IN THE MERIT OF SIX HOUSES

The day arrived when all the ministering angels of the world came before the Heavenly Court to debate the matter of Israel facing war against its enemies amongst the nations of the world.

The prosecuting angel approached the tribunal and opened his speech by saying: “See, the People of Israel, whom God has gathered together from the four corners of the earth, and brought to the Holy Land. They show ingratitude, giving away His inheritance to the evil ones. Therefore, it is fitting that all of the goodness they have received should be rendered into harshness, and their enemies should vanquish them.”

At that moment, one of the ministering angels came to the defense of Israel, saying: “It is not that Israel shows aversion for the goodness that God gave them, but rather because He, God, is a Lord of Vengeance, while they, Israel, desire to increase peace in the world. Regarding their violation of the Divine covenant, they do so only in order to create a peaceful, New Middle East. Moreover, they are tired of war, and because of their great weakness, they believe their enemies are similarly tired, and seek tranquility.”

The prosecutors were ecstatic, realizing that this ministering angel, who had come to defend Israel, actually provided even more evidence for their own case!

The prosecutor then spoke: “If their intentions were truly good, how is it that they abandoned their righteous brothers living in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza, racing to embrace and kiss murderers, enemies of their nation, supplying them with weapons, and signed an agreement with their enemies allowing them to rule over large parts of the Land of Israel and cause them such pain?”

Michael, the great ministering angel, arose and argued: “But within Israel there are also many settlers who hold tight to the Land with great devotion, and even though Arab terrorists attack them on the roads day and night, and even though they must often bury their dead, they are not deterred, but rather, they adhere to and fulfill their faith.”

At once, a great buzz arose in the Divine chambers, with the merits of the settlers apparently about to tip the scales in favor of Israel.

Abruptly, Satan rose to defend his cause, saying: “The settlers are not such great heroes. The reason they remain in their communities is not because of their immense devotion for the Holy Land, but rather, because they purchased their homes for bargain basement prices, and have nowhere else to go.”

At that point, another ministering angel answered: “Just now, on the eve of the Sabbath in which Israel reads the Torah portion in which is written the words of the scouts, that “the Land is very, very good,” in one of the Jewish communities atop the mountain range near Shechem, in the place where all Israel stood over 3,000 years ago with Joshua and reaffirmed the Divine Covenant – in that very place, today, six families from among the Children of Israel, stood heroically, and despite all the internal and external obstacles, fulfilled the commandment of settling the Land, signing a contract to build new homes there.”

At that moment, the prosecutor fell backwards as the merit of the six new homes in Israel prevailed over the people’s transgressions. Consequently, it was decreed that the people of Israel would emerge victorious over their enemies and would merit seeing the building of their Land.

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Note: Whether the victory will come speedily or over a long period of time, whether it will come easily or with difficulty, we are still unsure; this has not yet been decided with finality. The more Jews repent for their lack of appreciation of the cherished Land of Israel, and the more Jews settle in Judea and Samaria, the closer our Redemption will be, speedily in our days. Amen.

Spread Out

The Revelation and its Meaning

Our forefather Jacob merited seeing one of the greatest and most awesome revelations ever revealed to man. He saw the ladder standing on the ground, its top reaching up toward heaven, and God’s angels going up and down on it. Suddenly, beyond the ladder and angels – “He saw God standing over him! [God] said, “I am God, Lord of Abraham your father, and Lord of Isaac.” In suspense, we are waiting to hear, what important message will God tell Jacob at this extraordinary moment? Will He speak about the importance of learning Torah diligently or perhaps about keeping Shabbat? Maybe He will speak about the love of humanity, or possibly give a philosophical explanation of His unity? Maybe He will urge Jacob to distance himself from evil people, or to be careful about keeping kosher, or about modesty, or about honoring the dead?

However, God says to Jacob: “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. All the families on earth will be blessed through you and your descendants.” The Land of Israel is so important, to such an extent that it is the subject of this supreme and awesome revelation! And, as usual, together with the mitzvah of settling the land comes the blessing of multiplying and being fruitful.

And let’s not be fooled into thinking that the issue of the Land of Israel affects only the Jewish nation. The blessing of all the nations is dependent on the Jewish nation’s settling of the Land of Israel, as the verse says: “All the families on earth will be blessed through you and your descendants.”

Why Specifically Judea and Samaria

Question: Jews are needed throughout the land. If we encourage people to settle in Judea or Samaria, there won’t be enough people to live in the Negev and Galilee?

