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Shabbat Parashat Nitzavim Vayeilech 5771

Parashat Hashavuah: How Does the Nation Become More Holy?

Harav Yosef Carmel

Last week we dealt with the pasuk “all of your nation are righteous, forever they will inherit the Land,” wondering if and how this could really be true and citing several diverse explanations. The final explanation we cited was that the collective is always viewed as on the level of tzaddikim, even when the sum of its parts is lacking. Therefore, the best and almost only way to come through the Days of Judgment successfully is to be closely connected to Klal Yisrael. In order to accomplish this, one needs to follow a path of partnership with all elements of the nation. Recognizing the national aspect of our people is a fundamental and necessary part of this process. Otherwise, the whole is indeed the sum of its parts, and we are asking for trouble when the necessary merits turn up short. We will continue along these lines this week.

We have discussed in the past the novel idea of Rabbi Yehuda Alkelai, one of the visionaries of Modern Zionism. He said that one of the forms of repentance that our parashiyot refer to is the nation’s return to Eretz Yisrael. This is the idea of “you shall contemplate in your heart amongst the nations where Hashem dispersed you” and “you shall return to Hashem …” (Devarim 30:1-2). As a result of the desire to return, the next stage is: “If your dispersals will be at the edge of the heaven, from there Hashem will gather you and from there He will take you. Hashem will bring you to the Land …” (ibid. 4-5).

After the return to Hashem through the return to the Land, it is the turn of the individuals to improve, as the Torah continues: “Hashem will circumcise your heart …” (ibid. 6). According to this approach, the matter of nation’s righteousness can be understood along the same lines. The people’s return to the Land brings righteousness to the members of the nation.

The haftara also dwells on the topic of return to the Land, its flourishing, and the joy and success of its inhabitants. “I shall indeed rejoice in Hashem, my spirit shall soar with my God, for He has clothed me with garments of salvation, a coat of kindness He has placed on me, as a groom who is adorned in glory and a bride who wears beautiful garments. For the Land will bring forth its vegetation, and like a garden its seeds will grow…” (Yeshaya 61:10-11).

The miraculous return to the Land is compared to the joyous rendezvous of bride and groom. The Land that remained desolate when its nation’s enemies occupied it will react with glee when its nations returns, showing this by giving its fruit. This renewal of the connection between the Land and the nation is part of the nation’s return to Hashem, Who gave the Land to them. The navi goes so far as to describe the connection between the Land and the people who come to inhabit it in terms of consummating a marriage (ibid. 62: 4-5).

The important final stage is the personal return to Hashem of the members of the nation, which turns the Land of Israel into the Land of Sanctity. Without this there can be no complete salvation. The prophet describes this with the pasuk: “They will be called the holy nation, those redeemed by Hashem” (ibid. 12).

May we merit seeing our nation throughout its Land, growing nationally and spiritually.

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