman
HTML Production: Eli Ballon
HTML Design: Michael Treblow
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