We must learn more about the uniqueness of Eretz Yisrael and thereby heighten our appreciation for God’s Chosen Land. One need not look far for sources on the topic. The entire Torah (especially the next few parshi’ot) is full of praise for the Holy Land. All you need to do is open your eyes and heart and let the message sink in: Eretz Yisrael is where we belong.


by Rabbi Moshe D. Lichtman []

I entreated the Lord at that time, saying: “O Lord God, You have begun to
show Your servant Your greatness and Your mighty hand… Please let me cross
over and see the good Land that is on the other side of the Jordan, this good
mountain and the Lebanon.” (3:23-25)
As is well known, Sefer Devarim recounts Moshe Rabbeinu’s last speech to B’nei Yisrael
before they entered the Promised Land. It is full of rebuke for previous misdeeds and
exhortations for the future. So where does the beginning of this week’s parashah fit in?
Moshe tells the Jews who are about to enter the Land that he begged HaShem to let him enter, too, but was rejected. Is that part of the rebuke or does it have significance for the future?

The answer is: it’s a machloket (a dispute).
The Ramban writes explicitly: “He mentioned this here to inform [them] that he loved the
Land very much but was not privileged to [enter] it, because of them. All of this is part of
his rebuke.” The Ibn Ezra, on the other hand, asserts that Moshe’s goal was to teach the
Jews a lesson for the future: “The purpose of this section is to make them cherish Eretz
Yisrael. For if they love the Land, they will keep God’s commandments, in order not to
be exiled from it.” In other words, Moshe was trying to show the Jews how badly he wanted
to enter the Land, so that they would realize how special it is. Then, the threat of exile would
serve as a true deterrent to sin.
A parable might help illustrate this better: A young child can easily be convinced to trade a
twenty-dollar bill for a quarter, because he doesn’t appreciate the value of the bill. To him,
the glittering, silver quarter is far more valuable that the dingy, green, paper bill. And if the
parent of such a child threatens to take the bill away from him, it would not deter him from
misbehaving. Similarly, if the Jews do not understand the true value of Eretz Yisrael,
threatening them with exile will not deter them from sinning. Moshe, therefore, emphasized
how badly he wanted to enter the Land – to show them how special it is.
How timely this idea is just a few days after Tish’a B’Av. The story is told of a king who
became so angry with his son that he banished him from the palace. The prince went to a
small village, built himself a small hut, and lived there in abject poverty. One day, a rumor
spread that the king was coming to the village and whoever had a request could write it down
and submit it to the king. The prince, along with everyone else, wrote a note and handed it to
the king’s servant. While looking through the letters, the king recognized his son’s
handwriting. He read his request and began to cry. “O merciful king,” wrote the prince, “I
have a small hut with a straw roof. The winter is approaching and my roof has a leak in it, but
I do not have the means to fix it. Please give me some straw so that I can fix my roof.” Said
the king to himself, “How did it happen that my son has forgotten that he is a prince? Instead
of asking to return to the palace, all he cares about is his straw roof.”

Similarly, we, the Jewish people, have gotten so used to exile that we have forgotten that
we are princes. Instead of asking (and striving) to return to the King’s Palace (i.e., Eretz
Yisrael and the Beit HaMikdash), we are concerned about our mundane, daily affairs. We are
even quite comfortable with our present conditions. Unlike the prince in the story, most of us
don’t have leaky roofs, so why should we pray (or strive) to return to our true Homeland? We
don’t realize what we are missing, because we don’t truly appreciate how special and how
vital Eretz Yisrael is to our national, and even individual, existence.

We must, therefore, learn more about the uniqueness of Eretz Yisrael and thereby heighten
our appreciation for God’s Chosen Land. One need not look far for sources on the topic. The entire Torah (especially the next few parshi’ot) is full of praise for the Holy Land. All you need to do is open your eyes and heart and let the message sink in: Eretz Yisrael is where we belong.


