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Shabbat Parashat Vayeitzei 5776

Parashat Hashavua: For Me, G-d in Eretz Yisrael

Harav Shaul Yisraeli based on Siach Shaul, p. 99 (address from 1943)

[Yaakov made a conditional oath to Hashem, in which he lists his requests and his promises. There is some question about where one ends and the other begins. At the heart of the transition is the pasuk,] “I shall return in peace to my father’s home, and Hashem will be for me, G-d” (Bereishit 28:21). The Ramban connects this pasuk to the idea (Ketubot 110b) that whoever lives outside Israel is like one who does not have a G-d.

There were those, who even though they lived a religious lifestyle, did not find their way to Eretz Yisrael. There were those who saw as the goal of Judaism just the idea of spreading the idea of belief in Hashem throughout the world. They did not see a relevance of there being a specific territory to which they needed to be connected. Exile seemed to them to be a natural situation, to the extent that they loved the lands of their exile as their homeland and even saw it as an obligation to give their life for the preservation of these homelands. This duality, which is having a backlash effect, especially in the religious community, in our days as well, weakens our resolve.

This is not the approach of our Rabbis. The essential Judaism and its mitzvot are specifically made for Eretz Yisrael. The vision of a divine nation is incomplete and blemished when we are outside the Land. We lack a real base – a land that is ours – when we are without our own unique homeland and are dependents “at the table of the nations.” “The wisdom of the underprivileged is disgraced” (see Kohelet 9:16). Our feeble attempts to lecture the world on matters of ethics are valueless as long as our words are those of a spineless peddler. Eretz Yisrael exists so that we can reveal the idea of godliness in its fullest sense. Through it we can coronate Hashem with everything that we do. We can create a Jewish street, a Jewish village, and a Jewish city.

However, once we get to Eretz Yisrael, that is when we have the obligation to make good on our obligation, or should we call it, our oath. If we do not actualize the type of life of sanctification of Hashem to which we have alluded, then we have simply left the Torah as letters that are floating in air or as a document whose debt is not paid.

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