Shelach: The Blockade Against Eretz Yisroel

Well, I hope everybody has learned their lesson… again. According to the world, a Jew's life is for the taking.

Yesterday, Israeli commandos, enforcing a blockade against Gaza, boarded ships carrying "peace activists". The primary weapons carried by the commandos were paintball guns and each had a sidearm, just in case. While on video, released on the internet, you can clearly see these "peace activists" attacking the commandos with clubs, explosives and other weapons, seriously wounding several of them. Some of the commandos had their sidearms stripped from them, and it was very clearly a matter of self defense when they used lethal force. Just seeing the videos released by the IDF makes it 100% clear what was going on.

The world's reaction? How dare Israel do that? It would have been better that the commandos let themselves be killed then defend themselves.

There are two ways of looking at this. One is via depression, which is very easy to slip into. When something so simple and so obvious happens, and the world turns a blind eye to it, it could drive a person insane. Or you look at it via the Torah and with emunah.

In this week's parsha, the spies came back from Eretz Yisroel and gave a rather gloomy picture of what the land is like. It's "a land that devours its inhabitants", they said. It's a land that we would not be able to survive in.

However, Yehoshua stood up and cried that it's a land that could be conquered and could be lived in. He begged the Jewish nation to put their faith in Hashem and to go in knowing that Hashem will clear their enemies before them.

It's interesting to note, that in this week's parsha Yehoshua was encouraging everybody to have strength to conquer Eretz Yisroel on the physical level. Yet, forty years later, when they are finally able to go in, Hashem tells Yehoshua to tell the nation, "Be strong and courageous for it is you who will cause this people to inherit the Land that I have sworn to their fathers to give them. Only be very strong and courageous, to observe, to do, according to the entire Torah... do not deviate from it to the right or to the left, in order that you may succeed wherever you go" (Joshua 1:6-7)

Rashi explains that "be strong and courageous" refers to the conquering of Eretz Yisroel on the physical level, while "be VERY strong and courageous" refers, obviously, to the keeping of the Torah.

While conquering and living in Eretz Yisroel is important, it is secondary to living according to the mandates of the Torah, and is only possible via living through the Torah.

I heard from my Rosh Yeshiva that when the spies complained that it's a land that "devours its inhabitants", it's referring to people who are stagnant in their growth. People who merely inhabit, or stay in one place, are not welcome. Only people who are Bnei Aliyah, people who strive for growth on whatever level they are currently at, can stay in Eretz Yisroel.

I saw recently a lesson from Rav Nachmun m'Breslov, who also explained that "devouring its inhabitants" is describing those who ARE Bnei Aliyah. When a person lives a life of Torah and growth in Eretz Yisroel, he will share and be a part of the holiness of the Land.

When news of the flotilla came out, a friend of mine was at the electric company dealing with a worker. The worker was sfardi and not religious. My friend said to him, "You know... the world is doing a great job with this". After a quizzical look from the worker he continues, "What? You think that it's their fault that this happened? No! It's ours! If we don't do our job, they will certainly do theirs! Only if we do our job properly will they back down". Being that he's sfardi, he accepted the lesson (ashkanizim would have made up excuses, but sfardim, even the non-religious, know the truth).

When Jews, even those who call themselves religious, are not growing, the world will come down on them. This was made EXTREMELY well this week. The IDF did their best to cover themselves in the public image. But that added up to absolutely NOTHING. The world sat by, watched a mob attack Jewish soldiers and complained bitterly that those soldiers defended themselves. They couldn’t refute what happened, but they complained nonetheless.

Jewish life? Never was worth much and still is not worth much, in the eyes of the world. Don't fool yourself into thinking that if you only do more "histadlus", effort, into pleasing the world, you'll be fine. You won't.

We cannot repeat this enough: The only real defense that Israel has is in the Torah. As we saw in the above quote, the key to maintaining Eretz Yisroel is via the Torah. Not via the politicians. Not via the army. Not via YouTube. Not via making our public image better.

I'm not sure what's going to happen in the near future. It's very possible that this will eventually blow over, but something tells me differently, and I hope I'm wrong (after all, my neighborhood is surrounded by Arabs on three sides). Things here could, G-d forbid, get quite hotter, now that the Arabs have been given the green light by the world. In fact, as I type, another two ships are being sent in to challenge the blockade. Now is the time to actually make a difference and fight back. That style of fighting is dependent on our growth in Torah. Perhaps this is a good time for all of us to do real introspection and see where we can improve our mitzvah observance in any which way. On top of that, we need to increase our tefillos, by either starting to daven a little, starting to come on time to davening, and increasing our concentration. Perhaps via this method, we can truly defend Eretz Yisroel from her enemies.

I hope we all have a successful and safe week, and a meaningful Shabbos.