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Upon hearing the reading of the Torah describing the purchase of the Cave of Machpela by our forefather Abraham, we were reminded again of the basic significance and substance of the destiny of the Jewish people, namely that our nation and our land are bonded by strong spiritual cords that can never be severed. After completion of the transaction, the Torah uses the word vayakam (Genesis 23:17) to describe the new status of the field of Machpela and surrounding areas sold by Ephron to Abraham for 400 shekels of silver.
Rashi explains that the transfer of the land from the custody of a simple man like Ephron to a majestic personality like Abraham led to an elevation in the status of the land that will now serve the spiritual and moral principles of life as commanded by the Almighty.
Let us go back to the first words God commands Abraham, Lech lecha: “Go on to the land… I will show you and I will make you into a great nation and you will be blessed … and all the families of the world shall be blessed through you.”
With these words God prescribed the destiny of the Jewish people, which is to bring a blessing to all nations. The realization of this promise began by Abraham going to the land of Israel and later purchasing the Cave of Machpela. The land and the people are an inseparable entity. As long as the Land of Israel is settled by Jews permeated with the power of faith and adhering to the moral values of the Torah, the land will flourish, thrive and provide sustenance for all its inhabitants.
The special mutual bond of life between the land and the people of Israel finds its unique expression in Leviticus (Bechukotai 26:32), which lists the curses meant to come upon the Jewish people when they stray from the ways of Hashem. After describing the Jews being led into exile because of their sins, the Torah speaks of a curse that will come to the land. God says, “I will make the land desolate and your enemies who dwell there will become desolate as well.”
Our sages explain that there is a blessing within this curse. Just as the Jewish people in exile will remain loyal to the land of Israel, always praying to return home, so the land of Israel will remain loyal to the Jewish people and will not bear its fruit for strangers.
When the Jewish people were not in their land as a nation for over 2,000 years, the land remained desolate. Only when the Jews began coming home at the beginning of the Zionist awakening did the land begin bearing its fruit thanks to renewed Jewish life. In the last 100 years the land of Israel has turned into a Garden of Eden, as promised by the Prophet Ezekiel (36:35): “And they shall say, this land that was desolate has become a Garden of Eden … desolate cities will be rebuilt and inhabited.”
These are the roots of Jewish life and existence throughout the generations. The divine promise of a thriving land is dependent upon the bond of people and land, and this bond alone brings a blessing to the Jewish people and eventually will bring a blessing to the peoples of the world.
We are a people of faith who believe we are guided by the God of Israel in this process of redemption. Our faith gives us the strength to stand up against all those who want to deny our basic historical rights to our land. Our moral responsibility to be a source of blessing to the nations of the world obligates us to continue the process of creating Jewish life in all corners of our land.
At present we are again confronted by the reawakening of hatred toward the Jewish people in Israel. This hatred expresses itself in denial of our right to self-defense, reflecting an attitude that Jewish independence is somehow illegitimate. The recent false and distorted accusations of war crimes and condemnation of Israeli acts of self-defense are part of this malicious scheme portraying us as a nation that does not fall in line with the twisted principles of justice prevalent in international organizations.
About the Author: Rabbi Eliezer Waldman is rosh yeshivaof Yeshivat Nir Kiryat Arba.
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