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Shabbat Parashat Tazria| 5771

Ein Ayah: Closeness to the Land

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Berachot 6:40)

Gemara: Rav Chisda and Rav Hamnuna were served dates and pomegranates during a meal. Rav Hamuna took a date to make a beracha on it first. Rav Chisda asked: “Do you not agree with Rav Yosef that whatever [fruit] is earlier in the pasuk [praising Eretz Yisrael’s fruit: “A Land of wheat and barley, grapes, figs, and pomegranates; a Land of olive oil and [date] honey” (Devarim 8:8)] receives the earlier beracha? He answered: “[Date] is second after ‘a Land,’ and [pomegranate] is fifth after ‘a Land.’” He said to him: “Who will give us legs of iron so we will be able to hear you [wherever you go].”   


Ein Ayah: Berachot cause straight thought to the heart, which in turn brings on straight actions and good characteristics. Also, berachot’s halachic details are based on ideas that lead directly to good attributes and the Torah’s foundations. Love of the Holy Land is the foundation of the Torah, as it brings Hashem’s nation and the whole world to shleimut (completeness). Therefore, precedence for berachot is connected to the food’s proximity to the Torah’s mention of the Land. This shows that whatever is closer to the Land, and whoever loves it more and strives more to settle it, is closer to receiving blessing and shleimut.

The nature of people’s love of the Land differs according to their level. Some love it because of its innate spiritual qualities. They thirst for a connection to its stones and earth in order to fulfill land-dependent mitzvot and due to the impact it has on aiding all to reach their spiritual potential. Others love the Holy Land and strive to inhabit and develop it because they see it as the place to maximize the Jewish People’s physical welfare. While this is a lofty factor, it does not approach the former type, which stems from a deeper understanding of the goal of the love.

That is why the pasuk is broken into two, hinting at two groups of closeness to the Land. The five species, listed after the first “Land,” correspond to the higher level of desire of the Land, as the number five relates to Chumash, which is the foundation of the shleimut of the nation and the world. Proximity to “the Land” indicates a higher level. The second set of two fruit hint at the nation’s natural shleimut, originally in the physical realm but thereby extending to the spiritual realm. Indeed, yearning to live in the Holy Land even for national, material benefit is great. The physical needs of the nation turn into spiritual ones, and the highest goals will be realized when Hashem’s nation connects with His Land. Therefore, that which gets closer even to the lower connection to the Land precedes that which is further removed from the higher level because building up the Land is powerful with either intention. That is why Omri merited the throne, as he added a city to Israel, even though his intention was certainly material. While the one who is more connected to the lower level is, personally, on a lower level than the one connected to the higher level, the former’s actions are closer to the highest goals.

The gemara’s final statement about iron legs hints at the following. He requested physical strength to enable him to learn and obtain spiritual strength. The nation’s iron vessels, whether they be chariots, bolts, or bodies that are strong as iron, give the nation the power to follow a path that leads to Torah, love, and peace. The power is not for us to come to Israel by force or to rebel against the gentile nations (a reference to Ketubot 111a). Rather, it develops an inner fire and spiritual discipline, which is the goal, as the pasuk says: “Not with armies and not with power, but with My spirit” (Zecharia 4:6). We will end off with the p’sukim in Tehillim 147: “Jerusalem, praise Hashem … for He has strengthened the bolts of your gates … He places peace in your boundaries … He told His word to Yaakov, His statutes and laws to Israel.”

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