Parashat Ekev

The Land Is The Means

The Land of Israel is a means to the sacred end of developing into Godly people.

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Is the Land of Israel of ultimate value? Or is it a valuable tool toward some more encompassing end? The Torah we read this week is unambiguous on that score.

"Keep all the commandments which I command you this day, that you may be strong, and go in and possess the land, into which you go to possess it; and that you may prolong your days in the land."

The Land is of importance, not as an end in itself, but as the necessary backdrop for the fullest possible encounter with God. Only within the Land of Israel is it possible to observe all the mitzvot commanded in the Torah and the Talmud, and only within the Land are the rhythms of Jewish life and religion the basis of daily life.

Yet, the significance of the Land is not intrinsic to the Land itself. The Land is not the goal, but rather a sacred means to an even more sacred end. The ultimate goal is to observe all the commandments--including to "have one law for yourself and for the stranger," including to "seek peace and pursue peace," including to "love the stranger."

The Land matters because it can lead to the creation of truly Godly Jews. To the extent that we utilize the promise of the land to become more compassionate, more loving and more just--to that extent alone do we merit inhabiting the Land. And only to that extent do we fulfill the purpose of our being there in the first place.

The ultimate goal of Judaism is to build Godly Jews. The Land, as with every other aspect of Judaism, is a sacred rung on the ladder of holiness. But the goal remains holiness, not the ladder itself.

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Rabbi Bradley Artson

Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson is Vice-President of the American Jewish University in Los Angeles and Dean of its Ziegler School of Rabbinical Studies. He served as a congregational rabbi in Southern California for ten years. Rabbi Artson?is the author of The Bedside Torah and co-author of a children's book, I Have Some Questions about God.