Behar : Eretz Yisroel. Why Not?

You know… the Shmittah year ended on Rosh Hashana.  My friends in the center of the country said that they barely noticed it, being that they have access to all sorts of fruits and vegetables that come from outside of Israel or produce from the Arabs.  Yet here, the stores are packed with fruits and vegetables throughout the year that are worked on by Jews and therefore forbidden to eat.  So, during the year we're limited to going to one small store with high prices.

FINALLY … the bigger stores have been bringing in kosher vegetables!  It's been a year and a half!  Fruits are still limited and I see that we have to check wines and canned vegetables very carefully for the next year or so.  But it's pretty crazy that Shmittah can last so long.

However, I can't complain.  Decades ago, there were hardly any fruits and vegetables at all.  So, I'll take a little inconvenience and higher prices.  And besides … it's a pretty limited mitzvah, both in time and space.  Not everybody gets to keep it, so I consider myself lucky.

"Speak to the Israelite people and say to them: When you enter the land that I assign to you…." (Vayikra 25:2).

The Ramban writes that the real acquisition of mitzvos is in Eretz Yisroel.  Among the many statements in the Gemara on Eretz Yisroel, the Gemara writes "Somebody who lives outside of Eretz Yisroel, it's as if he has no god" (Kesubos 110b).

So, a big question comes up.  If living in Eretz Yisroel is such a big thing, why is it for thousands of years, there was no real push to live here?  How is it that Jews for generations would prefer to "have no god" and not "really acquire" mitzvos?  Yes, there were individuals, but certainly nothing en masse, pushing the mitzvah of living in Eretz Yisroel!

Rav Pincus compares it to a recently married couple.  They don't have the money to buy a home, so they are stuck renting for a while.  While it's annoying to have to rent, the marriage isn't dependent on owning a house.  It's completely dependent on both the husband and wife working together to build a Jewish home.  So, if there is peace in the home, even without a physical house in their name, their family can still thrive.

However, if it's the opposite, where they do own a physical house, yet the bond between them is weak or worse, what good is the house?  Soon they will separate and the house will have to be sold!

The relationship between Hashem and the Jewish people is the main concern.  Eretz Yisroel is simply the house.  Yes, it is best to have both at once, but if the connection between Hashem and the Jewish people is weak, then what good does the house serve?

Intermarriage in the States is at an all-time high.  Jewish education in Israel (for the non-religious) is at an all-time low.  I remember having a conversation with an Israeli colonel who had no idea what a minyan was.  And intermarriage, which was once non-existent, is growing in Israel, thanks to the governments policy on "Who is a Jew."

So, while the mitzvah of living in Eretz Yisroel is a big mitzvah, it's really not like other mitzvos.  Each mitzvah seems to be independent of others.  A person who eats treif and puts on tefillin later in the day, gets the mitzvah of putting on tefillin.  A person who doesn't keep Shabbos, yet fasts on Yom Kippur, gets the mitzvah of fasting.  Yet, the mitzvah (or keeping) Eretz Yisroel, seems to be dependent on whether or not people are doing mitzvos properly--kind of a scary thought, and it would explain that general lack of "Zionism" over the centuries.

Have a great Shabbos!