Parshas Lech Lecha
Bordering on the Holy Land
G-d said to Avram, "Go from your land, your birthplace, and your father's
house, to the land which I will show you . . ." (Bereishis 12:1)
Rabbi Winston has to be in London, Nov. 22-29, b"H. Anyone interested in
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I have declared this the year of the land, the land being Eretz Yisroel.
Our history seems to have begun with it, and it seems that our history
will come to an end over it.
I do not think that the Knesset will do anything positively about it, and
my fellow Torah Jews will probably consider me totally off-the-wall, if
they don't already. However, so much is going on with respect to Eretz
Yisroel these days, and I suspect it is only just the beginning.
Indeed, not only did we surrender Gush Katif to the Arabs, but we are
watching them to what they do so well: destroy and look a gift horse in
his mouth. How silly was the world to think that the invading Arabs would
say to themselves, "Hey, this is a big test and the whole world is
watching us. Let's go in there and really make it work. Let's show them
and those Israelis that we can make the land bloom just as they did, and
just as beautiful as they made it."
Instead, they didn't care what the world would think about their approach
to land development, and instead they ravaged it. However, George Bush and
Condoleeza Rice (along with their supporters) are clearly of the
opinion, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again." And so they do,
at Jewish expense, with ongoing plans to surrender more of Eretz Yisroel
into the hands of those who know not what to do with her.
What is going on today with respect to Eretz Yisroel is nothing short of
historical, perhaps even hysterical, and I will quote, once again, from
Yechezkel to make my point.
The prophet said:
"It shall come to pass on that day, on the day that Gog shall come against
the Land of - Admas Israel," says the L-rd, G-d, "My fury shall rise up..." (Yechezkel 38:18)
What is interesting to note is the language of the posuk. Normally, when
Eretz Yisroel is mentioned in Tanach, it is called "Eretz Yisroel." Yet,
for some reason the prophet referred to Eretz Yisroel as Admas Yisroel -
the actual physical land of Israel. Why?
Furthermore, it seems from the posuk, that G-d's anger only begins against
Gog once he actually comes against the physical land of Eretz Yisroel, as
if that is the wake up call for Heaven in the struggle against the nations
of the world. How can that be?
On the other hand, if you look back over the last 2,000 years of Jewish
history, it does appear as if the gentiles have had their way with the
Jewish people, and gotten away with it. As it says in the Talmud:
Our Rabbis taught: When Rebi Yosi ben Kisma became ill, Rabbi Chanina ben
Teradion went to visit him. He said to him, "Chanina, my brother, do you
not know that this nation has been placed in power by G-d Himself, for she
has destroyed His house, burned His Temple, killed His pious ones, and
caused His good ones to perish, and she still continues to rule!" (Avodah
Not to mention the countless other atrocities against the Jewish people
since that time, and most recently, the extermination of six million Jews,
which pushed many Jews to ask the question, "Where is G-d? If we are His
people, why doesn't He protect us?" The gentiles, who have reviled and
inflicted so much suffering on the Jewish people for so many centuries
have stopped asking that question long ago.
In the beginning, G-d made Heaven and Earth. (Bereishis 1:1)
There is no question that the hand of G-d can be seen throughout the last
2,000 years, including the Holocaust. Stories abound of small and large
miracles that occurred in order to save individuals, and sometimes even
entire communities. However, for the most part they are hidden, meaning
that they are only apparent to the select few who experienced them or who
were sensitive enough to notice them. And, they certainly did not appear
as direct retribution against the perpetrators of evil against the Jewish
However, more recently events have occurred against those directly
responsible for coming against the physical land of Israel, apparent to
all though many wish to deny the connection. If it turns out to be true,
that the recent hurricanes and earthquakes are indeed directly connected
to the pressure put on Israel to surrender sections of Eretz Yisroel, or
rather, Admas Yisroel, then not only will we understand clearly
Yechezkel's choice of words, but something even more crucial: who Gog is
going to be.
For, the concept of Eretz Yisroel can go beyond the physical reality of
the land itself, but Admas Yisroel is specifically a geographical location
in the world. Thus, Yechezkel is saying: though a lot of nations will
attack Yisroel over the years, angering Me and forcing Me to save My
people from behind the scenes, Gog will be the nation that actually goes
against Admas Yisroel, at which time I will be angered in such a way as to
actually take action in a more overt way.
For those who undervalue the Land of Israel, this is difficult to accept.
For those who see no connection between the rejection of Admas Yisroel by
the Spies thousands of years ago and our present exile, it will also be
difficult to see how the current situation over Eretz Yisroel could be the
official wake-up call for Hashgochah Pratis to act out against the nations
responsible for taking land away from the Jews.
They'll just have to wait it out in order to learn that this is true, and
why it is so. However, if this is so, they may not have too long to wait.