The Torah portion we read on Tish’a B’Av (which falls out this week) is taken from this
week’s parashah. In it, the Torah states:
When you beget children and grandchildren, and you will have remained long in the
Land, and will become corrupt and make a carved idol, the likeness of anything, and you
will do evil in the eyes of the Lord your God, to anger Him. I call heaven and earth to
bear witness against you this day that you will surely perish quickly from the Land into
which you are crossing the Jordan to possess… The Lord will scatter you among the
nations, and you will be left few in number among the nations where the Lord will lead
you. There you will serve gods, the handiwork of man, of wood and stone, which do
not see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell. (4:27-28)
Targum Onkelus interprets the words, There you will serve gods, to mean, “There you will
serve the nations.” This is similar to Chazal’s statement: “Jews [who live] outside the Land
worship false gods in purity” (Avodah Zarah 8a). What does this mean? How can one
worship idols in purity? Aren’t these two concepts – idolatry and purity – self-contradictory?
The Gemara explains: “A Gentile (lit. ‘an idolater’) makes a party for his son and invites all
the Jews of his town [to celebrate with him]. Even though they eat their own [food], drink
their own [drinks], and have their own servants wait on them, the Torah considers it as if they
ate from idolatrous sacrifices.” In other words, even if a Jew’s intentions are pure and noble,
he will find it hard to avoid getting involved in non-Jewish practices in Chutz LaAretz.
However, I saw another interpretation to this seemingly puzzling statement of Chazal. Let
me preface with a Gemara recently studied in Daf Yomi (Bava Batra 110a), which discusses
the misdeeds of Moshe Rabbeinu’s grandson, Yehonatan. The Gemara explains that
Yehonatan became an idolatrous priest because he misinterpreted a tradition passed down
from his grandfather: “A person should always rent himself out to avodah zarah (“foreign
worship”) rather than depend on [handouts from] people.” He thought that this halachah is to
be taken literally – that one should actually serve idols rather than beg for money. “But this is
not the case,” says the Gemara, “Rather, avodah zarah means work that is foreign to him.”
That is, one who is having financial difficulty should not insist upon working in the
profession that he enjoys most. Rather, he should lower his standards and do even menial
labor in order to make ends meet and avoid becoming a burden on others. This Gemara
indicates that the words avodah zarah can mean “foreign work” instead of “foreign worship.”

Based on this concept, the Chassidic master, R. Shalom of Belz, interprets the Gemara
cited above as follows: “Jews [who live] outside the Land do foreign work in purity.” That
is, they work for the sake of others. All the efforts they put into building up the lands of exile
is foreign to them, for whatever they build or produce there eventually falls into the hands of
others. Thus, all their work is avodah zarah (Itturei Torah, vol. 6, p. 40).
What an appropriate lesson to learn just a few days before Tish’a B’Av, when we mourn the
countless tragedies that befell our nation during its long and bitter exile. Unfortunately, we
do not have to look far to find a proof for the accuracy of the Belzer Rebbe’s words. Sixty
years ago, the Gentiles showed us just how “foreign” our hundreds of years of work were in
Europe, as Rav Yisachar Shlomo Teichtal writes in his monumental work, Eim HaBanim
Semeichah (pp. 317-318):
Realize this, O fellow Jew! From now on do not seek rest anywhere except by your true
mother, Eretz Yisrael. Only our true mother will console us after all of the severe
hardships that have befallen us, and after all of the pain that the stepmother has inflicted
upon us. The prophet says, – Like a man whose mother consoles him, so will I console
you, and in Jerusalem you will be consoled (Yeshayah 66:13). That is, we will only find
safety and consolation by our true mother, Eretz Yisrael. Thus, the prophet says, And in
Jerusalem, which represents all of Eretz Yisrael, you will be consoled. Let us no longer
put our faith in our stepmother and, thereby, remain in the lands of exile.
How much money did our ancestors invest in these lands? They built palaces, castles,
and great halls, because each one of them thought, This is my resting place forever; here
I will dwell, for I have desired it (Tehillim 132:14). They completely disregarded their
true mother, Eretz Yisrael. The Shelah and the Chatam Sofer bemoan the fact that some
Jews become completely absorbed in Chutz LaAretz. They build themselves houses and
palaces and invest all of their silver and gold in Chutz-LaAretz property, in order to
enhance and expand the stepmother’s boundaries. But they neglect to establish the
boundaries of the widow, our righteous mother who cries and laments over us. They do
not even consider doing anything for her benefit. They only care and desire to make an
honorable living and build a big house with a courtyard made of hewn stones. [They
build it] to last for many years, so that they can bequeath it to their children and
grandchildren, who will be born on foreign soil, [for] they hope to see many offspring
and live long lives in exile.
In this way, we lost hundreds and thousands of years in exile and gave all of our
strength and wealth to our stepmother. And now, we “merited” to receive her expression
of gratitude for all of the efforts that we expended on her behalf. She took a staff and hit
us cruelly and mercilessly. She wounded our entire body; from the sole of the foot to the
head, there is nothing whole. She also banished us completely and took our money from us. We were forced to leave her house naked and indigent. Thousands and tens of
thousands of our Jewish brethren died unnatural deaths at her hands.
These are the deeds of our stepmother. Now, should we put our faith in her for the
future and return to her once again? How can we be so sure that after a few decades she
will not do this to us again? Indeed, we see that the Gentiles have treated us in this
manner during every period of our history. But, we have yet to learn that we must no
longer put our trust in the lands of exile. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, No! No!
We will no longer return to our stepmother. Instead, we will arise and go up to our true
mother and devote all of our strengths to her, from now and forever, to build up her
walls and repair her ruins. Be strong and let us be strong for the sake of our people and
for the sake of the cities of our God, and the good Lord will show us a good sign, and
our enemies will see and be ashamed.

