The Joy of Settling Eretz Yisrael

BY RABBI ZALMAN BARUCH MELAMED

In honor of Yom HaAtzmaut 5783, Israel’s 75th anniversary, World Mizrachi partnered with Yeshivat Beit El to translate the drashot of Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed, the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Beit El. These drashot were delivered over many decades on Yom HaZikaron and Yom HaAtzmaut in the yeshiva. The following is a selection from Chapter 31, Yom HaAtzmaut 61 (5769).

A gift acquired via tribulations

Living in Eretz Yisrael is both a gift and a mitzvah. The Sages taught: “G-d gave three gifts to Israel… Torah, Eretz Yisrael, and the World to Come” (Berachot 5a). Torah and Eretz Yisrael are both a mitzvah and a gift. But why is Torah considered a gift, if we see in Pirkei Avot that “the Torah is acquired in 48 ways” (6:5). What kind of gift is it if we have to pay such a high price for it in the form of hard work and much effort?

The answer is that although we have to pay for the Torah, what we receive is worth much more than the price we pay. G-d exacts a “price” from us, but it is like paying ten shekels for a house worth millions. Is that a sale or a gift? People often say about a purchase they made, “What a find it was!” They mean they paid so little that it was as if they found it on the street. This is also what is meant by the Sages’ dictum on Torah study: “If you worked hard and found [results], you can believe it,” meaning, it is logical to call it a find; this is because the value of the Torah is so great that even after you work hard for it, what you achieve is actually a great “find.” 

The same is true for Eretz Yisrael; it is a mitzvah and also a gift, and is acquired through suffering. It would seem to be an expensive purchase, but the suffering and efforts that we invest are small in relation to the Land’s value. It is thus a “gift acquired via tribulations.”

…וְהָיָה כִּי תָבוֹא אֶל הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר ה’ אֱ-לֹקֶיךָ נֹתֵן לְךָ נַחֲלָה וִירִשְׁתָּהּ וְיָשַׁבְתָּ בָּהּ. וְלָקַחְתָּ מֵרֵאשִׁית כָּל פְּרִי הָאֲדָמָה

“It shall be that when you come to the land that Hashem your G-d gives you for an inheritance, and you possess it and settle in it, you shall take of the first of all the fruits of the ground…” (Devarim 26:1–2).

The classic commentator Ohr HaChaim explains that the first word of this verse, וְהָיָה, meaning “it shall be”, signifies happiness (Bereishit Rabbah 42:3). He writes that this “tells us that we must be happy only in the settling of the Land, as is written in Tehillim (126:1–2), Then [when G-d returns us to Zion] our mouths will be filled with laughter.”

The Ohr HaChaim explains that this verse includes four commandments: 1. “That Hashem your G-d gives you” – to remember that it is Hashem Who gives us this land; 2. “and you possess it” – to dispossess the gentiles living there of the Land and inherit it from the hands of G-d’s enemies, even if you have other places to live; 3. “and settle in it” – the mitzvah to settle in Eretz Yisrael; and 4. “you shall take of the first of all the fruits”, known as the bikkurim, and bring them to Jerusalem.

There is no joy equal to the joy of settling in Eretz Yisrael – and happiness must be expressed in song, as we will now see.

Levels in song

The Talmud teaches: “The Holy One, Blessed be He, wanted to make King Chizkiyahu the Mashiach, and the war of Sancheriv (Sennacherib) would be the final war, that of Gog and Magog. The Attribute of Judgment protested: ‘Master of the Universe! King David sang songs of praise to You and yet You did not make him the Mashiach – so why should You make Chizkiyahu the Mashiach, who did not sing songs of praise to You even though You did all these miracles for him?!’” (Sanhedrin 94a).

This must be clarified. We read in the words of the prophet Yeshayahu that on the night that Sancheriv was overwhelmingly defeated before Chizkiyahu, הַשִּׁיר יִהְיֶה לָכֶם כְּלֵיל הִתְקַדֶּשׁ חָג וְשִׂמְחַת לֵבָב כַּהוֹלֵךְ בֶּחָלִיל, “This song shall be to you as the night of the sanctification of the festival, and the joy of heart like one who goes with a flute” (Yeshayahu 30:29). That means that there was a song that night!

Perhaps we can say that because Chizkiyahu took no action to fight Sancheriv, but slept in his bed while Hashem killed his enemies (Midrash Petichta Eichah Rabbati 30), his song of praise was not on a very high level, but only on the level of one who had no partnership in the salvation. David, however, actively fought his own wars, and consequently his songs of praise were much more meaningful. 

This, however, presents an apparent difficulty, as the opposite took place at the crossing of the Red Sea, when Israel was not proactive and yet their song, the Song of the Sea, was quite significant! To this we can say that in truth, both the Song of the Sea and Chizkiyahu’s song were merely songs of thanks, while David’s song, composed by one who took an active role in bringing G-d’s plan to fruition, was much more than thanks, rendering it potentially strong enough to bring the Mashiach

And we must know there is another condition that will enable the coming of the Mashiach: The generation must be on the level of that of King Chizkiyahu, about which is written, “The yoke shall be destroyed because of oil” (Yeshayahu 10:27). The Talmud explains what this means: “Rav Yitzchak Nafcha says: The yoke of Sancheriv was destroyed due to the oil of Chizkiyahu that would burn in the synagogues and study halls at night [because the Jewish people were engaged in Torah study. The learning was so widespread that] they searched from Dan in the north to Be’er Sheva in the south, and did not find an ignoramus; they searched from Gevat to Antipatris and found no child, man or woman who was not expert in the complex laws of ritual purity and impurity” (Sanhedrin 94b).

That is, in order to bring the Mashiach, both conditions are required: spiritual wholeness and song. This is a song with completeness of faith, a “new song.”

© 2024 World Mizrachi

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