It is a great privilege to be living at a time when the clearest signs of Redemption are coming to pass before our very eyes. This privilege, however, comes with some obligations, such as appreciating what HaShem has given us and returning to His Land to help it flourish even more.

By Rabbi Moshe D. Lichtman

From his book “Eretz Yisrael in the Parashah.” More of Rabbi Lichtman’s books and writings can be found on his website:



In the middle of the Tochachah (Admonition) in Parashat BeChukotai, the Torah states, –
“I will make the Land desolate; and your enemies who dwell in it will be desolate upon it”
(26:32). Seemingly, this is a continuation of the long list of misfortunes that will befall the
Jewish people if they fail to follow God’s ways. Chazal, however, see things differently.
They see this verse as a “silver lining” in the dreadfully dark cloud of Jewish suffering
throughout the exile:

This is a good measure. [It means] that the Jews will not say, ‘Now that we have been
exiled from our Land, our enemies will come and find satisfaction on it.’ For [the verse]
says, And your enemies who dwell in it will be desolate upon it – even your enemies who
come afterwards will not find satisfaction in the Land. (Torat Kohanim [Sifra], ibid.)
What is most striking about this Midrash (quoted by practically all of the commentators) is
its historical accuracy. For close to 2,000 years, Eretz Yisrael was in a state of ruins; and this
was not due to a lack of interest on the part of the nations. The Crusaders, the Marmaluks, the
Ottomans, the Turks, the Arabs, and others tried to settle the Land. Some were more successful than others, but none were able to make it flourish, until the Jews began to return around 150 years ago.
In the mid 1800s, Mark Twain traveled around the world, recording his impressions in a
book entitled “The Innocents Abroad.” This is how he described the Holy Land at the time:
“Of all the lands there are for dismal scenery, I think Palestine must be the prince. The
hills are barren, they are dull of color, they are unpicturesque in shape. The valleys are
unsightly deserts fringed with a feeble vegetation that has an expression about it of being
sorrowful and despondent… It is a hopeless, dreary, heart-broken land… Small
shreds and patches of it must be very beautiful in the full flush of spring, however, and
all the more beautiful by contrast with the far-reaching desolation that surrounds
them on every side… Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes. Over it broods the spell of a curse that has
withered its fields and fettered its energies… Renowned Jerusalem itself, the
stateliest name in history, has lost all its ancient grandeur, and is become a pauper
village… the wonderful temple which was the pride and the glory of Israel, is gone…
The noted Sea of Galilee… was long ago deserted by the devotees of war and commerce,
and its borders are a silent wilderness… Palestine is desolate and unlovely. And why should it be otherwise? Can the curse of the Deity beautify a land? Palestine is no more of this work-day world. It
is sacred to poetry and tradition — it is dream-land” (End of Chap. 56.)

Some 600 years earlier, the Ramban wrote:

“The statement, ‘And your enemies will be desolate upon it,’ is a good tiding. It proclaims
in every generation that our Land does not accept our enemies. This is a great proof
and promise for us, for you will not find in the entire world another land that is so good
and spacious, and was always inhabited, but is [now] in such a state of ruin. Ever since
we left it, it has not accepted any other nation; and they all try to settle it, but are

Rabbeinu Bachya derives this concept from a different verse: – “I will give to you
[Avraham] and your descendants after you the land of your sojournings – the entire Land of
Canaan – as an eternal possession” (BeReishit 17:8). He explains:
“This means that the Land will be Israel’s eternal possession, and only they will inherit
and settle it. And if, perchance, they are exiled from the Land, they will return to it, for it
is their eternal possession, not the nations’. This is a great sign for the Jewish people, for
ever since they were exiled from their Land, no other nation settled there. Rather, it is
destroyed and desolate until its children [lit., “its chicks”] return to it.”

The fact that this prophecy has come true in our times is more than just historically
impressive. According to Chazal, the rejuvenation of Eretz Yisrael is the clearest sign of the
imminent redemption:
R. Abba said, “There is no clearer [sign of the] End [of Days] than this [verse]: – But
you, O mountains of Israel, will give forth your branches and yield your fruit to My
people Israel, [for they are soon to come] (Yechezkel 36:8).” (Sanhedrin 98a)
Rashi explains, “When Eretz Yisrael gives forth its fruits in abundance, the End will be near,
and there is no clearer [sign of the] End [of Days].”

It is a great privilege to be living at a time when the clearest signs of Redemption are
coming to pass before our very eyes. This privilege, however, comes with some obligations,
such as appreciating what HaShem has given us and returning to His Land to help it flourish even


After describing all the terrible afflictions that will befall us if we fail to keep the Torah,
HaShem assures us that He will never forsake us completely: – But despite all this, when they
are in the lands of their enemies, I will not despise them nor will I reject them to obliterate
them, to break My covenant with them, for I am the Lord their God (26:44). Commenting on
this verse, R. Meir Simcha of Dvinsk (author of Meshech Chochmah and Or Samei’ach)
teaches us a very crucial and timely history lesson:

