Va’etchanan – The Spiritual Quality of the Land of Israel

In the Torah reading of V’aetchanan that we read this Shabbat, Moses tells the Israelites how much he prayed and begged G-d to nullify the decree against him so he could enter the Land of Israel. “I entreated the Lord at that time, saying… please let me cross over and see the good land… this good mountain and the Lebanon.”     

The Sages point out that the word 'entreated' hints to the number of prayers that Moses prayed. V’etchanan in Hebrew numerology equals 515, because Moses had prayed 515 prayers to be allowed to enter the land. Despite that, his prayer was not accepted.

Our sages ask: Why was Moses so desirous of entering the Land of Israel? Was it just to enjoy its nature scenes and special fruits? Such mundane matters obviously were of no importance to Moses. Moses’s real aim was to fulfill the many agricultural commandments which can only be kept in the Land of Israel. As long as Moses was outside the Land of Israel, he was unable to perform them. But a person who lives in the Land of Israel can perform commandments such as giving tithes, not working the land every seventh year, and much more, that can only be performed there.

Moses felt that if he wouldn’t enter Israel, he would never reach the spiritual perfection he was capable of because of the commandments he had never fulfilled. Because of his longing to enter the Land of Israel, he poured out his heart in numerous supplications before God to nullify the decree.
Moses’s passionate desire to enter the Land of Israel teaches us the lofty spiritual dimension of this land. Physically, the land of Israel looks just like other countries. Its dirt is like dirt everywhere, its plants are like plants everywhere.

The difference is in its spiritual dimension: the Land of Israel is holier than all other countries, and therefore can one fulfill the agricultural commandments only with its crops. It is similar to the difference between a Jew and a gentile. There is no difference in their bodies, but spiritually, the difference is so vast that they may not connect with each other unless the non-Jew undergoes a process of conversion according to Jewish law which will effect the necessary major spiritual change.
The Land of Israel’s inner spirituality is completely different from other countries. Our sages teach us that the very atmosphere of the Land of Israel makes one wise.

There is a deep and direct connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel. When a Jew lives in Israel, the very air that he breathes vitalizes him spiritually, like a fish living in water gets its vitality from the water. Although Jews living abroad feel that they are functioning normally and are not missing anything, the Jewish soul feels the difference. The Land of Israel is the natural home of the Jewish soul.
The same is true concerning keeping commandments. A sin that a Jew does in Israel is far more serious than a sin he does abroad. The Land of Israel is the “Palace of the King.” When a servant transgresses his King’s will in the palace, this is far graver than one who sins outside of the palace.

The Divine Providence over the Land of Israel, G-d's palace, is also greater than anywhere else. It is “a land where the eyes of the L-rd your G-d are on it.” Therefore, we must be super careful about how we behave when in the Land and ensure that all our deeds will find favor in G-d’s eyes.
May we merit to see Israel’s redemption quickly and the rebuilding of our Temple, Amen.
Shabbat shalom.


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