Let us hope that we never have to learn this lesson again.


 The Lord said to me… “Ascend to the top of the ridge and raise your eyes westward,
northward, southward, and eastward, and see with your eyes, for you shall not cross this
Jordan. But charge Yehoshua, and strengthen him and encourage him, for he shall cross
before this people and he shall cause them to inherit the Land that you will see” (3:26-28).
Understand and know that [God] began with the north side when [He spoke to] Avraham
[BeReishit 13:14], while He began with the west in our verse. The reason [for this
discrepancy is as follows]. The main benefit of this “seeing,” which was to provide [the
Land] with extra sanctity, was to be accomplished by seeing the Shechinah that resides
at the Western Wall, as it says, – From the west, they will fear the name of the Lord
(Yeshayah 59:19). Avraham, on the other hand, was standing in the Land, and [God]
was talking about the [spiritual] emanations that emanate from there to the four corners
[of the earth]. Therefore, He began with the north, which is “dark” and needs to receive
these emanations more [than any other direction]. (Kli Yakar)

 Now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and to the ordinances that I teach you to perform, so
that you may live and come in and possess the Land that the Lord, God of your forefathers,
gives you (4:1).
Free-willed obedience to the laws of God makes us “live.” Only by devoting all our
activities, our whole existence and all our willing, to the guidance of the laws of God,
and allowing them to form all our thinking and feelings, speaking and doings, does our
“existing” (היה) deserve the name of “living” (חיה), truly living, the most complete

realization of what lies at the base of our existing… Then, and only then, when we come
to the end and look back on our life can we say חיינו (we have lived!); the thoughts of
God which should have been realized through us, we have realized! And just as free-
willed obedience to the Torah is the one condition for our individual lives, to make our
existing into truly living, so is it also the sole condition for our national life to be
constituted on our own land. (R. Samson Rafael Hirsch)

 Behold, I have taught you statutes and ordinances, as the Lord my God commanded me, to
do so in the midst of the Land to which you come to possess it (4:5).
[Moshe] said “To do so in the midst of the Land” to warn [the Jews] about all [the
mitzvot], for there are many statutes and ordinances that do not apply outside the Land.
Alternatively, he is hinting [to the fact] that the main [fulfillment] of all the mitzvot is
in the Land, as I alluded to in the “Secret of the Land” (VaYikra 18:25). (Ramban)

See also Parashat Toldot, “Home of the Mitzvot”; Parashat Eikev, “Practice Makes

 The Lord commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and ordinances, that you shall
perform them in the Land into which you are crossing to possess it (4:14).
See previous entry.

 The Lord became angry with me on your account, and He swore that I would not cross the
Jordan nor enter the good Land that the Lord your God gives you as an inheritance. For I
will die in this land; I will not cross the Jordan, but you shall cross, and you shall take
possession of this good Land. Take heed for yourselves, lest you forget the covenant of the
Lord your God… and make for yourselves a carved idol… (4:21-22).
Chazal already explained that Moshe did not want to enter the Land in order to sate
himself with its goodness (Sotah 14a). Why, then, does [the Torah] mention “The good
Land” with regard to Moshe, in the context of his admonition against idolatry? Let us
preface with the words of the Talmud (Arachin 32b). [Our Sages teach] that Ezra (and
the Men of the Great Assembly) prayed for [the demise of] the Evil Inclination for
idolatry, at which time [God] delivered it into their hands and they killed it (Sanhedrin
64a). The Talmud [in Arachin] asks why Yehoshua neglected to pray for the
abolishment of this Evil Inclination… “We understand,” [says the Gemara] “why
Moshe did not do so – because he did not have the merit of Eretz Yisrael – but
Yehoshua, who had the merit of Eretz Yisrael, why did he fail to pray?”