Answer: By way of the mitzvah of settling the land there will be more Jews, and thus we will be able to populate the entire country. This is exactly what we have witnessed – that families who went to settle Judea and Samaria had more children than their brother’s, sister’s, and friends who remained in the Tel Aviv area and similar places. The greater effort the settler’s made to populate the holier and nationally significant areas, the more blessing they received.

In addition to the ten’s of thousands of children who were born in the merit of the settlements, it also had an influence on their families and friends who remained in the cities. They said to themselves: If our sibling who lives in Samaria has eight children, we can have four children instead of three, or five instead of four. And, seeing as they raised larger families, their neighbors were also influenced to a certain degree, as were their co-workers. Without sufficient data, I am cautious not to estimate just how many children have been added to the Jewish nation in the merit of the settlements, but, undoubtedly, it has had a significant affect on our demographic status.

A Short Chat

Once, I was invited to visit the beloved and holy community of Givat Shmuel (greater Tel Aviv area) for Shabbat. In the synagogue, during the singing of ‘Adon Olam’, someone from behind tapped me on the shoulder, and with a half-smile said: “Rabbi Melamed, in one apartment building here in Givat Shmuel, you can fit the entire community of Har Bracha.” He probably wanted to commend my coming there, for indeed, the majority of the population lives in the greater Tel Aviv area and not in Har Bracha. However, feeling a pang in my heart, I immediately rebuffed him: “That’s not correct. It’s impossible to fit them all into one building.”

“Why is it impossible? How many families are there already in Har Bracha?”

“Two hundred and fifty families,” I answered.

“Okay, so we need a couple of buildings” he replied with friendly sarcasm.

I contemplated the matter, making some calculations, and I was surprised by the results. Indeed, taking into consideration the number of adults above the age of 18, there are approximately 25 times more people living in Givat Shmuel than there are in Har Bracha (15,000 versus 600). However, in the younger age groups, there are barely 5 times as many children in Givat Shmuel than in Har Bracha. In the past year, with God’s help, nearly 100 children were born in Har Bracha.

May it be His will that all the families in Givat Shmuel, Har Bracha, and all the holy communities merit raising sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughter’s, great-grandson’s and great-granddaughter’s, engaged in Torah and mitzvoth.

Holy Place

There are some intellectuals for whom the struggle to settle the Land of Israel troubles their conscience. If there were no Arabs surrounding us, they would surely support the settlements. But in the present situation, when the settlements are causing tension and international condemnation, the idea has dawned upon them that, perhaps, land isn’t really that important. However, through the awesome revelation, our forefather Jacob understands that holiness is revealed specifically in this place. “Jacob awoke from his sleep.”God is truly in this place,” he said, “but I did not know it.” He was frightened. “How awe-inspiring this place is!” he exclaimed. “It must be God’s temple. It is the gate to heaven!”

Vineyards in the Shomron Mountains

On the 13th of Tishrei, I merited coming full-circle in two happy occasions. Twenty years ago, standing by the side of the open grave of our friend, Yaakov Parag, may God avenge his blood, I tearfully spoke of how he had approached me, in the last week of his life, pleading that I interrupt my learning and come with him for a tour of the western-side of the community to hear his plans on how to develop the area. The Zionist Federation had dug pits there in order to take samples of the soil to be checked at an agricultural planning laboratory. He lowered himself into the pits, felt the soil, scooped-up a handful, and was thrilled by its excellent quality. He then began to dream out loud about building a house with a surrounding grove, and children and grandchildren coming to help ‘saba’ (grandfather) pick the fruits. A couple of days later he was brutally murdered by Arab terrorists while patrolling the community. He left behind three young children and a pregnant widow. By his graveside we promised to contine in his path, to ensure his children’s education, and to continue building the community.

On the evening of the 13th of Tishrei, I had the opportunity to conduct the wedding of his first-born son, who has established his home in the Shomron, and has already begun building a house on the western hill of Har Bracha, not far from the place where his father had dreamt to build his own house. Yaakov’s second son got married two years ago and already has his own first-born son.

Redeeming the Vineyard

On the afternoon of the following day, I participated, along with the Minster of Infrastructure, Uzi Landau, in the celebration of “redeeming the vineyard” on Har Bracha. The portion of land upon which we celebrated is very close to the area Yaakov Parag had dreamt to plant his grove. The small village of Har Bracha, which at the time numbered twenty young families, has developed into a thriving community with over two hundred and fifty families. In the day-care centers there are close to two hundred infants, and the kindergartens are bursting at the seams. May there be more like them!

