Optimal Environment – Appreciating Eretz Yisrael: Holy Land, Holy People #3

18 06 2012

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Mrs. Shoshie Nissenbaum

The Arizal taught that the place where one lives has a spiritual effect. A society builds its unique aspects based on the physical place where it is located. This in turn influences the nation on a spiritual level. Chazal tell us that each land has an officer in heaven that guards it. The officer of Eretz Yisrael is Hashem himself. A Jew who lives in Israel receives his spiritual nourishment directly from Hashem. One who leaves the land is like a fetus straining the cord to move far away from its mother.

Every year when the parsha of Pinchas was read, the Lev Simcha would emphasize the greatness of the parsha, which describes the settling of the tribes in Israel and the different portions of the land that were given to each shevet. Zevulun was allocated territory near Haifa. Yehuda received the area of Yerushalayim and to the south and west. Each tribe received the portion of land that would bring them closest to Hashem.

The Baal Haturim quotes the Sifri, which says that Hashem showed Moshe all of Israel, the tunnels, the caves, and the buried treasures of silver and gold. Why did Hedo this? On a simple level it was to assure Moshe that He would fulfill the promise He made to the Jews to give them a bountiful land. But there’s a deeper explanation. When the Torah mentions treasures it refers to the heart of Eretz Yisrael. Kesef, silver, comes from the root word kisufim – longing. The treasure hidden in Israel is the yearning to serve Hashem.

The Shla Hakadosh wrote that a Jew should have an innate love for Israel and a deep desire to settle there just as a child longs to sit in his mother’s lap. Tisha B’av was given to us because we didn’t appreciate the land. The Jews rejected eretz chemda, the land of desire. The tikun (rectification) is to long for Eretz Yisrael with all our soul. “Ki ratzu avadecha et avaneha.” For your servants desired her stones. To appreciate the land one must yearn to kiss its dust.

Sefer Otzar Hayirah states, all the holiness of Klal Yisrael is in Eretz Yisrael. When a person purifies himself, it is as if he conquers a portion of the land. The evil inclination tells us, “Listim atem,” you are thieves. Israel doesn’t belong to you. Spirituality is beyond your grasp. You can never achieve perfection. Therefore, Hashem begins the Torah with Bereisheet and Rashi says, “The strengths of his deeds he told his nation.” Hashem assured us that the land would be given to us. Israel, and its associated spirituality, is our destiny.

Bilam, Balak, and Amalek attacked the Jews at great personal risk. They knew that if klal yisrael would come into Eretz Yisrael and keep the mitzvot haelyut b’aretz (commandments connected to the land), they would radiate holiness to the whole world, which would affect them too. Therefore, they risked their safety to prevent it.

A person who succeeds in coming to Israel, the source of holiness, has achieved victory over the yetzer hara. He accomplishes this through brazenness and stubbornness. The Shulchan Aruch says a person must be bold to serve Hashem. The Almighty has tremendous joy in us when we stand strong and don’t let anything move us away from sanctity.

The verse in Tehillim says, “Yerushalayim harim saviv la.” Yerushalayim is surrounded by hills. There are constant ups and downs. “V’Hashem saviv l’amo.” Hashem encircles us. He gives us the strength to overcome all obstacles.

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