Indeed, the very first Rashi on Chumash is very enlightening in this
respect. Amazingly, as Rashi points out, the Torah forsakes its primary
purpose of teaching about Torah and mitzvos to focus on the future issue
of the right of the Jewish people to Eretz Yisroel. The world had yet to
be fully created, Adam HaRishon had yet to exist, and the sin of eating
from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil is almost six whole days away
in the Creation story.
What's the first issue of the guidebook of Creation: the Divinely-ordained
Jewish right to the land of not only Eretz Yisroel, but Admas Yisroel.
Amazing, is it not, how the first issue of the Torah is the last issue of
Jewish history? Or, how G-d's first communication with Avraham Avinu, who
had already put his life on the line for his beliefs, was to command him
to make aliyah?
The fundamental difference between Eretz Yisroel and Admas Yisroel is
that, theoretically, the former can be just about anywhere in the world,
even Uganda. For, Eretz Yisroel is the land of Yisroel, that is, of the
descendants of Ya'akov Avinu, and that can be anywhere they choose to
settle down for good. Even a Jew living in the Diaspora who yearns with
his entire being to live in Eretz Yisroel, but is prevented from making
aliyah because of a more pressing mitzvah, can still have the status of a
B'nei Eretz Yisroel.
However, Admas Yisroel is one place and one place only in the world, the
land which was given to and walked throughout by Avraham Avinu. Its
intrinsic value and kedushah stem from its history and centrality in the
Creation process and the history that has been played out there ever
since, primarily because it is the Sha'arei Shamayim (the gateway to
Heaven) a reality that cannot be duplicated anywhere else in the world.
More importantly and to the point, unlike the concepts of other nations,
like Mitzrayim, for example, which alludes to an idea that can apply to a
people that does not live in Egypt, the underlying concept of B'nei
Yisroel is intrinsically tied to the land itself. And that's why it was
Ya'akov, and not Avraham or Yitzchak who had the dream of the ladder just
prior to leaving for Chutz L'Aretz.
And His land shall atone for His nation. (Devarim 32:43)
As always when it comes to Torah and especially Midrashim, there is the
Pshat, and then there is Sod, and it is the former that is the most
misleading. For, Pshat seems allegorical at best and does little to
connect the Jew to his land.Whereas, Sod tells us the fact of the matter
and how it applies to each and every Jew.
. . . Know that the "Ladder" is not physical, rather it is atmospheric.
It encompasses all of Eretz Yisroel, protecting it and preventing the
expansion of the Klipos into the Land. The width of this Ladder is four
cubits (about six feet) and its height is five hundred years. This Ladder
has many levels ascending from the earth up to the sky. Some of these
levels are internal while others are external. Anyone departing Eretz
Yisroel, as long as he hasn't gone farther than four cubits past the
border is considered as if he hasn't left at all. For, while he is within
those four cubits he is considered to be in the midst of the Ladder.
Similarly, anyone who is entering Eretz Yisroel, and hasn't entered more
than four cubits, it is as if he has not yet entered Eretz Yisroel. This
is the secret of the verse, "And His land ( admaso) shall atone for His
nation" (Devarim 32:43). The word admaso is made up of the letters (Alpeh-
Dalet-Mem-Tav-Vav) which can spell: dalet amos (four cubits). They are
what brings atonement for one's sins. (Tuv HaAretz, p. __ )
Now, we can appreciate the usage of the word Admas Yisroel by the prophet
when referring to the final attack of Gog and Magog against Eretz Yisroel,
and why that would be the cause of more overt Hashgochah Pratis. It is one
thing to hurl insults and even projectiles into the Land of Israel, but it
is something altogether different to tamper with her borders, and to
reduce them, for then Gog has launched an attack against the very gateway
that leads to Shamayim.
Which king does not become personally involved in order to preserve his
There is more:
Even though the Ladder has linear dimensions, Eretz Yisroel's boundaries
are neither linear nor spherical, rather they are in the form of a man
lying face-up on the ground with his head towards the East. His two arms
are stretched out, one to the north and the other to the south. His two
legs are open. The one big toe is facing towards Hor HaHar in the
northwest area. The other is facing the river of Egypt, which is the
southwest area. The Mediterranean Sea lies between his two legs, forming
the western border. In this fashion we find that the dimensions of Eretz
Yisroel are an array of large and small strips, and surrounding all of
these strips is the Ladder. The internal level of the Ladder is the side
touching Eretz Yisroel, whereas the external level is the side facing
Chutz L'Aretz. (Tuv HaAretz, p. __)
No doubt that when Ya'akov lied down on the Temple Mount that fateful
night to sleep, just before entering the Diaspora for 36 years, his
position mirrored the very borders of Eretz Yisroel. And, though he left
the borders for Chutz L'Aretz, he returned to them once again as Yisroel,
again revealing the unique and intrinsic connection between a Jew and the
borders of his land.
I was recently asked to write something to mechazek Jews already living in
Eretz Yisroel at this time. "Everything you write, it seems, is for the
Jews living in the Diaspora," the person correctly noted. "Write something
for us too."
