Love the Land of Israel

Blessed be He Who Heals the Sick

For nine years I have written this column without missing one week, but for the last two weeks I have been absent, and I feel a need to apologize. I suffered a herniated disc and had back surgery with general anesthesia. I am presently recovering, and, with the help of God, can write again. May God send a complete recovery to the ailing of His nation Israel, a healing of the soul and body, grant blessing and success to the doctors and nurses, and reward all the family members and friends of those taking care of the sick.

Did the Spies Sin?

The big question in our Torah portion “Sh’lach lecha” is: what was the sin of the Spies? They were sent to explore the land, to see if its inhabitants were strong or weak, numerous or few. They came to the conclusion, according to their best judgment, that the Canaanites inhabiting the land were a mighty nation, with extremely large and fortified cities, and if Israel attempted to conquer the land, the men would be slaughtered and the women and children would be sold into slavery.

This is what the Spies truly thought, so what’s the problem?! Should they have just sat silently and watched as Israel marched to its destruction?! They were morally obligated to warn about the inherent dangers! And even if the Spies and the nation were mistaken in their judgment, why was their punishment -death for all of them in the desert and the delay of Israel’s entrance into the land for forty years – so severe?

The Sin of the Spies

The sin of the Spies was that they didn’t understand the intrinsic value of the land, and simply did not love her. As a result, they didn’t want to enter the land, and thus, erred in their exaggeration of the strength of the Canaanites in opposition to Israel. Therefore, at first, Yehoshua and Calev answered them: “It is a very, very good land.” Only afterwards, out of recognition of the importance of the land, did they call for the nation to strengthen its faith: “If God is satisfied with us and brings us to this land, He can give it to us – a land flowing with milk and honey. But don’t rebel against God! Don’t be afraid of the people in the land! They have lost their protection and shall be our prey! God is with us, don’t be afraid!” (Numbers 14:7-9).

Someone who doesn’t love the land, loathes the necessity to fight for it. Hence, he convinces himself that it can’t be conquered and inhabited, finding thousands of reasons to prove himself right. The main reason, however, is that he simply does not care about the Land of Israel – all the other reasons are just excuses. Concerning this, it is written: “Moreover, they despised the pleasant land; they did not believe His word” (Psalms 106:24).

No one is willing to make an effort for something he does not value. A person who doesn’t value the importance of getting a higher education will not find the strength within himself to diligently complete his studies. Someone who doesn’t value military combat service will not find the mental strength needed to withstand the strenuous training that prepares him to become a combat soldier. One who does not value family-life won’t find the power within himself to enter the covenant of marriage and raise a family. All these people will find thousands of ‘realistic’ reasons why, just now, they can’t learn, enlist in the army, or get married; but the true reason is they just don’t want to.

Similarly today, the vast majority of people who want to withdraw from Judea and Samaria don’t love the Land of Israel, and feel no connection to it. Even if there were absolutely no security or demographic problems, they still wouldn’t make any effort to settle them.

As usual, however, ignoring the importance of things does not negate their value.

If, God forbid, we withdraw from Judea and Samaria – the physical center of the Land of Israel – a terrorist state, whose sole purpose is to destroy the State of Israel, will arise, and all of Israel’s enemies throughout the world will donate money and weapons so it can kill more Jews.

Praise the Land

Therefore, the Torah speaks abundantly about the praises of the Land of Israel: “It is therefore a land constantly under God you Lord’s scrutiny; the eyes of God your Lord are on it at all times, from the beginning of the year until the end of the year” (Deuteronomy 11:12), “…a land with flowing steams, and underground springs gushing out in valley and mountain, a land lacking nothing” (Deuteronomy 8:7-10). The Torah tells us fifteen (15!) times that the Land of Israel is a ‘land flowing with milk and honey’. Our wise Sages, of blessed memory, also spoke at length about the praises of the land. All of this comes to teach us that in addition to the mitzvah to inhabit the land, one must appreciate its value, and love and cherish her. And even Rambam, in his book of law, wrote: “The great Sages would kiss the borders of the Land of Israel, kiss its stones, and roll in its dust, as it is said: ‘For Your servants desired her stones and cherished her very dust’ (Laws of Kings, halacha 5:10). From this we see that even from a halachic perspective, there is importance in loving the Land of Israel.

Show Your Love by Visiting

Someone who cannot go-up and settle the land can nevertheless express his affection for it by visiting the growing communities in Judea and Samaria, and recite the blessing the Sages established over it: “Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who sets a limit for a widow.” There are numerous stories about great rabbis, such as the ‘Aderet’ (Rabbi Eliyahu David Rabinowitz-Teomim), Rabbi Kook, Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah HaKohen Kook, and many others, who, upon seeing the new communities and orchards, would be moved to the very depths of their souls as a result of the Heavenly blessing constantly revealed in the land, and their eyes would be filled with tears of joy. Even for someone who already understands the value of the Land of Israel, visiting the communities strengthens his actual connection to it.

I have already mentioned in one of my previous columns the fine custom we have merited to adopt here in Har Bracha, where every Shabbat evening, before the sermon, one of the guests recites the blessing “matziv g’vul almana” (‘who sets a limit for a widow’) and the congregation answers ‘amen’. Thus, we are all strengthened in the mitzvah of settling the land. It would be fitting for all of the settlements to adopt this custom (see “Piniei Halacha” Laws of Blessings 15:22-23).

Correcting the Sin of the Spies

All of the exiles and the awful sufferings that life in the Diaspora entails, stems from the Sin of the Spies. As our Sages have said (Ta’anit 29a) that on Tisha b’Av (9th of the month of Av), our forefathers transgressed in the Sin of the Spies, and it was decreed that they would not enter the land. God said to them: “You cried for naught, and I will decree that you cry for generations.” The destruction of the First and Second Temples, and all the exiles that have continued from then, were caused by the Sin of the Spies, which has yet to be corrected.

The correction comes when Israel makes an effort to build the land and cherishes its very dust, as it is written: “Thou will arise, and have mercy upon Zion: for it is time to favor her; for the set time is come. For your servants hold her stones dear, and cherish her very dust” (Psalms 102:14-15).

Building Judea and Samaria

There are many different levels to the mitzvah of settling the land, and the building of Judea and Samaria is above all. As the Ramban specified: “That we are commanded to take possession of the Land of Israel which the Almighty, Blessed Be He, gave to our forefathers, to Avraham, to Yitzhak, and to Yaacov; and not to abandon it to other nations, or to leave it desolate” (Mitzvah 4). And if we don’t make an effort to settle Judea and Samaria with all our might, these holy places will be desolate – in the hands of our enemies.

Moreover, the order of settling the land must start from the holier central area, and the heart is Judea and Samaria, with Jerusalem at the head. These are the places where our forefathers and prophets walked, and it’s not by chance that they are written and mentioned in the Tanach; rather, this comes to teach us that the essence of the holiness of the land is revealed specifically there. The Sages have already said (Sifrei, Ekev) that the holiness of the land was not revealed in Syria, because King David conquered it before conquering Jerusalem. Additionally, God said to our forefather Yaacov when he was in Beit El and Jerusalem: “I will give to you and your descendants the land upon which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth. You shall spread out to the west, to the east, to the north, and to the south” (Genesis 28:13-14). In other words, from this centrally located point we must spread out to all directions.

The next level of importance after Judea and Samaria is the settling of the Galilee and the Negev, for on the one hand, our sovereignty over them is established, but on the other hand, hostile elements are getting stronger there.

Accusations

Occasionally, the ‘yetzer ha’ra’ (evil inclination) cloaks himself in self-righteous arguments, claiming: “The nation of Israel comes before the land of Israel,” and “You settlers have forgotten the nation of Israel.” And then there are those “tzadkim” (seemingly righteous) who hurl the question at the settlers: “What have you done for nation?” Their eyes have been blinded from seeing that, were it not for the settlers, a terrorist state in Judea and Samaria would have risen long ago, and all the cities of the Coastal Plain, from Ashdod in the south to Hadera in the north, would be under attack, with many of them being killed or wounded – may such a thing never happen! Is there any greater way of helping the nation? We’re talking about the actual saving of lives! Everyone realizes that it is a mitzvah to enlist in the I.D.F. to save Jewish lives. No less than this, the settlers contribute to the security of the state by preventing the establishment of a terrorist state with their own bodies.

Settlements Contribute to Population Growth

Together with the mitzvah of settling the land, the settlers also merit raising larger families. Anyone who observes this phenomenon can easily discern how people who live in Judea and Samaria and are similar in all aspects of life to their friends living in the ‘shefela’ (greater Tel Aviv area), have raised much larger families. And thus, their influence on relatives and friends living in the ‘shefela’ widens. This is also a significant contribution to the Jewish nation, especially in our generation following the Holocaust.

Settling in the Heart

Some people claim that if we don’t “settle in the hearts” of the nation, we won’t be successful in settling Judea and Samaria.

It remains to be seen whether the words of the prophet, “And they shall no more be plucked up out of their land which I have given them” (Amos 9:15), will be fulfilled in our settlements. However, the assumption can be made that, were it not for the settlements, a terrorist state would have risen a long time ago in Judea and Samaria.

The pressures on the State of Israel to withdraw from Judea and Samaria are enormous, and even if all of the settlers were scattered throughout the country and successfully influenced the entire nation to become religious on an acceptable level – which is highly unlikely – without the settlements, we wouldn’t have the power to endure the pressure, keeping Judea and Samaria in our hands. The typical Haredi and the religious people would find excuses and explanations to justify retreating. Afterwards, we’d have to deal with the threatening dangers of a Palestinian terror state.

The only reason we still inhabit these holy places, and are saved from the terrible dangers of the establishment of a terrorist state in them, is due to our love of the land and the founding of settlements throughout Judea and Samaria. The number of settlers living in Judea and Samaria today is sufficient to withstand the current pressure, however, if it increases, there is no guarantee we will be able to hold up. We still need thousands and tens of thousands of families in order to guarantee our steadfastness for the sake of our nation and our redemption.

Rise up, dear brothers, and come settle in Jerusalem and the mountains of Judea and Samaria. Populate the desolate mountains and build the destroyed cities. In the merit of this great mitzvah, we will be worthy of having sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters – like the sands of the sea and the stars of the heavens.

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