Behukotai: iLand

Against a utilitarian approach to the Land.

Yishai Fleisher,

Judaism לבן ריק
לבן ריק
Arutz 7
"I will remember My covenant with Jacob and even My covenant with Isaac, and even My covenant with Abraham will I remember, and I will remember the Land." (Vayikra 26:42)
In this week's parsha there is a long list of ultra-scary curses that G-d vows to bring upon us if we neglect His
Why would G-d include in His list of the patriarchs a special mention of the Land of Israel?
Torah. At the end of these awful passages promising exile comes a verse that is meant to give us solace. G-d promises to bring us back from the exile in the merit of the forefathers and in the merit of the Land. But why would G-d include in His list of the patriarchs a special mention of the Land of Israel? Why did He not include other mitzvot He might remember, like: 'I will remember Jacob and his tefillin, Issac and his tzitit, and Abraham and his etrog'?
In this iPod generation, it is easy to believe that the world is here for our convenience. Everything is quick, easy and on demand. Through this attitude we may come to the false conclusion that the Land of Israel is our own little iLand, a personalized tool for our use. We may begin to treat the Land as merely a cheftza, that is, a religious object like tefillin, tzitit, and etrog, to be used and then put away when done, or even disposed of when it wears out.
This utilitarian thinking is actually a wide-reaching phenomenon. For example, secular post-Zionism is the belief that a few years ago we needed a safe haven from persecution and therefore we created a Jewish state; but now that we are well-off and safe from persecution, we can scrap the state; it's boring, and anyway we can simply live in peace and harmony in the US, a very nice place indeed. We have used up the Land of Israel and now it's time to move on, to skip to the next song, to throw away this paper cup.
Religious post-Zionism, that is, Orthodox Jewry outside of Israel, is just as utilitarian. Says the religious post-Zionist: "Sure there are mitzvot connected to the Land of Israel and that's why I come to Israel now and then. It's there for my religious convenience. Now I would like to hit a button on my iLand and play the Israel song for a ten-day trip. On the trip I will pray at the Kotel, give some charity to the needy, and walk around Jerusalem like I own the place. When I'm satiated in my religious observance, I hit "Stop" on the iLand and I go back "Home".
These attitudes are reasonable symptoms of mistaken initial assumptions. In this week's Torah portion, HaShem tells us that the Land of Israel is not just a mitzvah or religious tool. The Torah equates the Land to the forefathers and tells us that G-d's particular remembrance for the Land is amongst the merits that will yank us out of the exile. But what is this merit? Why does G-d remember the Land?
When G-d created the world, he created the Land of Israel as a special entity - a land that has feelings and a personality, a land that is sensitive to how she is treated, and sensitive to how her inhabitants behave.
"And you, I will scatter among the nations, I will unsheathe the sword after you; your land will be desolate and your cities will be a ruin. Then the land will be appeased for its sabbaticals during all the years of its desolation, while you are in the land of your enemies; then the land will rest and it will appease for its sabbaticals. All the years of
The Land has her own personality.
its desolation it will rest, whatever it did not rest during your sabbaticals when you dwelled upon her." (Vayikra 26, 33-35)
If we Jews are bad, the Land will evict us; if we Jews don't keep the Sabbaths, including the Shmittah year, the Land will vomit us out. However, when we call out to G-d from the exile, the merit of the Land, this entity which loves the Jewish people, this special being that only flourishes when the Jewish people are with her, helps convince G-d that indeed it is time to bring us home.
Once we understand that the Land has her own personality and that she has a relationship with HaShem, we become much more careful as to how we treat her. We will not litter our Land because it offends her, we do not speak ill of the Land because it hurts her feelings. Moreover, once we comprehend that our Land is our unique friend and partner, we stop treating the Land as some personal i-device that we turn on and off at our whim. Instead, we embrace her, we cultivate her, we protect her, and we honor her. Our forefathers knew that the Land of Israel is a gift; let us not take her for granted.