The truth is that my newest book, "Talking About Eretz Yisroel: The
Profound and Essential Meaning of Making Aliyah" (due out, ironically,
this week, Parshas Lech-Lecha) is precisely directed to the Jews of Chutz
L'Aretz to show them the good things about making aliyah, and the bad
things about overstaying our welcome in the Diaspora. The contents are, by
definition, chizuk about already being here in Eretz HaKodesh.
Recently, when I saw the memo (i.e., the first one) in Rav Kaduri's name
(regardless of its authenticity) about all Jews coming to Israel for the
year to avoid being part of the natural disasters around the world, I sat
back in my chair, put both my hands behind my head, looked Heavenward, and
"Right . . ."
I tried to imagine millions of Jews around the world who weren't even
planning to make temporary aliyah,while transferring their families at a
moment's notice to a foreign land thousands of miles away for which they
have no desire to live upon, leaving behind good jobs and good incomes,
wonderful homes, and successful schooling, for a land constantly in
turmoil with an uncertain future. We didn't even do that when the enemy
was breathing right down our necks; how were people going to do this on
the word of one, very old, Kabbalist?
Like I said, "Right."
It had been right after Hurricane Katrina that the memo circulated, maybe
even after Rita. The earthquake in Pakistan was still a week or so away,
but I began to wonder, "What if the memo is correct and there is something
to it?" I mean, its now 5766, a year I have been anticipating for some
time now. In "Diary of a Perspective" I explained why I see this period as
being potentially tumultuous to begin with, so the Mekubel's words fit
smoothly into that framework.
Nevertheless, the sun still shines on America, at least where most of the
Jews live today. It may shine less so in places like England and South
Africa, but they're used to it by now. Even for the minority of Jews who
do dream of making aliyah one day in the future, the planning and
uncertainty is more than they want to deal with at this time, and
therefore even they won't leave unless Moshiach comes to take them by the
hand, or the gentile nations once again give us the boot.
When I think back to what I had to go through with my own family to plan
and carry out our plans for aliyah, I get a shiver up and down my spine. I
cannot believe all the things we had to do and put up with in the process
of moving from Canada to Israel, and with a bunch of toddlers, bli ayin
hara, to boot. I wonder how I ever managed to stay calm and sane in the
process, and I dread having to ever go through the same process all over
again, G-d forbid.
Thank G-d, BIG TIME, that I am already here. There's not a day that goes
by that I I'm not grateful for this, especially as history seems to be
I am already where all Jews will have to get to at some point in time. I
did it at a time when traveling overseas was a relatively simple and
straightforward process, took care of all my paperwork when it was not a
big deal to do so. G-d will not have to go and fetch me by the hand from
Chutz L'Aretz. Instead, I am on the receiving line of those now in the
process of doing the same.
I wake up, work all day, pray, and go to bed in the Holy Land. I am
constantly surrounded by kedushah, and go to the Kosel (Western Wall)
once a week. My biggest decision in this respect is which day to go, and
whether or not I should drive, take a bus or taxi to get there. I grow
vegetables and fruits right from the soil, hand-pick them, and then take
terumos and ma'aseros from them with joy and a brochah.
And Shabbos, ahhhh, Shabbos: I celebrate it, and the chagim in Eretz
Yisroel! There is nothing like Succos in Eretz Yisroel. When we go on
family trips, we travel to different parts of Eretz Yisroel, and I stand
there looking at the hills, or the valleys, or the rivers, and pinch
myself as I recall that Avraham, Yitzchak, and Ya'akov once stood where I
am standing now. It is so invigorating to think this, and it makes me feel
Everyone who does not understand the beauty of living in Eretz Yisroel, or
is simply overly attached to Chutz L'Aretz, already knows about the
drawbacks of making aliyah. They can cite by rote the halachic and
practical reasons for why living outside the land still has much value,
but they can rarely do the same about the virtues of living in Eretz
Yisroel and being here already.
This reminds me of the following gemora:
Rebi Yochanan asked: "Why did that evil man (Sancheriv) merit the title of
the great and noble Asnapper? Because he did not speak slightingly of the
Land of Israel, as it says, 'Until I come and take you away to a land like
your own land' (II Melachim 28:32)" . . . But Israel spoke with contempt
about Israel, for when they came to Shush, they said, "This is as good as
our land"; to 'Almin, they said, "This is like the House of Eternities";
on arriving at Shush Tere, they said, "This is twice as good [as our
land]." (Sanhedrin 94a)
I can think of no greater chizuk for the Jews of Eretz Yisroel than to
say, "We are here. We have arrived. We no longer have to come and settle
here, for we have done it." And, as each day comes and goes, and the Final
Redemption comes ever nearer, the importance of these words will become
Have a great Shabbos. Have a great Lech-Lecha,
Text Copyright © 2005 by Rabbi Pinchas Winston and Torah.org.