Parashat D'varim

What Makes The Land Holy?

The land of Israel is sacred by virtue of the sacred actions performed by the people who live there.

Print this page Print this page

With regard to the commandment to conquer the Land of Israel, the obligation is imposed on us and we are enjoined to enter a state of war in order to fulfill it, even if we be killed. This is a special precept and as such is on par with all the rest of the Torah,…namely, that the entire land, its borders and straits, be in our hands and not those of some other nation. This commandment is a national affair. Blessed be the One who has made us live…[in a time] when we rule our land and we are the landlords here, not the gentiles (Zvi Yehuda Kook, From the Redeeming Torah [n.d.], quoted by Moshe Zemer in Evolving Halakhah, Jewish Lights Publishing, Woodstock, VT, 1999, p. 216).

The fact that "you were strangers in the land of Egypt" is no adequate motivation for "not oppressing or vexing the stranger" (Exodus 22:20). On the contrary, how often do we find that the slave or exile who gains power and freedom or anyone who harbors the memory of suffering to himself or his forebears finds compensation for his former sufferings by giving free reign to his tyrannical instincts when he has the opportunity to lord it over others (Nehama Leibowitz, Studies in Shemot [Exodus], WZO, 1981)?

The Land of Israel has been sanctified by the words of the prophets, by the suffering of a whole people, by the tears and prayers of thousands of years, by the labor and dedication of pioneers. Such sanctity is precious to God, vital to the people, a light within history. The State of Israel is not only a place of refuge for the survivors of the holocaust [sic] but also a tabernacle for the rebirth of faith and justice, for the renewal of souls, for the cultivation of knowledge of the words of the Divine. By the power and promise of prophetic visions we inhabit the land, by faithfulness to God and Torah we continue to survive (A. J. Heschel, Israel: An Echo of Eternity, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 1969).

The State of Israel will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice, and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race, or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education, and culture; it will safeguard the holy places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations (Israel’s Declaration of Independence, May 14, 1948).

Did you like this article?  MyJewishLearning is a not-for-profit organization.

Please consider making a donation today.

Rabbi Fred Greene

Fred Greene is the rabbi at Temple Beth Tikvah in Roswell, Georgia. He was previously the rabbi at Congregation B?nai Israel, Bridgeport, Connecticut.