“Knowing the Land”
by HaRav Dov Begon, Head of Machon Meir.
G-d punished the generation of the desert. Because they “scorned the desirable land” (Psalm 106:24), G-d told them, “Your corpses will fall in this desert” (Numbers 14:29). Yet He treated their children benevolently, as it says, “You said that your children will be taken captive, but I will bring them here, so that they will know the land that you rejected” (v. 31).
Seemingly, He should have said simply, “I will bring them to the Land.” Why did He add the words, “so that they will know the land”? The Torah is teaching us a very important principle about recognizing and knowing the value of Eretz Yisrael. It was lack of such knowledge which led to the failure of both the spies and the generation of the desert:
It is not enough to move to Eretz Yisrael. We must also know what Eretz Yisrael is, what is special about it, what its worth is and what its role is for us and for the whole world. It is on such a background that we must relate to the Land, with reverence and fear of the holy. Only someone who recognizes the Land’s holiness and its divine role in revealing the light of G-d on earth, will risk his life for it and go up to the Land, settle it and fight over every centimeter of it. He will be aware with certainty that through such means he is adding and increasing G-d’s light and glory throughout the world. That is why, when G-d first spoke to Abraham, He said to him, “Go away… to the land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1). G-d tells Abraham that He will appear to him there and that there, in Eretz Yisrael, He will “make him into a great nation” (v. 2). Moreover, there Abraham would “become a blessing” (Ibid.), and “all the families of the earth would be blessed through him” (v. 3).
Right now, we have to learn and teach “knowledge of the Land.” We must get to know the Land of Israel, whose purpose is to yield sweet, delightful fruits from which all of mankind will be nourished and sustained. By such means, the divine light emanating from the holy land and the holy people who dwell within the promised borders will show the nations the path.
Indeed, everyone must learn the knowledge of the Land — from the leaders of the nation to the last of the Jews in the Land and the Exile. All must attain clear recognition of the universal, divine, historic meaning of the rebirth of Israel in Eretz Yisrael, through its full length and width.
Through our knowledge and love of the Land, we will draw enormous strength to face up to and fight for our beloved land, against all those who are rising up to uproot us and to steal it from us, in a vain attempt to extinguish the light of the world. We must likewise strengthen the hearts and hands of those who neither know nor recognize what Eretz Yisrael is, something which truly brings them to weakness.
We know, however, that this weakness is like a passing blemish. The day is not far off when the whole Jewish People will return to themselves and to their land, and through that will return to G-d. Then, we will all know who we are, and what our land is. We will know that we were chosen to increase and strengthen G-d’s glory in the world. All this will come about through our walking in G-d’s path and keeping His Torah in Eretz Yisrael. Through this, we will merit to see with our own eyes how G-d “gives strength to His people and blesses them with peace” (Psalm 29:11).