Text Based Learning

The Blessing behind the Tochachah
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Thursday 15th May 2014

Within the greatest tragedy there can lie the seeds of consolation. Much of our sidrah is devoted to the Tochachah (rebuke) , the series of calamities which are destined to befall the Jewish people in the Land of Israel if we turn away from the path of the Torah. We learn that although we will be exiled from the Land, our enemies who dispossess us will nevertheless be unsuccessful in populating it.: ‘And your enemies that dwell therein shall be desolate in it‘ (Vayikra 26:16).

On these very words, the Ramban [Nachmanides d.1270] has a famous comment: ‘These are good tidings; during all our exiles, our Land will not accommodate our enemies…for since the Jewish people left it, it has never accepted any other nation or tongue; even though they all try to settle it, none has succeeded’.

There could be no more prophetic words than these. Every single nation, apart from our own, who ever tried to settle en masse in the Land, always failed. When the Jewish community was destroyed following the destruction of the second Temple, the many Greeks and Romans who had made their homes there also disbanded and disappeared. Both Christians and Muslims recognised the holiness of the Land, but their attempts at settling it met with failure. The Arabs, the Turks and the Mongols also set their eyes upon it, but none were able to make the Land flourish.

When the Ramban emigrated to Israel, he wrote these words to his son: ‘The desolation and devastation of the Land are extensive… the holier the site, the more ruined it is. Jerusalem is the most ravaged of all.’

History bears testimony to the fact that Heaven has designated the Land of Israel to the Jewish people. Only with the onset of mass Jewish immigration did the Land become productive, and only because of our presence have non-Jews prospered there.

Rabbi J. B. Soloveitchik (d.1993) goes so far as to say that the union of the Jewish people with the Land of Israel is comparable to a marriage. In a marriage, the groom cannot be wedded to the bride unless he knows her. This, says Rabbi Soloveitchik, explains why the Jewish people first sent out spies to view the Land before settling it. Each of the spies represented one of the twelve tribes, and by travelling across its length and breadth, the people became wedded to the Land. Only because we are wedded to it can it prosper.

It goes without saying that just as the sanctity of marriage must be preserved, so must we protect the sanctity of Israel. Our claim to its sovereignty rests solely on our Torah observance and respect of the moral code with which we were charged when we became the Chosen People.

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