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Ha'Aretz Asher Areka: Part 2


In this next part of the series of excerpts from Rav Shnayor Burton's sefer, read about the connection between appreciating Eretz Yisrael and Geulah.

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R’ Yehuda HaLevi asserts that the root sin that hinders the return of the Shechinah to its nation is the sin of the Jewish people in neglecting to seek out the land.

The return of Divine Providence to the Children of Israel depends solely on the Children of Israel themselves: If they would only prepare themselves with a powerful pursuit of Zion, to make it the house of their life, then indeed the Shechinah would return to dwell in their midst, just as it would have returned had they all consented willingly to leave the Babylonian exile in the days of the Second Temple.

“You shall arise and have mercy upon Zion, for it is time to favor her, the set time has come. For Your servants take pleasure in her stones and embrace her dust thereof” (Psalms 102:14-15). This means that Jerusalem will only be rebuilt when Israel yearns for it to such an extent that they embrace her stones and dust.

Our exile is not due to some extraneous sin, nor is our redemption dependent on repentance from it – but rather everything depends on our stance toward Zion and Jerusalem itself. The rejection of the cherished land is the root of the distance between us and Hashem, and the desire for it serves as the root of the closeness for which we yearn.

What is the source for this novel idea? It can be derived from the story of the spies. For the exile – from the land, when the Temple was destroyed – was already decreed from then, as is written: “They rejected the cherished land and didn’t believe His word… He raised His hand to fell them in the desert and to fell their seed in the nations and to scatter them among the lands” (Psalms 104:24-26); Chazal also asserted that the exile was decreed then, as a punishment for the sin of the spies: ‘”And the people cried that night’ (Numbers 14:1); said Hashem: ‘You cried for no reason, and I will establish a cry for all generations’” (Taanis 29a). Yet the destruction decreed from days of old is also attributed to the 3 cardinal sins, as Chazal said: “Why was the first Temple destroyed? Because of the 3 things that were in it: idolatry, incest and murder” (Yoma 9b). How do the two sources comport? Which sin caused destruction and exile – the sin of the spies or the 3 cardinal sins? The answer is that they are one and the same: rejecting the holy land leads to all sins; it is the root that grows into poison which leads to forgetting Hashem and forgetting His commandments, and upon it all religion depends.

For in truth, “Whoever resides in Eretz Yisrael remains free from sin” (Kesubos 111a); even so, the Children of Israel sinned throughout the hundreds of years that they resided in EY. How could that be? How did EY not protect them, as promised? It must be that their residence in EY was imperfect since they didn’t properly appreciate the benefits of Eretz Yisrael and its holiness, and this from the time of the sin of the spies.

As the prophet said: Son of man, the House of Israel resides on their soil and have contaminated it through their ways… And I have poured my wrath on them for the blood they spilled on the land and have contaminated it with their fetishes. I scattered them among the nations, and they were dispersed through the countries: I punished them in accordance with their ways and their deeds. But when they came to those nations, they caused My holy name to be profaned, in that it was said of them, “These are the people of the LORD, yet they had to leave His land.” (Ezekiel 36:17-20)

The sin and the decree of dispersion among the nations that follows in its footsteps – all derive from not valuing the holiness and purity of the land. Had the Children of Israel understood the holiness of the land, they would never have sinned and contaminated it.

It follows that there is a moral obligation of the highest order to cherish the land and desire it, even if there isn’t an explicit command in the Torah to reside in Eretz Yisrael. Otherwise – Jerusalem will not be rebuilt.

In this way is the matter summarized in the “Charedim”:

Every Israelite must cherish Eretz Yisrael and come to it from the edges of the earth like a son to his mother’s lap, for the beginning of our sins that was established as a cry for all generations was due to our rejecting it, as it says: “They rejected the cherished land,” and about the redemption of our souls – may it speedily occur – it says: “For your servants take pleasure in her stones and embrace her dust thereof,” and there it says: “You shall arise and have mercy upon Zion.”

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