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.

_____
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.

Like the Sand of the Sea

The Census

The Torah portion of ‘Bamidbar’ is replete with numerical accountings of the Tribes of Israel. Seemingly, one could ask: Why does the Torah need to ‘waste’ so many verses calculating the exact numbers of each and every tribe, and afterwards, mention the entire amount of people? And as if that was not enough, the Torah once again mentions their numbers according to the order of encampment in the desert, and then counts them once more according to the four separate camps? Instead of telling us at such great length about how many Children of Israel there were, the Torah could have explained the laws of Shabbat and kashrut a little bit more in depth!

However, this is exactly what the Torah wanted to teach us – the importance of every single, precious Jew, and the significance of the sum total of Israel.

The National Mitzvah: Have Babies!

One of the components of national strength is demography, as we see today, that the fear of demographic imbalance is the motivating force for many who support a withdrawal from Judea and Samaria. Even Barak Obama used this argument as a reason to explain his position. Therefore, one of the considerations Jewish parents should take into account when planning on having children is the Jewish nation’s existence as a whole. Even amongst non-Jews, the phenomenon of a wave of births following a difficult war, better-known as a “baby-boom” is common. Out of a sense of national identification, many men, and especially women, feel the need to once more replete the nation, filling the gaping cavity caused by the war. It’s not a disgrace to speak about the national necessity of enlarging families, especially amongst the Jewish nation who still have not recuperated from the devastating blow of the Holocaust, which was the most horrible of all the blows we took for two thousand years. All the more so when we realize just how great the Jewish nation’s mission is to bring redemption to the world. True, numbers aren’t the only component, but they are quite significant.

Had every Jewish family since the establishment of the state given birth to one more child, we would number at least ten million Jews in the Land of Israel today. Our present national situation would have been much better off. The Torah also teaches us that the settlement of the Land of Israel is dependent on the population of Israel, as it is written (Exodus 23:29); “I will not drive them out in a single year, however, lest the land become depopulated, and the wild animals become too many for you [to contend with]. I will drive [the inhabitants] out little by little, giving you a chance to increase and [fully] occupy the land. I will set your borders from the Red Sea to the Philistine Sea, from the desert to the river. I will give the land’s inhabitants into your hand, and you will drive them before you.”

The Beautiful Example of the Religious Zionists

Quantity is very important, but not on the account of quality. Just as the multiplicity of children contributes to the building of the nation, so does the development of society in the fields of Torah, values, sciences, and economics.

In this aspect, the National- Religious society in Israel is a unique phenomenon in the entire world. The conventional equation in today’s world is that having a lot of children goes hand-in-hand with poverty and backwardness. But in the case of the Religious Zionists, we see a large society made-up of families who successfully provide their children with quality education towards Torah, values, the sciences, and making a livelihood. There are many things that need improvement, but the direction is excellent, and this path must be strengthened and put on a pedestal for all Jews.

There is a significant difference between a person who, influenced by his surroundings, effortlessly and unintentionally raises a relatively large family, educating his children to Torah and ‘derech eretz’ (good manners), and someone who is aware of the idealistic challenge it entails, and as a result, makes efforts to enlarge his family, to enhance the study of Torah and the building of the Land, and to increase the sanctification of God’s name through the sciences and employment. Knowing that he is setting a good example, he will try harder to influence others.

The Family as a Remedy for Loneliness

Modern life has over-emphasized the principle of freedom, leading to the deterioration of the family, the damaging of spouses’ willingness to honor mutual obligations between themselves and their children, and, at the same time, has decreed solitude upon man. Contrary to the loneliness of the liberated and free individual, it is important to present a living model of a virtuous family which enriches and inspires all of its children with infinite ideas and experiences. Indeed, today’s superficial media tends to emphasize the principle of freedom and to scorn family values. For its part, the feminist movement has also caused women who have merited raising large families to feel inferior. Against this, we must praise family values and women who merit raising large families.

Understanding the Significance

All significant and beneficial matters are accompanied by difficulties. Even a business man who has dealings throughout the world must travel from country to country, losing sleep and is constantly under immense pressure. However, since he enjoys making money, and in order to do so, is willing to go to great lengths, he doesn’t feel that his life is difficult at all. On the contrary, he’s proud of his lifestyle and loves it.

How much more so is this true in the building of a family. The difficulties are great, but the fruits are also enormous; they are the foundations of the future generations, and this is man’s greatest fulfillment on earth. A woman who realizes the deep and wide-ranging significance of building a family will not want to delay giving birth even for a day, and will take pleasure in any effort she must make.

May the words of the prophet from this week’s ‘Haftorah’ be fulfilled within us (Hoshea 2:1): “Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered.”

All Fit for Service – To Conquer the Land

Every census has its purpose. The census in the desert was meant to organize the army of the Jewish nation before entering the Land of Israel. We are commanded to inherit the Land, in other words – to conquer and settle it – and therefore, Moshe was commanded to count all the men from the age of twenty years or older, for they would compose Israel’s army. In order for the army to be organized properly, each tribe was numbered “according to the records of their paternal families”. First, the number of men in each family was counted, then all the families connected to that specific division were included and counted together; afterwards, all the divisions within the tribe were counted, in order to know how many soldiers there were in each tribe. Finally, they calculated the sum total of soldiers in Israel’s army: “The entire tally was 603,550” (Bamidbar 1:46).

From the Torah portion “Bamidbar” we must learn the significance of serving in the army, and the importance of the mitzvah to conquer and settle the Land of Israel.

Have Patience, Time is on Our Side

גרסה עברית

Prime Minister Netanyahu

In his defense, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claims that he cannot fulfill his promise to build in Judea and Samaria because international pressures have intensified and become unbearable.

How does he expect there not to be relentless pressure on Israel when he himself abstains from claiming repeatedly that we have the right to settle in Judea and Samaria? And even worse – he has surrendered to Obama’s demand, and agreed to the establishment of an enemy state in Judea and Samaria! Just what does he expect – that the representatives of foreign nations, who have their own interests in the Arab world, will argue for Israel in his place?

A Broken Commitment

Before the elections, Mr. Netanyahu and his Likud Party committed to build in Judea and Samaria. They obviously were aware of international pressures. As a former Prime Minister, Mr. Netanyahu was quite familiar with the international arena. His promise to build should have taken into consideration standing firm against pressures, and a wide publicity campaign, explaining our rights to settle in Judea and Samaria. Having not done so, he has broken his promise.

Our Right over the Land

The dispute is over the right of the Jewish nation to its land. Therefore, the Prime Minister’s first duty is to constantly mention our right to the Land of Israel.

There is no other nation in the world that has survived such a long exile and remained attached to its land. And there is no other land in the world in which a foreign nation built its kingdom except for the Land of Israel. As it is written in the Torah (Leviticus 26:32), that even when Israel sins and is exiled from its land — “I will make the land so desolate that [even] your enemies who live there will be astonished.” Upon which the Sages have said (and Rashi mentions this in his commentary): “This is a good attribute for Israel; that their enemies won’t find satisfaction in their land, and it will be desolate from its inhabitants.”

Perhaps Netanyahu thinks that, suddenly, after being elected Prime Minister, Israel’s international situation has soured, leaving him no other choice but to declare that, under certain circumstances and through various withdrawals, he believes it’s possible to establish ‘peace’ with the Arabs. However, even if this is the case, at the very least, he should mention in his speeches that Judea and Samaria are the heart of our land, and that these are the holy places which the Jewish nation yearned for in all its years of exile. That these are the places which the Prophets spoke of – that one day the Jewish nation would return and build, as it is written: “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 I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be plucked up out of their land which I have given them” (Amos 9:14-15).

Netanyahu and His Ministers are Guilty

Who prevents the Prime Minister from praying once a month in the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hevron, from visiting Rachel’s Tomb in Beit Lechem, or Joseph’s Tomb in Schem? He could visit Shilo, the place where the Sanctuary dwelled for over three hundred years. He could visit Beit El, the place where our forefather Jacob dreamt about the ladder and received the tidings of inheriting the land and the increase of his offspring like dust of the earth. He could come to Mt. Gerizim (Har Bracha), the place where Israel returned and received the Torah through a covenant. Such visits are not a provocation or a breach of any agreement – is it forbidden for the Prime Minister to visit the graves of the forefathers of the nation? This, however, would be a clear declaration of belonging to these holy and historic sites. Some of the world’s misconceptions about Israel would be solved on their own accord after such visits. The Prime Minister’s Jewish roots would probably be strengthened were he to visit these sites. But Netanyahu prefers to meet various affluent people while avoiding visiting the holy places and sites of Jewish heritage.

This implies that the problem is his weak connection to the Land of Israel and Jewish heritage. He was chosen as the public’s national representative, but in practice, he misappropriates the trust given him.

He can easily tell his good friend, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, to sign on the building permits in the settlements. He doesn’t want to.

The Ministers

The government ministers are also responsible. Even if they claim that they lack the power to change building policy, certainly they can frequently visit the holy sites, together with Israeli and foreign media, thus expressing the nation’s connection to its homeland in Judea and Samaria.

And for those who have already visited the holy places, it’s not enough to do so in the middle of the night, accompanied by a reporter from ‘Arutz 7’ or ‘Basheva’. I am not, G-d forbid, belittling the importance of our journalists, for they are the ones who report on the most profound and meaningful developments in Israel. Nevertheless, when such visits are covered only by ‘Arutz 7’, it is perceived as an attempt by the politicians to fulfill their obligation towards Jews faithful to the nation and the Land, in order to get elected in the primaries. What needs to be done is to say, in front of the entire world, that the Land of Israel is ours. Therefore, the ministers should visit in broad daylight, accompanied by media from Israel and the entire world, and explicitly say that the settlements are the realization of the Prophetic vision.

We are Also Guilty

Indeed, Netanyahu and his ministers’ guilt are clear, however, the public is also guilty. There should be a long line of people requesting to join every settlement in Judea and Samaria, as is fitting for a nation which has returned to its homeland after 2,000 years, and as is fitting for someone who realizes that the mitzvah of settling the Land of Israel is equal to all the mitzvoth. Instead of arising to settle the land, people are involved with trivialities, and to top it off, some even complain that the settlers have forgotten the nation! Any intelligent person must realize the great contribution the settlers make to the security of all those living in the Lower Plains area. With their own bodies, they are physically blocking the establishment of a terror state in Judea and Samaria. Is there any better way for your average person to contribute to the security of our nation? If there were long lines of people waiting to move to all the settlements, our national situation would probably be much different, and even Netanyahu and his ministers would join the effort to build the land.

Yet, even concerning Jerusalem, the city of our strength, there aren’t enough people knocking on her doors. Wide-spread building in Jerusalem, our holy and glorious city, can also rescue us from the establishment of an enemy state in our gates.

Therefore, anyone who is rightfully disillusioned with Mr. Netanyahu must also examine whether he or she is doing everything possible for the sake of strengthening the settlement movement in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria.

'V'Nafachu' (On the Contrary)

When the Month of Adar Enters

Our Sages have said (Ta’anit 29a): “When the month of Adar enters, we increase our joy.” Everyday joy is over the good in the world; however, this happiness is threatened due to the evil and pain which remains in the world. Nevertheless, when the evil itself becomes good, joy increases. This is what happened on Purim – God turned the evil into good and saved His nation, Israel. It became clear that, precisely in the merit of Haman’s harsh decree, the Jewish nation repented, Mordechai was appointed viceroy to King Ahashverosh and was able to continue the building of the Second Temple, and the Jewish nation became established in the Land of Israel. From all this we learned that everything that happens in this world, even seemingly bad, in the end, will turn into good. And since the unique quality of the month of Adar is to turn evil into good, “when the month of Adar enters, we increase our joy”.

Judea and Samaria – Purim-Style

Our present situation in Judea and Samaria can also be viewed with a Purim-style outlook, seeing how things that seem bad, turn into good. Take for example the mitzvah of settling the Land of Israel. To our great dismay, many Jews are not aware of the full validity of the Heavenly guarantee of God’s promise of the Land of Israel to our forefathers and us, and that by means of this promise, redemption and blessing would spread throughout the world, as the Prophets have said. Consequently, facing Arab threats of war and pressure from the rest of the world, many Jews are ready to retreat from parts of our holy land in return for promises of a halting of international pressure on Israel and the prevention of future wars. This, in spite of the fact that history has proven that such promises carry no real guarantees, and that the most important factor that prevents war is the acknowledgment of the power of the State of Israel, and that, conversely, withdrawals are likely to increase the appetite of our enemies to continue striving towards their final goal – the destruction of the State of Israel, God forbid. And although it is clear to almost everyone that even if we sign the agreements offered by the nations of the world, we will not see true peace in the near future, nevertheless, the hope that the State of Israel will be able to remove from itself the pressures and threats causes many Jews to agree to up-root settlements and endanger the deterrent force of the State of Israel.

And lo and behold, we find left-wing people who, indeed, are relatively small in number, but carry significant weight in the worlds of academia and the media, both in Israel and throughout the world, many of whom convincingly claim that all of the State of Israel’s problems stem from the establishment of the settlements. Thus, in their opinion, the Government of Israel must freeze the building of all houses in Judea and Samaria, not only to achieve peace, but also to prevent the occupation and expulsion of the Arabs. Some of the left-wingers even claim that the State of Israel must compensate the Arabs for the mere fact of our own existence, and to allow a significant number of refugees to return to within the ‘Green Line’ borders. In such a situation, it is almost impossible to reach any type of an agreement with the Arabs. What Arab would agree to receive less than what even the left-wing Jews agree they should receive? As we know, a proud Arab is always meant to demand more. And Netanyahu and Olmert, who would have loved to already sign on a withdrawal agreement, realize that the proposals up for discussion are so dangerous to the security of Israel, that they cannot be accepted. Thus, every attempt for an agreement on withdrawal crumbles before it reaches the final stage.

The Influence of the Left – ‘V’Nafachu’

Even if the cunning politicians, Israeli and American, succeed in creating a smokescreen to cover up the true demands of the Arabs, and promise the Jews that, in the merit of their withdrawal from parts of their homeland, they will be able to guard the Jewish identity of the State, immediately the left-wingers appear on the stage, fighting for the rights of the Israeli Arabs citizens. They blame those who speak out against Arab crime as being racists, attack the Jewish National Fund for not selling land to the Arabs, attack rabbis who want to protect the unique Jewish character of Israel’s cities. They fight for additional allocations of resources and extra rights for the Arabs, despite the fact that the Arabs don’t share in the security burden. Your average person asks himself: “If this is how the leftists attack the rabbis and public figures who try to protect the Jewish character of our cities, what exactly do they mean when they promise that by withdrawing, we will be able to guard the Jewish character of the State?” The answer is clear: Withdrawal from Judea and Samaria is also capitulation from the Jewishness of the State.

Jewish Spiritual Independence – ‘V’Nafachu’

The spiritual independence of Judaism is also in danger, facing the tremendous potency of Western culture, which like a giant river, washes away various standpoints. If we were in complete agreement with our Torah, we would be able to scrutinize this wonderful culture honestly, to praise its good aspects, and criticize the bad, thereby improving the world and being a light unto the nations. The Torani public, which strives to improve the world (‘tikun olam’), does not attempt to erect a sealed wall between itself and Western culture; but currently, in the absence of a deep and broad Torah doctrine which draws its essentiality from the ‘Torah of the Land of Israel’, it finds itself struggling to guard its spiritual independence. Without this independence, we will never merit making the Torah great and glorious, and fulfill our mission. And lo and behold, in the ‘merit’ of the difficult and painful attacks in the name of ‘liberal values’ on the Torani public and its rabbis, a defensive wall is created, guarding from the influence of the Western culture. Consequently, the religious public, and to a certain extent, also most of Israeli society, is immunized from the influence of the media and non-religious culture.

The Authors Boycott

For example, according to the basic position of the religious and Torani public, which supports openness and the acceptance of good from all people — all the more so from Jews, even if they are not religious – the left-wing authors could have had a tremendous influence. However, when the majority of them joined the boycott on the city of Ariel, and makes every attempt to condemn the rabbis and the settlers, a protective barrier is created from their influence. The religious and traditional public is personally acquainted with the rabbis and settlers, and knows that they are quite ethical people. When they hear the authors condemning them as being terrible, they say to themselves: “These leftists are totally out of their minds; their hate has driven them crazy”. Thus, the authors influence on the public dissipates.

Indeed, it is true that from the outset, it would have been beneficial to learn from the good within these authors. However, under the present circumstances where the majority of the public lacks the ability to select the good from the bad, the authors came and damned themselves in such a way that, even those who continue to read their books do so with grave hesitation. Once again, we have found ‘nafachu’ (on the contrary): how the authors boycott benefits the independent development of the Torani public.

Skepticism towards the Holiness of the Nation and Land

Even the irritating skepticism of the non-religious left towards the holiness of the nation and the Land has its good side, for by means of it, students of Torah are required to delve deeper in the Torah and various areas of knowledge. Without this, we would be satisfied with trivial, insufficient explanations, which, as we see, lack the ability to elevate the entire nation.

Best Possible Scenario

Nevertheless, we must remember that the idea of ‘nafachu’ is not enough. Even after the miracle of Purim, the complete redemption did not arrive. We still remained the slaves of Achashverosh, for when we arrive at the good only because we have run away from the bad, the redemption remains a partial one. Still, it enables us to continue to build ourselves spiritually and physically, to make the Torah great and glorious, to settle Judea and Samaria, to build a moral society, to investigate the various cultures with a positive and critical eye, to choose Torah and the Land of Israel not only for means of survival, but to bring redemption to the world. In this manner, we will merit, with God’s help, the building of the Holy Temple and the coming of the Mashiach, speedily in our days.

'V'Nafachu' (On the Contrary)

When the Month of Adar Enters

Our Sages have said (Ta’anit 29a): “When the month of Adar enters, we increase our joy.” Everyday joy is over the good in the world; however, this happiness is threatened due to the evil and pain which remains in the world. Nevertheless, when the evil itself becomes good, joy increases. This is what happened on Purim – God turned the evil into good and saved His nation, Israel. It became clear that, precisely in the merit of Haman’s harsh decree, the Jewish nation repented, Mordechai was appointed viceroy to King Ahashverosh and was able to continue the building of the Second Temple, and the Jewish nation became established in the Land of Israel. From all this we learned that everything that happens in this world, even seemingly bad, in the end, will turn into good. And since the unique quality of the month of Adar is to turn evil into good, “when the month of Adar enters, we increase our joy”.

Judea and Samaria – Purim-Style

Our present situation in Judea and Samaria can also be viewed with a Purim-style outlook, seeing how things that seem bad, turn into good. Take for example the mitzvah of settling the Land of Israel. To our great dismay, many Jews are not aware of the full validity of the Heavenly guarantee of God’s promise of the Land of Israel to our forefathers and us, and that by means of this promise, redemption and blessing would spread throughout the world, as the Prophets have said. Consequently, facing Arab threats of war and pressure from the rest of the world, many Jews are ready to retreat from parts of our holy land in return for promises of a halting of international pressure on Israel and the prevention of future wars. This, in spite of the fact that history has proven that such promises carry no real guarantees, and that the most important factor that prevents war is the acknowledgment of the power of the State of Israel, and that, conversely, withdrawals are likely to increase the appetite of our enemies to continue striving towards their final goal – the destruction of the State of Israel, God forbid. And although it is clear to almost everyone that even if we sign the agreements offered by the nations of the world, we will not see true peace in the near future, nevertheless, the hope that the State of Israel will be able to remove from itself the pressures and threats causes many Jews to agree to up-root settlements and endanger the deterrent force of the State of Israel.

And lo and behold, we find left-wing people who, indeed, are relatively small in number, but carry significant weight in the worlds of academia and the media, both in Israel and throughout the world, many of whom convincingly claim that all of the State of Israel’s problems stem from the establishment of the settlements. Thus, in their opinion, the Government of Israel must freeze the building of all houses in Judea and Samaria, not only to achieve peace, but also to prevent the occupation and expulsion of the Arabs. Some of the left-wingers even claim that the State of Israel must compensate the Arabs for the mere fact of our own existence, and to allow a significant number of refugees to return to within the ‘Green Line’ borders. In such a situation, it is almost impossible to reach any type of an agreement with the Arabs. What Arab would agree to receive less than what even the left-wing Jews agree they should receive? As we know, a proud Arab is always meant to demand more. And Netanyahu and Olmert, who would have loved to already sign on a withdrawal agreement, realize that the proposals up for discussion are so dangerous to the security of Israel, that they cannot be accepted. Thus, every attempt for an agreement on withdrawal crumbles before it reaches the final stage.

The Influence of the Left – ‘V’Nafachu’

Even if the cunning politicians, Israeli and American, succeed in creating a smokescreen to cover up the true demands of the Arabs, and promise the Jews that, in the merit of their withdrawal from parts of their homeland, they will be able to guard the Jewish identity of the State, immediately the left-wingers appear on the stage, fighting for the rights of the Israeli Arabs citizens. They blame those who speak out against Arab crime as being racists, attack the Jewish National Fund for not selling land to the Arabs, attack rabbis who want to protect the unique Jewish character of Israel’s cities. They fight for additional allocations of resources and extra rights for the Arabs, despite the fact that the Arabs don’t share in the security burden. Your average person asks himself: “If this is how the leftists attack the rabbis and public figures who try to protect the Jewish character of our cities, what exactly do they mean when they promise that by withdrawing, we will be able to guard the Jewish character of the State?” The answer is clear: Withdrawal from Judea and Samaria is also capitulation from the Jewishness of the State.

Jewish Spiritual Independence – ‘V’Nafachu’

The spiritual independence of Judaism is also in danger, facing the tremendous potency of Western culture, which like a giant river, washes away various standpoints. If we were in complete agreement with our Torah, we would be able to scrutinize this wonderful culture honestly, to praise its good aspects, and criticize the bad, thereby improving the world and being a light unto the nations. The Torani public, which strives to improve the world (‘tikun olam’), does not attempt to erect a sealed wall between itself and Western culture; but currently, in the absence of a deep and broad Torah doctrine which draws its essentiality from the ‘Torah of the Land of Israel’, it finds itself struggling to guard its spiritual independence. Without this independence, we will never merit making the Torah great and glorious, and fulfill our mission. And lo and behold, in the ‘merit’ of the difficult and painful attacks in the name of ‘liberal values’ on the Torani public and its rabbis, a defensive wall is created, guarding from the influence of the Western culture. Consequently, the religious public, and to a certain extent, also most of Israeli society, is immunized from the influence of the media and non-religious culture.

The Authors Boycott

For example, according to the basic position of the religious and Torani public, which supports openness and the acceptance of good from all people — all the more so from Jews, even if they are not religious – the left-wing authors could have had a tremendous influence. However, when the majority of them joined the boycott on the city of Ariel, and makes every attempt to condemn the rabbis and the settlers, a protective barrier is created from their influence. The religious and traditional public is personally acquainted with the rabbis and settlers, and knows that they are quite ethical people. When they hear the authors condemning them as being terrible, they say to themselves: “These leftists are totally out of their minds; their hate has driven them crazy”. Thus, the authors influence on the public dissipates.

Indeed, it is true that from the outset, it would have been beneficial to learn from the good within these authors. However, under the present circumstances where the majority of the public lacks the ability to select the good from the bad, the authors came and damned themselves in such a way that, even those who continue to read their books do so with grave hesitation. Once again, we have found ‘nafachu’ (on the contrary): how the authors boycott benefits the independent development of the Torani public.

Skepticism towards the Holiness of the Nation and Land

Even the irritating skepticism of the non-religious left towards the holiness of the nation and the Land has its good side, for by means of it, students of Torah are required to delve deeper in the Torah and various areas of knowledge. Without this, we would be satisfied with trivial, insufficient explanations, which, as we see, lack the ability to elevate the entire nation.

Best Possible Scenario

Nevertheless, we must remember that the idea of ‘nafachu’ is not enough. Even after the miracle of Purim, the complete redemption did not arrive. We still remained the slaves of Achashverosh, for when we arrive at the good only because we have run away from the bad, the redemption remains a partial one. Still, it enables us to continue to build ourselves spiritually and physically, to make the Torah great and glorious, to settle Judea and Samaria, to build a moral society, to investigate the various cultures with a positive and critical eye, to choose Torah and the Land of Israel not only for means of survival, but to bring redemption to the world. In this manner, we will merit, with God’s help, the building of the Holy Temple and the coming of the Mashiach, speedily in our days.

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!”

The Good Land

Judea and Samaria or the Negev

Question: The mitzvah to settle the Land of Israel relates to all of the land. With all due respect, Rabbi, why do you specifically encourage settling Judea and Samaria?

Answer: Indeed, the mitzvah of settling the Land of Israel exists in all of the borders of the land. This mitzvah is so great that the Sages permitted the purchase of a house from a non-Jew even on the Sabbath. This ‘heter’ (permission) is valid even if the purchase is made in Syria, as the Sages said (Tractate Gitin 8a):”One who purchases a field in Syria is similar to one who makes a purchase in the suburbs of Jerusalem.” There is no other mitzvah which the Sages permitted transgressing the prohibition of ‘shvut’ (rabbinical enactment) other than settling the Land of Israel. Nevertheless, it is important to know that there are differing levels of fulfilling the mitzvah, and the virtue of settling Judea and Samaria is on a higher level due to the fact that they are the heart and center of the land. It’s not by chance that the main dwelling place of our forefather’s, and the awesome, prophetic events took place in Judea and Samaria.

Similarly, we have learned that when there was a famine in the land, and our forefather Isaac was forced to leave the center of the country (Judea). God said to him: “Remain undisturbed in the land” – meaning that although the land of Philistine is less sacred, nevertheless, it is still considered part of the Land of Israel. And as Rashi wrote (Genesis 26:12): “Isaac farmed in the area – although it was not as important as the Land of Israel itself.”

Additionally, we are commanded that the land be under our sovereignty and not abandoned to another nation, therefore it is a greater mitzvah to settle unpopulated areas, so they remain under our control, and not be given to another nation, God forbid.

The Land of Israel in this Week’s Torah Portion

“There was a famine in the land,” and our forefather Isaac had already contemplated going down to Egypt till it was over. “God appeared to [Isaac] and said, “Do not go down to Egypt. Remain undisturbed in the land that I shall designate to you. Remain an immigrant in this land. I will be with you and bless you, since it will be to you and your offspring that I will give all these lands. I will thus keep the oath that I made to your father Abraham” (Genesis 26:2-3). Although according to the letter of the law, Isaac could have gone down to Egypt, he was commanded not to, for he was considered an ‘olah temima’ (unblemished offering), and it wasn’t fitting for him to leave the Land of Israel (Bereshit Rabbah 64:3).

In the merit of steadfastly holding on to the land despite all the difficulties, comes the merit of being fruitful and multiplying, as the Torah further states: “I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars of the sky,” and this consequently leads to the merit of settling all the wide expanses of the land, as it written: “And grant them all these lands.” Out of this, blessing is brought to the entire world, as the verse continues: “All the nations on the earth shall be blessed through your descendants.”

Similarly in our times, those who are engaged in the mitzvah of settling the Land of Israel merit raising large families. However, like all heavenly blessings, in order to receive it, a small effort must be made. There are those who, in spite of the gates of blessing being open before them, refuse to accept it.

Settling the Land

The Sages said: “What is the meaning of ‘schon b’aretz’ (dwell in the land)? Make a ‘schuna’ (neighborhood) in the land. Sow and plant trees” (P’sikta 26:2). This is exactly what Isaac did: “That year, he reaped a hundred times [as much as he sowed], for God had blessed him” (Genesis 26:12). Afterwards, he re-dug the wells that his father had previously dug and had been plugged-up by the Philistines. And even though the Philistines also quarreled with him, he did not despair from settling the land, and continued to dig wells and strengthen his grasp on the land: “He then moved away from there and dug another well. This time it was not disputed, so he named it ‘Rechovot’ (wide spaces). Now God will grant us wide open spaces,” he said. “We can be fruitful in the land.” Indeed, in the merit of strengthening himself in the mitzvah of settling the land, “God appeared to him that night and said, “I am God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you. I will bless you and grant you very many descendants because of My servant Abraham.” As a result of this, Isaac increases his effort to fulfill the mitzvah, and although he already possesses one well, he continues to search for more water and establish more neighborhoods, until his servants successfully dig an additional well: “[Isaac] named the well Shibah. The city is therefore called Beer-sheba to this very day” (Genesis 26).

Torah Study or Profession

A ‘Talmud Torah’ teacher asked me: Should we encourage all students to remain in yeshiva and study Torah all their lives, this being the loftiest goal, or should we compromise with reality and tell the students that all professions are acceptable from the outset?

My answer to him was: How can one learn the verses of the Torah and tell his students that it is proper for every Jew to learn Torah his entire life? How can he explain to them what is written about our forefather Isaac sowing, plowing, and planting? How will they interpret the verse: “He [Isaac] then continued to prosper until he became extremely wealthy. He had flocks of sheep, herds of cattle, and a large retinue of slaves… he re-dug the wells…” (Genesis 26:13-18)? Or what is written about our forefather Abraham, that he “was very rich, with livestock, silver and gold” (Genesis 13:2). “[Abraham] planted a tamarisk tree in Beer-sheba” (Genesis 21:33)? How will they explain the actions of our forefather Jacob, who diligently guarded Laban’s sheep for twenty years – “By day I was consumed by the scorching heat, and at night by the frost, when sleep was snatched from my eyes,” so that not one sheep would abort, nor one lamb be devoured, and that they always have food and water. If there is no value for all this work, why does the Torah speak about it?!

Rather, students should be taught to cleave to Torah and mitzvoth and beyond the basic study shared by all and the obligation to set specific times to learn Torah, each person should be engaged in ‘tikun olam’ (rectifying the world) in the field which is most appropriate for him. If we do not educate in this manner, we will be forced to distort and twist verses of the Torah and the teachings of the Sages.

Consolation in the Building of the Land

Comfort in the Purchase of the ‘Cave of the Patriarchs’

After successfully passing the trial of the ‘Akeda’ (the binding of Isaac), Abraham our forefather returned home and had to cope with another trial. Sarah our foremother, Abraham’s loyal companion, who accompanied him on all his journeys, experiencing together the great revelations — and also the sufferings and disappointments — passed away. None of his contemporaries remained alive. He had left his family and friends behind in Ur Casdim and Haran in order to follow in the ways of God. Together with Sarah, they drew people closer to God by inspiring them with faith and morals, but they really didn’t have very close friends. He was called ‘Avraham Ha’Ivri’ (Abraham from the other side) – for all the world was on one side, and Abraham and Sarah on the other (Bereshith Rabba 41). And now, he remained grief-stricken and alone. He could have sunk into remorse and lost his senses, but instead, Abraham receives consolation in the deepest way a Jew can be comforted – in the building of the Land of Israel. He channels his personal grief towards the purchase of the first inheritance in the land.

The Canaanites, the children of Heth, show great respect for him; they are willing to allow him to bury Sarah wherever he wants. However, under no circumstances are they prepared to sell him a plot, lest he take hold of the land. Therefore, when Abraham approaches Ephron, Ephron raises the price to a ridiculously high figure, assuming that Abraham would prefer to bury Sarah without charge. However, Abraham immediately agreed to pay the set price. Ephron, embarrassed to change his mind and his lust of money overcoming him, sells the Cave of the Patriarchs and the surrounding field to Abraham our forefather.

There, in the Cave of Machpela, he buried the righteous Sarah, thus determining the Jewish nation’s possession of the Land of Israel for eternity.

Ever since, mourners are consoled by the traditional Jewish expression of condolence: “May God comfort you amongst the other mourner’s for Zion and Jerusalem”. For if a Jew merits contributing something to rectify the world, his life was not in vain, and he thereby joins the universal stream of life, which strives towards the building of Zion and Jerusalem, and bringing closer the Redemption. There is no comfort greater than this.

The Promise and its Actualization

The Land of Israel has belonged to the Jewish nation since the time when God promised it to Abraham and his progeny: “I will give this land to your offspring” (Genesis 12:7), “I will give it to you and to your offspring forever” (ibid, 13:15). However, “God desired to grant merit to Israel; that is why He gave them the Torah and the commandments in such abundance”. Therefore, the promise is actualized only through the fulfillment of the mitzvah of settling the Land, which obliges us to make an effort with all our might to conquer the Land and settle it.

Just as God gave us the Torah as a gift, but nevertheless, in order to learn and acquire the Torah we must study it diligently and with great effort, similarly, we must work diligently and strive to fulfill the mitzvah of settling the Land of Israel. The greater the mitzvah, the more effort is required to fulfill it. This is what Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai said: “God gave three precious gifts to Israel, and they are all acquired through trials and tribulations. They are: Torah, the Land of Israel, and the World to Come” (Talmud Berachot 5a).

“The actions of the father’s are a sign for the son’s”. From the actions of Abraham our forefather, who, even in difficult and complicated times, invested a fortune to take hold of the Land of Israel, we also must learn a lesson for our own times – not to spare money or efforts in order to purchase the Land of Israel and build more houses. How great are the actions of the settler’s living on the mountains of Judea and Samaria who merit fulfilling this mitzvah – causing the desolate mountains to blossom, and realizing the vision of the Redemption which the Prophet’s spoke of. If only they knew just how great this mitzvah really is, they would double their efforts to build more houses and increase the number of families and children.