Thus, when it says here “The good Land” in relation to Moshe, it means that he
wanted to enter Eretz Yisrael in order to obtain the merit of the Land, which would
enable him to pray to God to deliver the Evil Inclination for idolatry into his hands.
[Had this happened], he would not have had to admonish [the Jews] about idolatry so
much. However, since [HaShem] did not allow him to enter the good Land (“good”
from Moshe’s perspective), and he lacked the merit of Eretz Yisrael, he was unable to
abolish the Evil Inclination for idolatry. Therefore, he admonished them about idolatry
repeatedly and severely. (Oznayim LaTorah; see also the Malbim, who explains

 Because He loved your forefathers, and He chose his [Ya’akov’s] offspring after him, and
took you out in His presence with His great strength from Egypt; to drive out from before you
nations that are greater and mightier than you, to bring you in, to give you their Land as an
inheritance, as this day (4:37-38).
TO GIVE YOU THEIR LAND: which is the Land of HaShem, [which is] prepared for the
attainment of the intended perfection. (Sforno)

In addition, this is one of several verses which indicate that the ultimate goal of the exodus
from Egypt was entry into Eretz Yisrael.

 You shall keep His statutes and His commandments, which I command you this day, so that
it will be well with you and with your children after you, and so that you will lengthen your
days on the Land that the Lord your God gives you, forever (4:40).
Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God commanded you, so that your
days will be lengthened, and so that it will be well with you, upon the Land that the Lord
your God gives you (5:16).
You shall go in the entire path that the Lord your God commanded you, so that you will
live and it will be well with you, and you will lengthen your days in the Land that you shall
possess (5:30).
See Parashat Yitro, “Long Life in the Land.”

 But as for you [Moshe], stand here with Me and I will speak to you all the
commandment[s], and the statutes, and the judgments, which you will teach them, that they
may perform in the Land that I give them to possess it (5:28).
This is the commandment, the statutes, and the judgments that the Lord your God
commanded to teach you, to perform in the Land into which you are crossing, to possess it

See above, 4:5.

 You shall hear, O Israel, and be careful to perform, so that it will be well with you, and so
that you will increase greatly, as the Lord God of your forefathers spoke to you – a Land
flowing with milk and honey (6:3).
According to the rules of grammar, [the verse] should have said, in a Land flowing…
Indeed, this hints to the fact that the blessings of Eretz Yisrael depend on her children’s
choices. If they heed the word of HaShem, the Land will flow with milk and honey…
This is the meaning of: To perform, so that it will be well with you, and so that you will
increase greatly. [Then] the Land will be as the Lord God of your forefathers spoke to
you – a Land flowing with milk and honey. But if you do not heed His word, the Land
will not flow with milk and honey. (Meshech Chochmah)
See also Shemot 3:8, Kedoshim 20:22-24, Ki Tavo 26:8-9.

 You shall bind them as a sign upon your arm, and they shall be totafot between your eyes…
It shall come to pass when the Lord your God brings you to the Land that the Lord swore to
your forefathers, to Avraham, to Yitzchak, and to Ya’akov, to give you… (6:8-10).
The Radak points out that in Parashat Bo, as well, it says, “It shall come to pass, when
the Lord will bring you to the Land” after cautioning about the mitzvah of tefillin
[Shemot 13:9-11]. I believe that the reason for this is based on the verse – All the
people of the earth will see that the name of the Lord is called upon you, and they will
fear you (28:10), which Chazal interpret to refer to the tefillin worn on the head
(Berachot 6a). Thus, the tefillin that a Jew wears on his head strikes fear in the hearts of
the nations, allowing Israel to act valiantly and take possession of its Land. (Oznayim

 You shall surely keep the commandments of the Lord your God, and His testimonies and
His statutes that He commanded you. You shall do that which is upright and good in the eyes
of the Lord, so that it will be well with you, and you will come and possess the good Land
that the Lord swore to your forefathers (6:17-18).
in truth, it is unworthy to keep [the mitzvot] for the sake of reward. Rather, [you should
keep them] because He commanded you, even if you will not derive any reward or
benefit from them. YOU SHALL DO THAT WHICH IS UPRIGHT AND GOOD: Nonetheless, it is
also conceivable to perform [mitzvot] for the sake of reward, if one contemplates the will
of HaShem, the Commander. We already explained in Artzot HaShalom (Derush 9) the
meaning of [Chazal’s statement] “The reward for a mitzvah is a mitzvah” (Avot 4:2).