The meaning of “redeeming” is to convert the sanctified fruits into ‘chulin’ (non-holy), so that they may be eaten. For the Torah commands that for the first three years of a tree, its fruits are ‘orlah’ and cannot be eaten. In the fourth year, they are sanctified to be eaten in purity in Jerusalem. When the distance between the vineyard and Jerusalem was far, they would redeem the fruits on coins; the fruit would become non-holy, and the coins would become sanctified in their place. With the money, they would ascend to Jerusalem to buy food which they would eat there in purity, providing food for all the ‘olei regel’ (pilgrims). Today, with the Holy Temple destroyed, since we cannot eat the fruits or their compensation in purity, the sanctified fruits have no value, and they are therefore redeemed for a ‘pruta’ (minute sum of money), thereby converting the fruit into ‘chulin’.

Let’s return to the vineyards: Many plots of land have already been planted as vineyards on Har Bracha, and exceptionally first-rate wine has been produced from their grapes. Wine from Har Bracha is sought-after by aficionados throughout the country who are willing to pay over 100 shekels for a bottle. Consequently, more and more vineyards are being planted to fill the increasing demand.

In the Larger Scope

Two thousand five hundred years ago, after the armies of Sennacherib and Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the Land of Israel, Yermiyahu prophesized (31:3-4): “Again I will build you, and you shall be built, O virgin of Israel: you shall again be adorned with your timbrels, and shall go out dancing with them that make merry. You shall yet plant vines upon the mountains of Shomron: the planters shall plant, and shall enjoy the fruit”. And here, right now in front of our very eyes, vineyards are being planted in the mountains of Shomron; joyfully, and with dancing, many young couples are progressively building their houses on the desolate mountains.

The prophet Yehezkel also prophesized about the desolate mountains and valleys. “Therefore, you mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord God; Thus says the Lord God to the mountains, and to the hills, to the water courses, and to the valleys, to the desolate wastes, and to the cities that are forsaken, which have become a prey and a derision… and I will multiply men upon you, all the house of Israel, all of it: and the cities shall be inhabited, and the waste places rebuilt: and I will multiply upon you man and beast; and they shall increase and bring fruit” (Yehezkel 36:4-11).

The miracle is gradually occurring. Jews are returning to the forsaken cities and desolate wastes. However, Barak Obama, President of America, is trying with all his might to breach the words of the prophets. The prophet spoke of building the communities so they would be filled with “men like a flock” as it says (Yehezkel 36:38): “Like the flock of sacrifices, like the flock of Jerusalem in her appointed times; so shall the waste cities be filled with flocks of men: and they shall know that I am the Lord” – and Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, arrogantly prevents God’s son’s from filling the waste cities with flocks of men.

The prophet Amos prophesized (9:14): “And I will bring back the captivity of my people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink their wine; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them.” And the government of Israel, aware of this, is negligent and does not fulfill its historic task.

Strengthening the Already Strong

When the whole world is dealing with the question of continuing building in Judea and Samaria, it is a sign that indeed, there is a special importance for each and every house that a Jew merits to build in Judea and Samaria. There aren’t any other houses in the world upon which the prophets spoke about 2,500 years ago. Fortunate are the families who merit building their homes in Judea and Samaria. Since this issue is so great and holy, the wicked arise to foil and disturb. We must strengthen ourselves against them.

I presume that had we woken-up on our own, to build the land vigorously and enthusiastically, as is appropriate for such a great mitzvah, accusations against us would not have arisen. The name of God would have been called upon us, and all those who saw us would acknowledge and agree that, indeed, God inherited us the land and the words of the prophets concerning the redemption of the world are proceeding to materialize. However, since we are negligent in settling the land, and do not act fittingly for someone who merits to fulfill the great mitzvah of settling the Land of Israel, and we are not full of enthusiasm and vigor as is appropriate for one who merits to perform the prophecies of redemption, the accusers arise against us. There is only one remedy – to expand the width, height, and depth of the communities. To build all existing plots possessing building permits, to add additional apartments onto houses, to prepare master plans for the expansion of the communities and cities, to spur-on family members and friends to join-in, ascend the mountain, settle the land, and enlarge the families. Until the words of the prophet are fulfilled through us (Amos 9:15): “And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be plucked up out of their land which I have given them, says the Lord your God.”