The name conjures up, at least to the English-speakers that I know, a vast sigh of relief that the mourning period over the lack of a Beis Hamikdash and the lack of Hashem’s presence among us (the Shechinah) is over, and we can go back to our more-or-less normal lives. (Not to mention Woodbourne and a Shabbos Nachamu concert.)
This column will not directly be addressing that problem (I do hope that you realize that I have just described a problem). However, it seems to me that if the churban and all of its horrendous ramifications, everything that we have undergone in this tortuous galus, stems from a very initial root of a lack of appreciation of Eretz Yisroel (as the posuk says in Tehillim 106:24, “And they despised the desirable Land…” and we know that the spies’ primary sin was that of lashon hora regarding Eretz Yisroel), some small tikun, to help along the rebuilding and the ultimate geulah, should very well be to awaken our appreciation for the Land of Israel. And especially since those reading this article have probably been moser nefesh to move to Eretz Yisroel, it is even more vital to understand what we must accomplish here, and not chas vshalom settle back into our former lifestyles and goals.
Let’s start with basics.
Ramban, in the places where he discusses his opinion that it is a technical mitzvas assei (positive commandment) for every individual Jew to live in Eretz Yisroel… in all generations… even during the exile (the Ramban brings proofs to this; the matter is one of apparent dispute among the Rishonim – it must be noted that for most of our history since the churban, the question has been almost moot, since a mitzvas assei carries guidelines as to what lengths one must go to fulfill it, as opposed to a negative commandment, to which there is virtually no limit, and there is no question that those guidelines made the mitzvah inoperative until recent history), makes the point and stresses that the Jewish people must conquer the Land as well, not just live in it… and all parts of the Land (see Ramban Bamidbar 33:53 and Ramban Sefer Hamitzvos,
in the appendix “mitzvos the Rambam left out” mitzvah 4).
(The Ramban makes clear – saying it explicitly – that he is going beyond the mitzvah of clearing out the seven nations inhabiting Eretz Yisroel at the time of the Jews’ entering the Land. He says that the mitzvah (l’shitasoh) includes reclaiming barren land, cultivating it, and settling it (in lomdeshe terms, it is not only a din in the gavra to live there, but a din in the cheftsa of the land to be populated by Jews – if you understand this, you have passed Lomdus 101).
Why? What is the reason for this “manifest destiny” attitude? Where does this come from, what is the source, the reason, the rationale?
For this we have to see the Ramban Vayikra, 18:25.
Ramban writes, “The deep innermost secret of the matter is to be found in the verse, ‘When Hashem gave the nations of the world their inheritance… but Hashem’s portion is His people'” (Devarim 32:8-9). The idea being that Hashem certainly created everything, and controls everything, but the way He controls the nations of the world is through the appointment of ministers in the upper realms, empowering them to be in charge of carrying out His will towards the lower realms, and He placed one over each and every people to rule their affairs, and ministers above those powers, to rule over them… with the only ultimate authority from which all is derived, and flows, being of course Hashem.
However, regarding Eretz Yisroel, the center of habitation of the world (probably the Ramban refers to Europe, Africa, Asia, if you look at a map), Hashem’s heritage, He did not place over it any angels or ministers. And He designated it as an inheritance to His people who affirm Him, who are the descendants of the Patriarchs…and this is the meaning of the possuk “and I will be a G-d unto you” (Yirmiyahu 11:4), meaning that Hashem controls the Jewish people in Eretz Yisroel directly. And in order to be a proper receptacle for such hashgachah, we are especially forewarned to live in Eretz Yisroel in a more sanctified way… And this is the meaning of the Sages’ statement, ‘Anyone who dwells in Chutz La’aretz it is as if he has no G-d” (Kesuvos 110B).
Ramban continues: And it states (about Yehoshua’s army going into battle), “Forty thousand armed men… passed before Hashem for the battle (as if going out to do battle on Hashem’s behalf)” (Yehoshua 4:13), and, similarly in Divrei Hayamim I 22:18, “And the Land has been conquered before Hashem. ” Now (Ramban asks) in what sense did Bnei Yisroel conquer the land on behalf of Hashem – is not all His? Ramban quotes a Tosefta in Maseches Avoda Zara (5:2): As long as the Jews are living on the land, it is as if it is conquered by G-d… “for Eretz Yisroel is uniquely Hashem’s in the sense that there is no underling which is governing matters… and when the nations of the world, who are under the direct authority of powers that Hashem appointed to directly govern them physically control Eretz Yisroel, those powers have their authority here, as well.”
The Ramban goes on in this vein, at length.
What does all this mean? Is there, can there be, a difference in Hashem’s hashgachah over this world? The Ramban is clearly saying that there is – that there is more direct hashgachah pratis in Eretz Yisroel, and we are enjoined to “make that happen.”
Well, if so, what is it? How do we relate to this idea, make it meaningful to us and our children, and what do we do with this knowledge? This is so crucial, for it so very fundamental and essential to living here! And if we – myself included – have taken this step – what is expected of us?
continued next week…