Because the Spies did not love the Land of Israel, they found rational reasons to fear entering it * To this day, all rational considerations are based on a misunderstanding of the value of the Land * Rabbis do not give orders, rather, they engender processes in their students and in this way, build a bond to the country within them * The juxtaposition of settlements versus the needs of citizens is a lie – the settlements of Judea and Samaria are preventing the establishment of a terrorist state * The revelation of holiness in the physical is possible only in the Land of Israel * The settlements are Israel’s genuine ‘victory prize’ against Islam
What was the Actual Sin of the Spies?
Seemingly, the incident of the Sin of the Spies poses a difficulty: what sin did they actually commit? After all, the spies were sent to explore the land, to see whether the people living there were strong or weak, whether the inhabitants of the country were few or many. And behold, according to their best judgment, they concluded that the Canaanites living in the land were aggressive, the land’s cities were large and well-fortified, and if the Israelites were to try and conquer the land, the men would fall by the sword, and the women and children would be sold as slaves. This was their assessment, so what choice did they have – to sit silently and watch while the people of Israel strode to their destruction? They were morally obligated to warn against the danger! And even if the spies and the people erred in judgment, should the punishment have been so severe – to the point where all of them would die in the desert, the Jewish nation’s entry into the land be delayed for forty years, and if their sin was not rectified – on that same day, the two Temples would eventually be destroyed?
No Love, No Effort
The sin of the spies was that they did not understand the value, or love the Land of Israel, and as a result, lacked the desire to enter it, as it is written: “Moreover, they despised the pleasant Land, they did not believe His word” (Psalms 24:24). Consequently, they misjudged and exaggerated the power of the Canaanites facing Israel. For that reason, when Yehoshua and Calev tried to save them, they declared at the outset: “The land is very, very good.” Only afterwards, out of a recognition of the value of the land, did they call upon the people to strengthen their faith in their ability to defeat the Canaanites (Numbers 14: 9).
A person who does not love the land abhors the need to fight for it, and subsequently convinces himself that it is impossible to conquer and settle it, and finds a thousand reasons why. However, the main reason is – he simply does not care about the Land of Israel, and all his reasons are merely excuses. No one is willing to invest time and effort in something he does not value. For example, a person who does not value the importance of university studies will be incapable of finding the inner strength to pursue their completion. Someone who does not appreciate the significance of combat service will not be able to find the inner strength to withstand arduous training, preparing him to be a fighter. One who does not appreciate the value of family life will not be able to find the strength to seal a marriage covenant, and establish a family. Each one will find a thousand realistic reasons why the time is not right to study, to enlist in the army, or to get married, but the real reason is – they simply do not want to.
History Repeats Itself
Today as well, the vast majority of people who want to withdraw from Judea and Samaria do not love the Land of Israel and fail to understand its significance, and thus, do not feel a connection to Judea and Samaria. Even if there were absolutely no security or demographic problems whatsoever in these areas, they would not be willing to make an effort to settle them.
The Influence of Rabbis
We often hear misinformed people who believe that rabbis wield influence by imposing orders upon those who listen to them. However, they are missing the point. True influence does not stem from orders, but from the study of the essential values of life. When parents and rabbis teach the importance of the Land of Israel by way of the weekly Torah portions and the halachot (laws) related to the mitzvah of settling the land, an internal process occurs among the students. They observe every aspect of life from the vantage point of ‘mitzvat yishuv ha’aretz’ (the mitzvah to settle the Land), and as a result, many of them move to the settlements, and numerous others support the settlers. In view of this, it would be advisable for rabbis to conduct a self-analysis: if they see that a large percentage of their students are negligent in the mitzvah of ‘yishuv ha’aretz’, apparently, it is because they have not heard about the significance of the Land of Israel from their rabbis.
The Importance of Praising the Land
In order to inculcate the value of the Land of Israel among the people of Israel, the Torah lavishes her with praises: “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); it is a land with “flowing streams, and underground springs gushing out in valley and mountain…a land not lacking anything” (Deuteronomy 8:7-10); and fifteen times the Torah repeats itself, saying it is a land flowing with milk and honey. Our Sages also frequently praised the Land, teaching us that in addition to the mitzvah to settle the Land, one must also understand its’ value, and to love and cherish her. Even the Rambam (Maimonides) in his Code of Jewish law emphasizes the importance of the general sentiment of love towards the Land, writing: “The great Torah scholars would kiss the borders of Eretz Yisrael, and embrace her stones, and roll in her dust, as the verse says, “For your servants hold her stones dear, and cherish her very dust” (Laws of Kings and Their Wars, 5:10).
We Have Not Forgotten the People, We are Protecting Them
Occasionally, the ‘yetzer ha’ra’ (the evil inclination) cloaks itself in righteous claims, with arguments such as: “The people of Israel come before the Land of Israel, and you, the settlers, have forgotten the people of Israel.” There are even some “tzadikim” (seemingly righteous people) who condemn the settlers, questioning: “What have you done for the people of Israel?” Are they blind? If not for the settlers, a terrorist state in Judea and Samaria would have been established years ago, and all the cities in the Coastal Plain region would have been under attack, and many of them would have been killed and wounded, God forbid. Can the Jewish people be helped more than that? We’re talking about the actual saving of lives! Only due to the fact that we merited loving the land and established settlements throughout Judea and Samaria does Israel still inhabit these holy areas, thus preventing the terrible dangers of the establishment of a terrorist state in Judea and Samaria! Be that as it may, our numbers in Judea and Samaria are only enough to withstand the current pressure, but should it increase, our ability to persevere is uncertain. We are still in need of tens of thousands of families to ensure our existence – for the sake of our nation, and redemption.