…Let us contemplate the ways of Divine Providence, to the minor extent that we can
understand it. When the Supreme Wisdom [i.e. God] decreed that the people of Israel
must wander around the world for many, many years… He thought of methods and
strategies by which the Jews would survive as a nation and not assimilate among the
nations. And he aroused the great [leaders] of the nation to erect [protective] walls and
fences, so that the nation could withstand the roaring waves [of exile] and avoid
drowning in the depths of the storms that rage with a bold and mighty wind.
The first one to show the way and instruct the leaders of the nation was our venerable
father Ya’akov, who saw what would happen to us at the End of Days. He thought that
if seventy men lived amongst a mighty nation like ancient Egypt, they would surely
assimilate and become nullified in the hundreds of thousands [of Egyptians that
existed]. Therefore, he came up with a strategy, by which his children would be
distinguished there through their clothing and names. Thereby, the Children of Israel
remained a separate nation. [Furthermore, Ya’akov realized] that if he, the father of all
the Tribes of Israel, was buried there [in Egypt], they would forsake the Land of Canaan
and settle down in Egypt, considering it their ancestral land. Then, God’s intended plan
for them would cease to exist, for the seed of Avraham would be but one [small] part of
the Egyptian nation. Therefore, Ya’akov commanded [his sons] with great force to bury
him in the Land of Canaan, so that they may know that the founders of the nation and its
ancestry is in that Land… Thus, a natural bond was ingrained in the souls of his sons,
to yearn for the Land of their fathers and consider themselves strangers [in foreign
This is the meaning of the verse He sojourned there (Devarim 26:5), [upon which our
Sages comment]: “This teaches that Ya’akov Avinu did not go down [to Egypt] to settle
there, but to sojourn there” (Sifrei). That is, [the Torah] teaches all generations, in every
exile, the [proper] mode of behavior. They should realize that they did not go down [to
exile] to settle there, only to sojourn there until the coming of the End of Days. They
should not consider themselves natives [of those lands]…

The great [leaders] of the nation took a lesson from this, especially Ezra and the Men
of the Great Assembly, who fenced the nation in with eighteen decrees, in order to keep
[the Jews] separate from the Gentiles in all of their ways [see Shabbat 13b]. [They
enacted these decrees] so that the Jewish people would know that they are guests in a
foreign land… These are the things that sustain the nation in exile and remind them that
they are Jews living in a land not their own.

Behold, ever since the Jews have lived among the nations – for many years, during
which no one believed that they would survive in such a wondrous fashion… – [Divine]
Providence functions [as follows]. The Jews find rest for close to a hundred or two
hundred years. Then a storm wind arises and disperses its myriad waves, utterly
destroying, washing [them] away without mercy, until they are scattered about, all
alone. They run, they flee, to a far-off place, where they unite and become a people
[once again]. They intensify their Torah [learning]; their wisdom succeeds greatly,
until they forget that they are strangers in a foreign land. They think that this is
their place of origin, and they no longer anticipate HaShem’s spiritual salvation at its
designated time. Then an even stronger storm will visit that place and remind them in a
thunderous voice: “You are a Jew! [Remember] who made you into a man. Go forth to
an unknown land again!”

This is how the situation of the Jews in [the lands of] the nations fluctuates, as a
discerning eye can see in the history books. There are two reasons for this: to preserve
the true and pure religion, and to preserve the [Jewish] nation. For, when Israel finds
rest among the nations its Torah and pilpul blossom and grow. Its children advance
greatly [and try] to raise themselves above their ancestors. For that is man’s desire, to
create, to gain strength [and discover] that which was hidden from the previous
generation… This is the way of the [Jewish] people: When they enter a foreign land, they are not
devoted to Torah, for they were weakened by troubles, [evil] decrees, and expulsion.
Afterwards, a Godly spirit awakens within them, inspiring them to return to their holy
roots. Then they learn and disseminate Torah; they do wondrous things, until the glory
of Torah reaches its peak. However, the [new] generation has nothing to add, no way to
rise above its predecessors. What will man do with his desire to distinguish himself and
discover new things? He will criticize his ancestors’ heritage based on a false [new]
idea. He will imagine new things, forgetting what happened to his nation when it
staggered in a sea of troubles, no matter [how bad] it was. Soon enough, he will say,
“Our fathers gave us an inheritance of lies.” The Jew, in general, will forget from
whence he came, considering himself as an evergreen in its native soil. He will abandon
the study of his religion to learn languages not his own. He will learn from the corrupt
[ways of the gentiles], and not from their virtuous [ways]. He will think that Berlin is
Jerusalem… Then a tempestuous wind will come and uproot him from his trunk,
setting him down in the midst of a distant nation whose language he has not learned.
Then he will realize that he is a stranger, that his language is our holy tongue, that
foreign tongues are like temporary garments, that his origins lay in the Jewish race, and
that his consolations are those of HaShem’s prophets, who prophesied about the stem of
Yishai at the End of Days. During his wanderings, he will forget his Torah, its depth
and its pilpul. Then he will rest a bit; a holy feeling will awaken within him; his sons
will strengthen themselves; his young ones will advance in God’s Torah, and they will
rise up to disseminate Torah in these boundaries, where it was already forgotten. In this
way, he will survive and stay strong. This is the way of the Jewish nation from the day
it began its wanderings…

This explains [our verse]: I WILL NOT DESPISE THEM – Despising refers to the nation’s
debasement with regard to Torah and the spiritual perception that emanates from our
Written and Oral Law. I WILL NOT REJECT THEM – This refers to being rejected and
expelled from place to place. TO OBLITERATE THEM – This refers to exile, which [causes]
rejection and the utter destruction of the nation. TO BREAK MY COVENANT WITH THEM –
This refers to forgetting the Torah. However, I AM THE LORD THEIR GOD – That is to say, the despising and rejection is because I am the Lord their God. I do not despise and reject them completely, in order to obliterate them and break My covenant with them, God forbid. [Rather], through these measures, God’s name is glorified, and the faithful seed of Avraham will survive, remaining fitting and prepared to fulfill God’s goal when
He calls upon us at the End of Days, when Israel is a singular nation in the Land, and
the Lord is one and His name is one. If Diaspora Jews would only take this history lesson to heart, they could probably avoid the next storm. Let us hope it is not too late.




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