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October 10, 2015 / 27 Tishri, 5776
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With All Your Soul

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The recent appalling murders in Itamar shocked everyone – not just settlers but every Jew without exception, because it wasn’t the Fogel family alone whom the enemy wished to murder, but rather each and every one of us.

In Itamar’s neighboring communities, situated on the frontlines of Jewish settlement, many residents wondered how they would react if, God forbid Children and parents found it harder to sleep at night.

Nevertheless, we must not be weakened. The fears and worries must be elevated to the mitzvot of Kiddush Hashem, sanctification of God’s name, and we must remind ourselves of what we are strict to say everyday, both morning and evening, in the reading of the Shema: “And you shall love Hashem your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your possessions.”

In the Mishnah (Berachot 9:5), the Sages said: “With all your soul – even if He takes your soul.” This is what every Jew must think of when reading the Shema – if it was required, he would be ready to die for Kiddush Hashem.

This awesome mitzvah is what connects every Jew to eternity. It detaches him from the temporariness and pettiness of life and connects him to the world of truth and good, to the vision of the redemption.

This is also the idea of the mitzvah of conquering and settling the Land of Israel – the only mitzvah that obligates the Jewish nation to enter, on its own initiative, a life-threatening situation (Minchat Chinuch 425; Mishpat Kohen, p. 327).

There is no mitzvah comparable to that of settling the Land of Israel, through which even the seemingly insignificant actions one does during the course of the day receive profound and divine meaning. A person fulfills the mitzvah merely by breathing, eating, sleeping or walking in the Land. And the more one strives to improve the quality of his life, both spiritually and physically, the greater the mitzvah becomes.

For a Jew living a Torah life in the Land of Israel, everything comes together. One’s house, job, family, social life – are all partners in the revelation of the word of God in this world.

This is the great message to the world emanating from the Land of Israel, that there is no schism between the heavens and the earth, and precisely within the parameters of everyday life it is possible to reveal the word of God, bring redemption, and improve the entire world.

We stand on two foundations: on the principle of the mitzvah to settle the Land of Israel and on the principle of security – that if, God forbid, we retreat from Judea and Samaria, the danger to the State of Israel will be greatly increased.

From the outset, Jews have been obligated to settle Eretz Yisrael in order to make the desolate areas blossom and to inhabit the land. When we don’t merit doing so, tragedies occur, and we are forced to come to Israel to settle the Land.

The spies in the desert were afraid to enter the Land of Israel because of security concerns, and only after God decreed that they were to die in the desert did they attempt to ascend – but it was too late. The entire generation died in the desert, and their children entered the Land to settle it.

Had we merited, we would have ascended to the Land of Israel in order to care for its soil, to build the destroyed cities and make the desolate hills blossom, as was the call of the Vilna Gaon, and after him Rabbi Kalisher, Rabbi Gutmacher and Rabbi Alkaly.

But we didn’t merit this; the majority of Jews were afraid to ascend to Israel and refrained from moving because, they thought, it was a matter of pikuach nefesh (saving one’s life from danger). But our tragedies only grew in the Diaspora, and eventually we were required to ascend – ironically – in a desperate attempt at pikuach nefesh, at saving our lives.

People often ask, Isn’t it dangerous to live in Judea and Samaria? Indeed it is, and there is additional danger living in a settlement. And this is precisely why we are here. Because in the merit of the mitzvah of settling the Land of Israel on its highest level, the chances of increasing and elevating one’s life is also greater.

The fact is, if we compare the families of the settlers to those of people with similar qualities who live behind the Green Line, the settler families are much larger. Self-sacrifice in settling the Land strengthens one’s life. Usually, in this world, this is manifested by an increase in the number of children and grandchildren, in Torah and mitzvot, in spiritual creativeness.

People die from accidents and illnesses, and from various self-destructive behaviors. Many of them can’t find love and don’t raise families. Global suffering is great. Someone who flees the nation’s mission because of the dangers it entails usually finds himself faced with other, bigger and more difficult, dangers or risks.

Fortunate is the person whose suffering has value, for through these trials and tribulations he is purified and refined, and his life flows in its proper path.

Rabbi Eliezer Melamed is dean of Yeshiva Har Bracha (www.yhb.org.il), located in the Samarian mountains near Shechem.

About the Author: Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, a leader of Israel’s religious-Zionist community, is dean of Yeshiva Har Bracha and a prolific author on Jewish Law. His books “The Laws of Prayer,” “The Laws of Passover” and “Nation, Land, Army” are being translated into English. He can be contacted at yonaton@yhb.org.il.

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