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If you choose to live here and be part of it!

By: Rav Ari Shvat

BH                                        Parshat Va’Etchanan/Nachamu                           Rav Ari Shvat (Chwat)


The Torah Is Geared for One Who Lives in Eretz Yisrael


We all know that most of the mitzvot in the Torah can only be fulfilled in Eretz Yisrael,[1] but we find in this week’s parsha that even those that can be observed outside of Israel, are really meant to be done in Israel. "ראה למדתי אתכם חוקים ומשפטים... לעשות כן בקרב הארץ אשר אתם באים שמה לרשתה", “Behold, I have taught you statutes and do in the Land where you are going to possess” (Dvarim 4, 5). [2]

The Torah is clearly worded for someone living in Israel. For example, we all know the pasuk (or at least the song!), "ופרצת ימה וקדמה צפונה ונגבה", “and you shall spread west (“yama”), east, north and south (“negbah”)” (Breishit 28, 14). Yama, westward, literally means “towards the sea”, because in Israel, the great Mediterranean Sea is in the west. Negba, southward, literally means “towards the Negev”, because in Israel the Negev is in the south. Sometimes southward is also called Teimana (Dvarim 3, 27), because Teiman (Yemen) is south of Israel.

One would think that “the other side of the Jordan” depends on which side you are standing, and changes accordingly. But we find that even when Moshe is standing on the east bank of the Jordan, it’s referred to as “the other side of the Jordan” (Dvarim 3, 8), because the reader (!) is meant to be on the west side of the Jordan (Eretz Ca’naan), in the Land of Israel.

We read last week that Chavot Yair is called by that name “until this very day” (Dvarim 3, 14). A similar phrase is used regarding Be’er Sheva, Kever Rachel, and other places in Israel (e.g. Breishit 26, 33; 35, 20). This term (“it’s still called…. until this very day”) implies that it’s significant that the names of these places haven’t changed even over many centuries. This is a logical statement regarding Be’er Sheva, and Kever Rachel, because when the Torah was given, it’s about 400 years after the places were named in the time of the avot. But Chavot Yair just received its name several days or weeks before the end of the Torah, so what’s the big deal that “it’s still called…. until this very day”. That over several weeks its name hasn’t been forgotten?!

But based on what we said, it’s totally logical. If the Torah is worded towards the eternal reader (!) in Eretz Yisrael, and not towards the receiver at the time (!) of the Torah’s giving, there’s logic in the expression of significance, that “it’s still called Chavot Yair until this very day”, i.e. even today, 3,000 years later, I can still look at a map and see, or ask a taxi-driver to take me to Beer Sheva, Kever Rachel or Chavot Yair, and he’ll know what I’m talking about!

All this was theoretical until our time-period, when BH, we can once again, reside where the Torah means for us to be: living as the Jewish Nation, in the Jewish State, in the Land of Israel, and speaking Hebrew- the Jewish language, just as our fore-fathers did 3,000 years ago, and just like our great-great grandchildren will be, 3,000,000 years from now. That is, if you choose to live here and be part of it!

[1] Maharal, Gur Aryeh, Breishit 1, 1.

[2] See similarly Dvarim 4, 14; 5, 28; 6, 1. In fact, our sages tell us that practicing mitzvot in the galut is not the goal of Judaism but just a preparation so that we don’t forget how to observe them when we return home, to Israel, see Sifre, Rashi, Ramban, and R. B’chaye on Dvarim 11, 18. It should be stressed that this idea is often mistakenly attributed to the Ramban, while the true source, as mentioned above, is in the Torah itself, and in the oral law of chazal, in the Midrash Halacha (Sifre). The Chafetz Chaim, who yearned and even bought land in Israel to make Aliya, says that the very same mitzva when done outside, brings only 5% of the reward one receives for its observance in Israel, where it is meant to be done.





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