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Judaism: Shlach: The Power of the Land

The secret of this land of Israel, that Hashem describes as being His land, is that it fills one with a different spirit. It empowers one with a spirit of courage, destiny and purpose.
Published: Thursday, June 12, 2014 9:04 AM


This is a land wherein the miraculous is clearly seen in the natural. One example of this is the Birthright Israel program .The program was created by its founders as a project to send thousands of young Jewish young people from across the Diaspora, for a visit, home, to Israel. Their purpose was to strengthen the bond between the Jewish people and their ancestral home, and to cultivate in these young people a spark and linkage with their people.

Yet what makes this program so interesting is that, in reality, it makes no sense.

Young people some affiliated, and most not at all, are being offered a free trip, all expenses paid, trip to Israel. Most of the groups have no educational purpose and as a result most of the young people tour all day and party all night. Yet, miraculously, every one of them becomes changed. There is something about this land that transforms you.


The Magen David that had been hanging so proudly on his chest had penetrated into his heart. The Jewish heart he had been wearing externally became the enflamed Jewish soul that was burning within.
Many years ago a young man walked into our shop in the Old City of Jerusalem. He had come with the Birthright Israel program. This young man had never been to Israel before and his eyes reflected the wonderment of discovery. He was amazed at how with one glance in this land he was able to glimpse past present and future. He explained that he was returning to his studies in the University and that he was looking for a silver star of David. He wanted the biggest one I could find for him. He wanted to make a statement. He put it on, almost ceremoniously, smiled and walked into his future.

Several years later he came back for another visit to Israel. He looked at me held his Magen David in his hand and said "do you remember me?" I told him that I was very happy to see him and asked how his university years had been. He responded that it was getting tougher and tougher to be a Jew in some of these campuses. "But", he said “this Magen David remained on me prominently and proudly! “He then told me that he was in Israel for two months to study Judaism in one of the outreach programs in the Old City.

The Magen David that had been hanging so proudly on his chest had penetrated into his heart. The Jewish heart he had been wearing externally became the enflamed Jewish soul that was burning within.

What is it about the land?

When Moshe sent twelve  spies  to scout the Land of Canaan, and he said to them, "Go up this way in the south and climb up the mountain.   (Numbers 12:17).

Yet when they came back they declared the following;"We are unable to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.” They spread an [evil] report about the land which they had scouted (ibid :31-32)    

Two of the spies, Joshua and Calev, declared the opposite report. It is perhaps  understandable that Joshua had the strength to avoid the pitfall of the other spies because he received a special blessing when his name was changed from Hoshea to Yehoshuah (Rashi, Sotah 34b) .

What is it that empowered Calev to be a man that Hashem later describes in the following way: ”But as for My servant Caleb, since he was possessed by another spirit, and he followed Me, I will bring him to the land to which he came, and his descendants will drive it’s inhabitants] out."(Numbers 14:24)

Rashi in tractate Sotah (34b) points to the verse describing the entry of the spies into the land  ”They went up in, the south, and he came to Hevron…” (ibid 13:22) and asks why it did not say “They went up in, the south, and they  came to Hevron” . Rashi explains that while the other spies entered from the south and continued forward, Calev, is the “he” that then  turned aside to pray at the caves of the Patriarchs Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaacov.It is in Hevron that a different spirit was sparked in him. As we result in the ensuing Tanach narrative we read;   “And to him (Caleb) I shall give the land upon which he trod”;(Deuteronomy 1:36) and then we read  “And to Caleb they gave Hevron” [as his portion in the Land of Israel] (Judges 1:20).

The land of Israel, the city of Hevron and standing at the burial place of his forefathers changed and empowered Calev. That is the secret of this land of Israel, that Hashem describes as being His land. It fills one with a different spirit. It empowers one with a spirit of courage , destiny and purpose.

Yet the obvious question arises as to why were the other spies not  impacted in this way. Perhaps it is because they were so filled with fear and/or self-interest that they had no room left in their souls to be filled with that”different spirit”. One has to have the desire to have the heart of Hashem so that one could be filled.  A hint of that is seen in Calev’s name which in Hebrew means “as the heart of”- Ka-Lev.

This then, is the experience of every individual living in this land. It is the experience of every tourist and visitor as well. If you enter or live in this land filled with yourself and your pre-conceived notions and doctrines, you will not be impacted and filled.

On the other hand, if you enter and walk this land with an open heart of wonderment you will be empowered and lifted .As a result you will be changed irrevocably.

That is the power of this “appointed place” that Hashem describes as "a land that Hashem your G-d cares for. The eyes of Hashem your G-d are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year".(Deuteronomy 11:12)

LeRefuat Yehudit Bat Golda Yocheved