<i>Shemot</I>: Admit to Your Land

We must not assimilate into cultures around us.

Aloh Naaleh,

Arutz 7
The Medrash Rabbah relates that since Moshe Rabbeinu did not admit to his land, he did not merit to be buried in Eretz Yisroel; as opposed to Yosef, who did admit to his land and merited to be buried in Eretz Yisroel.

The Medrash explains that Yosef admitted to his land when his master's wife said that her
Eretz Yisroel is the place where we can develop our unique identity.
husband brought an Ivri to us to mock us, and Yosef admitted that he was stolen from the land of the Ivri. Moshe did not admit to his land when the daughters of Yisro referred to him as an Ish Mitzri, "an Egyptian man," who saved them from the shepherds. Moshe, seemingly, did not correct them and say that he was not an Egyptian, but rather an Ivri. The difficulty with this Medrash lies in the fact that Moshe Rabbeinu did not hear them say this, for immediately afterwards, Yisro says, "Where is he? Call him to eat bread." Additionally, Yosef was, in fact, born in Eretz Yisroel and removed from there; yet, Moshe was born in Egypt.

Perhaps, the meaning of this Medrash is as follows. The Jewish people are an am levadad, separate and distinct in their lifestyle and mission from the rest of the world. To maintain this identity, we must not assimilate into the cultures around us. In fact, HaShem has made this impossible in regards to the Jewish people as a whole. We are compared to oil and the nations of the world to water, impossible to be assimilated together in the long term.

When we understand this and choose to dwell apart, we dwell apart in security as the Torah tells us: "And Yisroel will dwell securely apart" - "vayishkon Yisroel betach badad." When we resist and choose to assimilate, in the long term, it is unsuccessful and we remain apart. But then, we lament, "How do you dwell apart" - "aichaw yashva vadad." As Rabbi Chaim Voloziner said, "Either the Jew makes kiddush or the Goy will make Havdalah." Either we separate ourselves willingly and sanctify our lifestyle, or the Goy will separate us against our will in a tragic manner.

Eretz Yisroel is the place where we can develop our unique identity and remain insulated (not isolated) from the rest of the world. A Jew, no matter where he is born, is connected to Eretz Yisroel as the land of his identity. He should never blend in to another land and culture, but rather be recognizable as being an Eretz Yisroel person. Hence, he should never feel totally comfortable and settled anywhere but in Eretz Yisroel. If Moshe Rabbeinu could have been identified as an ish Mitzri and it wasn’t obvious that he was different, apart and unique, then his connection to Eretz Yisroel was blemished. Hence, he did not merit to bond with the land after death by being buried there.

Either the Jew makes kiddush or the Goy will make Havdalah.

Even if one has not merited to be able to settle in Eretz Yisroel as of yet, even in the times of Golus, when many are forced to live outside of Eretz Yisroel, one must also "admit"; i.e., be cognizant, that their true place as a Jew is in the environment of Eretz Yisroel with the kedusha and tahara, the holiness and purity, that makes the distinction of the Jew as one who dwells apart. This will engender the feeling that, although physically one is outside of Eretz Yisroel, one will live an Eretz Yisroel existence in Chutz l’Aretz. Perhaps, amongst the nations but never with them, never settled and comfortable in Golus, always uniquely apart from and never a part of, inspires yearning to be in the place designated for spiritual insulation - Eretz Yisroel.
Rabbi Zev Leff is the Chief Rabbi of Moshav Matityahu, Rosh Hayeshiva of the Yeshiva Gedola Matisyahu and Rosh Kollel Yesod Refoel.

The foregoing commentary was distributed by the Aloh Naaleh organization.