Daily Israel Report

Judaism: The Other Side of the Coin

A simple and clear text in the Torah that is ignored.
Published: Friday, July 25, 2014 2:48 PM


It always seems that after a tragedy, there is a call that goes out to build, build - and build some more. This, they tell us, is the true  Zionist answer to the spilling of Jewish blood. They will throw rocks at us, and we will use these rocks to build up the land. Thus, the answer to Arab violence is to build a new settlement. This might be a nice thing to do, and definitely a useful tool to build up the land - but what does the Torah say on this subject?

In our parsha, the Torah tell us: "Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them, when you cross the Jordan to the land of Cana'an, you shall drive out the inhabitants of the land before you. You shall destroy all their temples... You shall rid the land of its inhabitants and you shall settle in it, for to you have I given the land, to possess it."

Rashi comments on this:  "You shall rid the land of its inhabitants and you shall settle in it" - that is, then you shall be able to last in the land, but if you do not (rid the land of its inhabitants), you shall not be able to last."  Rashi is teaching us a very basic concept: That it is not enough just to settle and build the land, but we must also listen to what the Torah is telling us about the other side of the coin: To remove the evil, the enemy from within. For without doing so, you will never have a moment of rest in your land. 

Interestingly enough, this simple, plain text of the Torah is somehow ignored by our religious leaders today. Not wanting to cause a confrontation or uncomfortable dialogue, they prefer to totally exclude these sentences from the Torah and focus just on the settling of the Land of Israel. But the commentaries are clear, that without the removal of the enemy from the land, there will be no settlement for the Jewish people.

The holy Or HaChayim comments: "Not only will you not be able to settle in those parts of the land that are in the hands of your enemy, but even in the parts where you settle and feel secure, you will not be able to stay."

The Abarbanel adds that "they, the inhabitants of the land, will always despise you. Yes they may feel they have no choice but to work with you, but when they gather strength, they will rise up and join your enemies to remove you from the land."

The Talmud tells us that when Joshua and the Children of Israel were crossing over the Jordan River to enter the Land of Israel, Joshua stopped the people in the midst of the river and told them: Know for what reason you are entering the Land of Israel. One might think that Joshua wanted to tell them the importance of keeping the Sabbath, or maybe the dietary laws. But it was neither of the above! Rather, Joshua's only instruction to them was to teach them why they are crossing over the Jordan: "To remove the inhabitants of the Land of Israel, for if you do so, you will be able to live there. But if not, the waters of the Jordan will come down and wash away you and me." 

It is clear that over the decades that the Jewish people have returned to the Land of Israel, we have rebuilt its cities and settlements. But this is not enough. In order for us to survive in this land, we also have to fulfill what's written on the other side of the coin: Not only to settle, but also to remove the enemy from within. This is the only way the Jewish people will ever have peace and security in their land.