Friday, May 16, 2014

v'es ha'aretz ezkor - connection to the Land itself = teshuvah

When Rabbi Jonathan Sacks spoke this week in the Five Towns he pointed out that the source in Toras Kohanim for the concept of arvus is found in this week’s parsha.  The Tanaim darshened “v’kashlu ish b’achiv” to mean “ish b’avon achiv,” that each individual is held accountable for the sins of his fellow man. 

We know that the lives of the members of any community are to some degree intertwined.  “A rising tide lifts all boats,” as President Kennedy said.  When the economy is good, all benefit.  When a neighborhood is beset by crime and social problems, all members suffer.  This concept is not unique to the Jewish people.  The chiddush of arvus is that a Jew is responsible for his fellow Jew even when we do not live in the same neighborhood, the same economic conditions, the same cultural conditions.  It is davka in the context of tochacha, the description of running away into galus, each person going off to a different land, a different corner of the world, that the Torah comes and teaches that each Jew is dependent on the other and responsible for the other, no matter the differences in geography, culture, or language. 

Rabbi Sacks speech was sponsored by AIPAC.  One of the speakers who introduced him, a past president of AIPAC (their first frum president), mentioned that in travelling across the country he met Jews who had absolutely no connection with Torah, with a synagogue, with any other Jewish institution, and yet still identified strongly with and supported the State of Israel.  He didn’t quote this pasuk at end of the tochacha, but he could have: “V’zachari es brisi Ya’akov v’af es brisi Yitzchak v’af es brisi Avraham ezkor v’ ha’aretz ezkor.” (26:42)  Why are the Avos listed in reverse order?  R’ Ya’akov Moshe Charlap explained as follows:
V’zacharti es brisi Ya’akov” – if Klal Yisrael follows the model of Ya’akov Avinu, who embodied complete dedication to limud haTorah as well as the midos of the Avos who preceded him, then we will surely merit geulah;
V’af es brisi Yitzchak” – even if we do rise to the level of emulating Ya’akov, we can merit geulah because of our mesirus nefesh, the lives that have been sacrificed, following the model of Yitzchak who was willing to give his life;
 “V’af es brisi Avraham ezkor” – and even if we lack mesirus nefesh, what Jew is not willing to do chessed and give charitably, just as Avraham did? 
 V’ ha’aretz ezkor” – and even if there are Jews that have no connection at all to anything else, Jews who you would not recognize as bnei Avraham, Yitzchak, v’Ya’akov, they too can merit geulah simply because of their identification with and support of the Land of Israel.
I wrote last week about whether or not there is a need for teshuvah to bring about geulah.  Let me quote the Eim haBanim Smeiacha (II:8):
"Now, in our times, when even the lowest Jews have decided to return our homeland, giving their lives for it, refusing any other land, their actions are surely considered acts of teshuvah in G-d’s eyes.  They do not fulfill mitzvos because they were not brought up and not educated to be religious…  But the act of aliyah itself is certainly considered teshuvah, a fulfillment of the mitzvah of teshuvah.”
If Jews who have no connection to anything else appreciate Eretz Yisrael, is it not a kal v'chomer that those of us who pride ourselves on trying to emulate Avraham, Yitchak, and Ya'akov should have at least as strong a love of Eretz Yisrael and connection to Eretz Yisrael as others?

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful vort from Rav Charlop. But no, it's not a kal vachomer. Perhaps the less spiritual you are, the more connection you feel to geography. The bond to the Jewish people is one thing, to a land is another.