Last week, we had a few days where the kids were in school and I was still off from kollel. So, of course, most of the time was spent taking care of things that needed to be taken care of. On the last day though, my wife and I treated ourselves to a half-day trip to the Golan Heights. Specifically, Gamla.
Gamla was a city destroyed by Vespian on his march to Yerushaliyim. It put Vespian in rather a bad mood, since, due to its natural defenses, it was hard to conquer. The interesting thing about Gamla though, is that it was discovered only 50 years ago. We KNEW of Gamla, but we had no idea where exactly it was.
My wife and I went to the museum in Katzrin, over a year ago, which had a lot on display from Gamla, and introduced us to the story. So, when we finally got there, we had a better understanding of what occurred. Two things really stood out. One was standing in the shul that they uncovered. It’s quite amazing to say Tehillim in one of the world’s oldest shuls. Especially when you know that 2000 years ago, it was packed with Jews saying the same Tehillim. The second is that if you look carefully, as my wife did, you can still find fragments of pottery strewn about.
One of the amazing things of living in Eretz Yisroel is the ability to SEE history and to live it, rather than simply reading it in books.
Okay, on to Torah!
Throughout this week’s parsha, in fact, throughout most of Sefer Bereishis, we see Hashem promising Avraham, Yitzchok, and Yaakov that their children will inherit Eretz Yisroel. This seems to be a bit odd, since nowhere does He promise that their children will be heavily involved with Torah and Mitzvos. It seems that Eretz Yisroel is the main promise. Yet this seems strange, since the Jewish nation has been in exile from Eretz Yisroel for 2000 years. And even now that we have the opportunity to live here, the amount of land that the Jews control, seems to diminish all the time. We see that it hasn’t been Eretz Yisroel that has held us together for so long, but only Torah!
Rav Shimshon Pincus answers that question for us. When a couple gets married, we bless them that they should build a “faithful, Jewish house.” This is the big bracha? That they should have a house? We know that it’s certainly possible for a couple to rent from a hotel and raise their children there if needed. What does it mean that they should have a “house”?
Obviously, when we say “house,” it does not mean literally a “house.” A house is four walls and a roof. It has a door, which is kept closed not only to keep people out, but to keep the privacy of the couple in. It is a place where the couple can be alone without outside distractions, to raise their children accordingly, and to grow and nurture each other. Eretz Yisroel, says Rav Pincus, is the Jewish house that we have with Hashem.
Yes, Torah and Mitzvos ARE the central part of Judaism. You can have Judaism without Eretz Yisroel, but you cannot have Judaism without Torah. And just as a house without commitment between the husband and wife, is not really a house, Eretz Yisroel, without commitment between the Jewish people and Hashem, is not really Eretz Yisroel.
When Hashem is promising Avraham, Yitzchok, and Yaakov Eretz Yisroel, He wasn’t simply promising some piece of real estate. He was promising a land where the Jewish people can work on their relationship with Hashem, without any outside distraction or influence. The bracha of Eretz Yisroel is really twofold. Not only does it include Eretz Yisroel, but it includes the ability to live Torah inside of Eretz Yisroel!
Have a wonderful Shabbos!