“The difference between “blessing” and “success” is that blessing comes from a “supernatural realm” and success comes by way of nature. Outside of Israel one can only attain success and not blessing. In the Holy Land of Israel there can also be blessing as it says, ‘God will bless you from Zion’ (Tehilim 128:5).” Rav Yaakov Yitzchak Rabinowitz, The Yid Hakadosh (lived in the 18th Century in Poland)
In a previous article we quoted Ben Shapiro’s reasons for not making Aliyah. In that article, we discussed that it is a Mitzvah to make Aliyah to Israel. That topic is not our discussion for this article. We are going to come from a different, perhaps deeper and more fundamental angle.
Ben Shapiro should make Aliyah because “blessing” is found and attained in the Land of Israel.
What is the root of this blessing? How can we find and attain it ourselves?
This week’s parsha, Parshat Eikev, is filled with passages about the Land of Israel. It is safe to say that it is the #1 parsha in the Torah in terms of content about Eretz Yisrael.
Eikev opens by reinforcing to us the importance to keep the “Mishpatim” (laws) and as such “God will love you and bless you… on the Land that He swore to your forefathers to give to you. (Devarim 7:12-13)
God’s blessing of the Jewish People on the Land is a thesis for the rest of the portion.
In Eikev we learn that Eretz Yisrael is a Land with multiple blessings:
- springs and streams of water
- the 7 specialty foods/fruits for which the Land is praised (wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olive oil and date honey)
- where you will eat bread without poverty – you will lack nothing there
- stones of iron and whose mountains you will mine copper
- flowing with milk and honey
- the eyes of God focused on it from the beginning of the year until year’s end
We see that the land is filled with bountiful physical features but what is the root of it all?
The Torah tells us twice in Eikev and many other times throughout the Chumash that Eretz Yisrael is the הארץ הטובה “the good land.”
The Sforno explains that in Eretz Yisrael there is a grouping together of many different good things all in one place. This makes Eretz Yisrael the most unique land. Even with a superficial eye, one can discern the remarkable geographical features of Israel, all in one tiny country the size of New Jersey.
Rav Tzvi Mayer explains that God imbued Land of Israel with holiness. That inner holiness expresses itself both in the Torah and to the naked eye as being the “good land.”
This natural goodness found in the Land of Israel positively effects the inhabitants. Rebbe Nachman of Breslau teaches that only in Eretz Yisrael is a Jew able to fully perfect one’s personal attributes. Anger, harshness and negativity can be fixed through absorbing the sweetness of Eretz Yisrael. The “goodness” leads one to having a positive eye and a warm, loving, caring heart.
Rebbe Menachem Mendel M’vitebsk ZT”L made aliya to Eretz Yisrael with a group of his followers in 1777. He first settled in Tzfat and then in Tevaria. Ten years after being in the Land he invited all the Jews of Tevaria to celebratory feast. At the end of the meal the rebbe stood up in front of all those in attendance and said,
I want you to know that when I was on my way to the Holy Land I met one of the thirty six hidden tzaddikim. I told him that I was on the way to Eretz Yisrael. He took me by the neck and shook me with all of his strength and said to me, ‘Mendel, do you really know how holy the Land is?’ Gentlemen, you should know that this meal is a ‘seudat hodaya’ (thanks-giving feast). I thank God that after ten years. For the first time I merited to understand and feel how holy the land is.
At the end of Parshat Eikev, we find the famous second paragraph of Shema, “V’hayah im shemoa.” This section focuses on the responsibility of keeping the mitzvot.
At the end of the paragraph, the Torah tells us that the blessing for faithful observance of the commandments is, “In order to prolong your days and the days of your children on the Land that Hashem has sworn to your forefathers to give them, like the days of the heavens on the earth. (11:21)”
There are various blessings that the Torah could have inserted here as the blessing for a committed Jewish life. The Torah chooses to highlight the blessing of Jewish families living a long, fulfilling life on the land.
For those of us living in Eretz Yisrael, our challenge is to remind ourselves and connect with the bountiful blessing of living in God’s Chosen Land. With all the hardships that come with living in Israel, we must never lose sight of the blessing found and attained here. It is absolutely found here. It is just a matter of opening our eyes to see the “goodness of the Land.”
Ben Shapiro, who is joined by millions of Jews in the Diaspora, might be more successful in the United States than he would be in Israel. But Ben Shapiro as well as every Jew should be seeking to make Aliyah to Eretz Yisrael because this is where the Divine blessing is found.