The main reason why HaShem gave us the mitzvot… is because He created the world so
that there would be creatures upon which He could bestow His goodness. He [simply]
wants to do good and perform acts of kindness. For this reason, He gave us numerous
mitzvot, so that we may fulfill His command and receive reward. Thus, His main
intention in giving us mitzvot was to give us reward. It follows, then, that by receiving a
reward for performing a mitzvah, we fulfill the will of HaShem, Who wants to bestow
goodness and kindness upon His creations. Thus, the way we fulfill the Creator’s will
by doing mitzvot is not through the mitzvah itself, but primarily through the reward we
receive on its account. Therefore, the main element of a mitzvah is its reward. See
there, [where we explained this concept] in more detail.
This explains our verses: Even though HaShem commands you to keep His mitzvot
simply because He commanded you – not in order to receive reward – nonetheless, it is
conceivable for you to perform them for the sake of receiving reward, if you intend to do
that which is upright and good in the eyes of the Lord. After all, what is upright and
good in HaShem’s eyes is primarily that it will be well with you, and you will come and
possess the good Land. That is HaShem’s primary goal and desire… You may perform
the mitzvot for this purpose, because when God bestows goodness upon you in reward
for doing a mitzvah, you fulfill His desire and do that which is good in His eyes.

 You shall say to your son, “We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and the Lord took us out
of Egypt with a mighty hand… And He took us out of there, in order to bring us, to give us
the Land that He swore to our forefathers” (6:21-23).
WE WERE SLAVES: And since we could not, in our state of bondage, attain the [level of]
perfection that He intended [for us], He worked wonders and brought us out [of Egypt],
to bring us to the Land where we could attain that perfection. (Sforno)
Also see above, 4:37-38.

 When the Lord your God will bring you to the Land into which you come to possess it, and
will cast out many nations from before you – the Hittite, the Girgashite… – seven nations
greater and mightier than you, and the Lord your God will deliver them before you, and you
will smite them; you shall utterly destroy them, you shall not make a covenant with them, nor
shall you show them favor (ולא תחנם) (7:1-2).
Chazal derive from the words לא תחנם three distinct prohibitions: 1) Do not give them [i.e.
heathens] a place to settle down (חנייה) in the Land [of Israel]. 2) Do not show them favor
(חן). 3) Do not give them a free gift (מתנת חינם) (Avodah Zarah 20a). The Rambam elaborates
on these prohibitions in Hilchot Avodat Kochavim (chap. 10):

One may not sell houses and fields to them in Eretz Yisrael… But one may sell houses
and fields to them in Chutz LaAretz, because it is not our land… (Halachah 3)
Why are we prohibited to sell them [land in Eretz Yisrael]? Because it says, ולא תחנם,
[meaning], do not give them a place to settle down in the Land, for if they will have no
land, their dwelling will be temporary. In addition, it is forbidden to sing their praises.
One may not even say, “How beautiful is this idolater’s form.” Certainly, then, one may
not praise their deeds or cherish anything of theirs, as it says, ולא תחנם. [This means]
they should not find favor in your eyes, for that will cause [you] to cleave to them and
learn from their evil ways. It is also forbidden to give them a free gift… (Halachah 4)
All of this is true only when Israel is in exile among the idolatrous nations, or when
the idolaters have dominion over us. However, when Israel has dominion over them, we
may not allow any idolaters [to live] among us. Even if he [merely wants] to dwell [in
our Land] temporarily, or even if he is just passing from place to place on business, he
may not pass through our Land, unless he adopts the seven Noachide laws. Accordingly,
it says, – They shall not dwell in your Land (Shemot 23:32), even temporarily. And if
he adopts the seven [Noachide] laws, he is a ger toshav (“sojourning proselyte”). But
we do not accept ger toshavs unless the Yovel (Jubilee Year) is in effect… (Halachah 6)
See also Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah 151:7-14.



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