"For HaShem your G-d is bringing you to a good land..."
Moshe rabbenu, (Moses our master), in this week's Torah reading, (Eikev, Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25), continues to prepare the children of Israel for their entrance into the promised land. He delivers on G-d's behalf a security guarantee, stating that Israel will vanquish all her enemies, even though they are certainly more numerous than her, and appear to be menacing and formidable. But this ironclad guarantee is contingent upon one essential thing: Israel must perform all the commandments she received while in Sinai. In addition, Moshe informs them, all the daily miracles that G-d performed for them in the wilderness are about to cease, the manna from heaven, the clothes that neither tore, nor frayed, nor wore thin throughout forty years on the road, and even the Divine protection granted to the very feet upon which they walked the desert, which never grew swollen or raw; not a blister was raised, not a toe was stubbed. (ibid 8:3-4) But now, from the moment they cross the Jordan and set their feet upon the dry land west of the river, all that would end, at once and forever.
Is this really a step up, or is it a step down? It almost appears as if G-d plans to distance Himself, (G-d forbid), from the very children He brought forth out of Egypt. In truth it is a great step up, or what we might call today, a step up to the plate. For now, having weathered forty years in the desert wasteland, ("I remember to you the lovingkindness of your youth, the love of your nuptials, your following Me in the desert, in a land not sown" Jeremiah 2:2), Israel has finally reached the age of responsibility. What greater gift could G-d possibly bestow upon His people, but to enable them to be in charge of their own destiny, to make their own way in the world, to fend for themselves? This is the true beauty of the land of Israel. This is what imbues the rivers and valleys of Israel with their grandeur, the mountains with their majesty, and the fields of grain with their great bounty. This is what grants the fig trees of Israel their sweetness, and the grape vines their precious nectar.
Israel is the land of action, the land of this world. And in this world we are blessed with the opportunity to do and to build ourselves, our families, our communities and our nation. Of course, Moshe stresses, time and time again, all this bounty and all this blessing is contingent upon Israel's keeping G-d's commandments. For the entire purpose of the entire 613 commandments received at Sinai is that they be performed in the land of Israel. Israel is the arena, the only staging ground from which all the commandments can be carried out. From tithing our fruits to keeping the sabbatical year, to building the Holy Temple, Torah is plentiful with commandments that are applicable only in the land of Israel. Sages of Israel throughout the ages have stressed that the keeping of the commandments outside of the land of Israel is but a dry run for the real thing, keeping them within the land of Israel.
In the land of Israel we are promised that if we do keep G-d's commandments, both those that are to be kept between man and his fellow man, and those between man and G-d, then we will be blessed with abundant blessings. But it is rain falling down from heaven G-d promises, not manna, and not even the Holy Temple, which like all our other responsibilities in the land of Israel, is to be built from the ground up, aspiring to heaven, even as we provide for G-d His chief desire, to dwell amongst His children in this world. It is in the light of this spiritual proximity that the following verse not only describes an awe-inspiring reality, but beckons us, speaking to the deepest depths of our hearts and souls, which yearn for G-d's closeness, to enable G-d to take up residence once again, here in the land of Israel:
"But the land, to which you pass to possess, is a land of mountains and valleys and absorbs water from the rains of heaven, a land HaShem, your G-d, looks after; the eyes of HaShem your G-d are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year." (ibid 11:11-12)
Tune in to this week's TEMPLE TALK with Rabbi Chaim Richman and Yitzchak Reuven, as Rabbi Richman celebrates the 28th anniversary of his aliya to the Land of Israel, in the light of this week's Torah reading of Eikev's resplendent paean to the promised land. The Rabbi and Yitzchak wax eloquent and deliver a passionate plea – peppered with some begging, cajoling, and intimidation – to Diaspora Jewry: Let the words of this week’s parasha enter into your heart! Come home to Israel to live the lives that G-d intended for His people!