Now and then, people question the importance of the Land of Israel, as if to imply that the settlers are overly occupied with this mitzvah and exaggerate its importance. True, indeed, one must be careful that the pursuit of a specific mitzvah does not result in the weakening of other mitzvoth. At the same time, it is imperative to know that the significance of the Land of Israel is one of the foundations of the Torah. Anyone who learns Torah truthfully can plainly see this. Nevertheless, since even after all that has been written in the Torah there are still skeptics, I thought to myself that this year I would dedicate a portion of my weekly column to bring to attention the centrality of the Land of Israel.
Behold, in this week’s Torah portion, our forefather Abraham is commanded “Go away from your land” to the Land of Israel. He arrives at Elon Moreh, or Schem, in the heart of Samaria, and God appears to him, saying: “I will give this land to your offspring” (Genesis 12:7). The meaning is all of the Land of Israel, but the main emphasis is on the place where he is standing – in Samaria, which together with the lands of Judah and Benjamin, comprise the heart of the land. The Sages add (as Rashi comments), when Abraham was in Schem, God showed him “Mount Gerizim (Har Bracha) and Mount Eval, where Israel received the oath of the Torah.”
Due to a famine in the land, Abraham was forced to descend to Egypt, and when he returned to the area of Beit El, God once again appears to him, saying: “Raise your eyes, and, from the place where you are now [standing], look to the north, to the south, to the east, and to the west. For all the land that you see, I will give to you and to your offspring forever. I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth; if a man will be able to count [all] the grains of dust in the world, then your offspring also will be countable”(Genesis 13:14-17). From this we learn that in the merit of inheriting the land, we also merit the increase of our offspring. We also learned that, specifically from the place where he was standing, from Beit El in the mountains of Benjamin, our forefather Abraham was commanded to view the breadth of the entire land, and to know that all of it is designated to his offspring. Accordingly, the command continues: “Rise, walk the land, through its length and breadth, for I will give it [al] to you.” Abraham then goes to the area of Hebron.
Once again, at the “Pact between Halves” (‘brit bein ha’betarim’), God repeats to Abraham: “I am God who took you out of Ur Casdim to give you this land as a possession.” Concerned, Abraham asks: “How can I really know that it will be mine?” (Genesis 15:7-8).
Once more, later in the Torah portion, we learn that even the mitzvah of brit milah (circumcision), is bound and interconnected with the Land of Israel, for through the brit (covenant) we inherit the land, as is written: “To you and your offspring I will give the land where you are now living as a foreigner. The whole land of Canaan shall be [your] eternal heritage, and I will be a God to [your descendants]” (Genesis 17:8).
And here, today, we have merited returning and settling in the land of our forefathers, in the holy places where the Heavenly promises were spoken. The more Jews who ascend the mountains to settle them, the more we will merit the realization of God’s promise. The mouths of our enemies will be stifled, and we will merit dwelling securely in our land.