Arise, dear brothers and sisters! Come up to the mountains of Judea and Samaria, to settle the wilderness and build the ruined cities. And by virtue of this mitzvah, the Jewish nation will merit bearing sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters – as numerous as the sands of the sea, and the stars of the heavens. There are many houses that remain to be filled, and many houses that can be built; and as more families arrive, additional opportunities will open up for further building.
The Revealing of Faith Depends on the Land of Israel
We will continue explaining the value of the mitzvah to settle the land. Our Sages said: “The mitzvah of living in the Land of Israel is equal in weight to all the commandments in the Torah” (Sifri, Reah, 53). In halachic terms as well, this is the only mitzvah that in order to fulfill it, lives are endangered, for we were commanded to conquer the Land of Israel, and the Torah does not expect us to rely on miracles (Minchat Chinuch, 425, 604). Not only that, our Sages said: “One who lives outside of the Land is similar to one who worships ‘avodah zara’ (idols)” (Ketubot 110b). Seemingly, this is difficult: why is a person who lives outside of the Land of Israel considered an idolater?
The answer is that the fundamental sin of idolatry is that it divides and separates the world into different spheres, each belonging to separate forces and gods. The greatest separation existing in the world is the separation between spirituality and materialism, the soul and body, which is sometimes mistakenly thought of as a separation between good and evil. Since outside the Land of Israel a Jew can reveal holiness only in spirituality, alongside a certain alienation towards nature, it seems as if the word of God is revealed only in the spiritual realm; there can be no graver violation of Israel’s faith than when it appears as if the material realm in its entirety exists without Divine inspiration, and even in opposition to it. Therefore, a person who lives outside of the Land of Israel where faith is revealed in spiritual life alone, is considered as if he worships idols.
In contrast, the uniqueness of the Land of Israel is that it is ‘Eretz HaKodesh‘ (the Holy Land), where the word of God can be revealed in its’ physical realm as well. Therefore, it is a mitzvah to settle the Land, to build houses, and to plant trees. For that reason, Israel’s unified faith is revealed specifically in the Land of Israel.
The Situation of Jews Outside of the Land of Israel
Q: Is it categorically impossible to reveal holiness in the material realm of life in ‘Chutz L’Aretz’ (outside of the Land of Israel)?
A: It would seem that presumably, holiness can be revealed in the material side of life in ‘Chutz L’Aretz’, but in practice, this is not possible. Ostensibly, it was a positive achievement for Jews to develop the sciences of physics and chemistry for the benefit of mankind, and develop banking systems, and build railway tracks for the benefit of all. This is exactly what the Jews in Germany did, and the Nazis used their money to finance their government and army, and to wage a murderous world war. On the same railroad tracks that Baron Hirsch laid, Jews were transported to be slaughtered with gases developed by the discoveries of Jewish scientists. Similar “achievements” occurred in the Soviet Union, before that in Spain, and in every country where Jews resided. True, things are a bit more complex, but generally speaking, this is the curse of the exile. Only when Israel reveals the word of God in the Land of Israel is unifying faith revealed in the world, and from out of the Land of Israel, goodness and blessings spread to all nations and countries.
To My Brothers, the Settlers
Once again we are hearing potentially harmful proposals regarding Israel, and malicious thoughts about the settlements. The interests of countries to get along with the Arab states blinds their vision, and prejudices their opinions against us. The struggle today is not determined by the strength and quantity of weapons – the fact is we have more weapons than our enemies – but nevertheless, we have failed to defeat them. They demanded the release of a thousand terrorists in exchange for one soldier – and got them, despite Israel’s proclaiming for years that it would not give in to such demands. As far as the Arabs are concerned, whoever shows more patience will win, because they are ready to wait for decades or even centuries, whereas the Western mindset is incapable of such perseverance. Consequently, in all the military operations in Gaza and Lebanon, the fact that they survived is considered by them as a victory, and enables them to initiate further armed conflicts. The only thing they see as a loss is the settlements, and the settlers. Jewish attachment to the land is proof that the Jews are more heroic, more determined, more courageous, and more successful. This is the State of Israel’s only ‘victory prize’ which truly deters them. In consequence, enemies of Islam throughout the entire world admire the settlers, and hence, the State of Israel which stands behind them. They understand that the settlers are the clearest expression of the victory of truth, justice, and goodness over the violence and terror of the Muslims.
This is the appropriate moment to encourage and bless the settlers to grow stronger in settlement of the Land of Israel, and not be deterred by external malicious forces, or weaknesses from within.
This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew. Other interesting, informative, and thought-provoking articles by Rabbi Melamed can be found at: