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May 10, 1991 - Image 77

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-05-10

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Eretz Yisrael:

A Place To Live According To 'His' Torah


I have the good fortune of
working with teen-agers. Teen-agers
love to ask difficult questions for
which they want fast, simple
answers. My job is to try to answer
these questions in a way that is
long enough to convey substance,
yet, short enough to hold their
Recently I was asked, "What
right do the Jewish people have in
claiming the land of Israel as their
own?" (anyone want to switch
jobs?). The question can be
answered from a historical point of
view, a military point of view, a
political point of view and from a
religious point of view. It is the latter
perspective I would like to share
with you.
Perhaps the most common
mistake made today is when Jews
claim to "own the land of Israel."
We don't own Israel, God does.
Eretz Yisrael is nachlas Hashem,
God's lot, and we are here as
"strangers and sojourners for the
land is Mine." The Sforno explains
that Eretz Yisrael is not included in
the principle of "And the earth He
gave to man," (Sforno Vayikra 25).
Based on this Sforno, the Alei Shur

Religious Jews see the
fact that Jews presently
control the land of Israel
as a clear mandate from
God that we belong
there; should it be
otherwise we would
have been kicked out
long ago!

comments that while the fruits of
the land are ours, the land itself is
Rashi, the most famous of all
biblical scholars, echoes this idea in
his commentary on the first
sentence in the Torah, Beraishit,
when he says the Torah should
have begun with the first mitzvah
given the Jewish people, that of
establishing the new month. Why
does it begin with the story of
creation? He answers that God
created the world and can give
whichever portion He wants to
whomever He chooses. If the other
nations tell Israel: You are thieves,
who took away the land of the
seven nations," we should answer:
"God created the world. He may
take and give lands to nations as
He sees fit (Genesis 1:1).

Religious Jews see the fact that
Jews presently control the land of
Israel as a clear mandate from God
that we belong there; should it be
otherwise we would have been -
kicked out long ago! (This point of
view is certainly supported by the
seemingly endless miracles that
happen to the Jews in Israel, the
most recent being the relatively little
damage done by Iraq's Scuds.)
The idea that "God does what
He sees fit," is a factual explanation
of real world events. Nevertheless,
there is a much stronger emotional
connection to Israel felt by every
Jew. We learn in the Yalkut Shimoni
that "God measured all the lands
and found Eretz Yisrael the one
perfectly suited to the Jewish
The Midrash on the book of
Numbers explains, "God told
Moses: This land is dear to me, and
the people of Israel are dear to me
... let Me bring the people who are
dear to the land which is dear."
We must ask, why is one piece
of earth more suitable for the

Jewish people than another? What
is the connection between B'nai
Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael? The
Chaver in the Kuzari answered a
similar question this way:
"We have no difficulty
accepting that a country is unique
in some respect. You see that
specific places are more conducive
to the growth of certain types of
plants, minerals and animals, and
the inhabitants have a characteristic
appearance and temperament. A
particular mountain might be the
best place for a vineyard because of
the unique qualities of both and
mountain and the seeds of the
plants. So, too, God's chosen
people cannot truly grow and
sustain themselves in the best way
when not in God's chosen land."
One of the Maskilim, writing in
the journal HaMelitz after
Bulgaria achieved independence
from the Turks, expressed the hope
that one day we, the Jews, would
also be like Bulgaria, a nation
among nations. When the passage
was read to the great sage, the

Chofetz Chaim, Rabbi Israel Meir
HaCohen, he cried: "Was our blood
spilled for 1800 years so that we
could reach the level of the
Bulgarians? The Torah states, "Your
God shall bring you to the land
which your fathers possessed and
you shall possess it, and He will
better you and multiply you more
than your fathers."
The Chofetz Chaim presents
the most compelling argument any
religious Jew has for living in Israel.
God provides His people with a land
in which they have the ability to live
life according to His Torah. A place
where the ethics, the morality, the
uniqueness which have kept the
Jewish people alive during the long
Diaspora can be observed and
fulfilled without fear of being
ostracized, or condemned. God has
given Jews a place where we can
be Jewish, without compromise,
without fear, and without persecution.

Rabbi Cohn is director, Central East
Region of National Conference of
Synagogue Youth.



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