The Torah clearly states it in so many ways: Nobody belongs in the Land of Israel more than the Jewish people!
This week we read a double Torah portion, the portions of Behar and Bechukotai (Leviticus 25:1-27:34). While the first portion makes for some routine reading, as it deals primarily with agricultural and real estate law, the second portion is somewhat more moving and awakening.
The portion of Bechukotai is all about reward and punishment. God promises that if the Jewish people observe the Torah, they will be blessed and dwell securely in the Land of Israel. But if they fail to observe the law, all types of punishment and exile await…and the Torah lists them all!
Rabbi Moses Nachmanides, known as the Ramban, offers some fascinating insights into the verses of punishment. He argues that all the punishments predicted in Bechukotai for non-observance of the Torah were already fulfilled!
For example, the Ramban interprets the verse, “God will return you to Egypt in boats,” to be referring to the days of the evil Titus, when the Jews were loaded onto boats and shipped as slaves to Egypt. So, too, the verse, “The King which you will appoint over yourself…” refers to Agrippa, the monarch who was not worthy.
In one last example, the Ramban says that the verse, “I will make desolate the Land, and your enemies who dwell upon it will be desolate,” is not a curse, but iactually a blessing! How so? He explains that our Holy Land will not accept our enemies. When the Jews lived in the Land of Israel, it was fertile and its produce was abundant. But whenever the Jews were not there, the land was desolate and inhospitable!
Rabbi Yissachar Frand points out that according to the Ramban, one who wants to be a believer need look no further than the Land of Israel! Look what happened here for 2000 years when it was occupied by the Romans, the Arabs, the Turks and the British. It had previously been a beautiful and fertile land, but under foreign dominion it became the most desolate. The Torah is essentially telling us that the land does not accept any nation other than the Jewish people as its master. This is the meaning of the verse, “Your enemies will be desolate upon it.”
For example, Rabbi Frand continues, imagine if the American Indians told the federal government, “We made a silly mistake 200 years ago. We sold Manhattan Island to you at rock-bottom price – $24. We realize that you’re entitled to a profit, so we’ll give you $48 for Manhattan.” Or what if they would offer 48 million dollars? Or 48 billion dollars? Guess what? There would be no sale. What has happened to Manhattan Island in those 200 years? Considering its value now, there is no way the government would ever give it back.
Imagine if other nations had been successful in making the Land of Israel profitable. Imagine if in 1948, it was a beautiful and productive land rather than what appeared to be a worthless strip of land in the middle of the desert, hard like iron, where it seemed nothing would grow. Would the British have consented to returning it to the Jewish People? Yet this is Divine Providence, as promised by the Torah in this week’s Torah portion.
Looking at the Middle East, we see that Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iraq and Yemen all have oil. Even Egypt has oil. How is it that from our Holy Land, the choicest of all lands, we cannot squeeze a drop of oil? What would have been in 1948 if the British were sitting on Saudi Arabia? Or on Kuwait? Obviously, they would not have been so eager to give black gold to the Jews.
Clearly, the Land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people.
For more insights by Rabbi Ari Enkin on this week’s Torah portions, click on the links below: