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Land of the Torah

By Tzvi Fishman
5/31/2009, 12:00 AM

If you want proof that Eretz Yisrael is the place where the commandments are meant to be performed, just take a look at the holiday of Shavuot.

The holiday of Shavuot has only two Torah commandments, both of which can only be performed in Eretz Yisrael. One is the bringing of the first fruits, “HaBikorim,” as is written: “And you shall take from the first of every fruit of the ground, which you shall bring from your Land” (Devarim, 26:2). Only fruits from the Land Of Israel (your Land) may be brought to Jerusalem on the Festival.

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The second mitzvah is the bringing of the two loaves of bread to the Temple, marking permission to use the new crop of grain for sacrificial purposes, as it says: “From your dwellings, you shall bring two loaves of bread for heaving” (Vayikra, 23:17), which can only come from Eretz Yisrael, and not from other lands “(Mishna, Kelim, 1:6).

You can try bringing fruit or bread from Brooklyn, but it won’t be accepted. Not even fruit from Monsey, NY.

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 While Shavuot in the Diaspora is characterized by the emphasis on Torah study, in Israel, in addition to the intensive all-night Torah study which takes place all over the country, the days leading to the holiday are marked by songs of Eretz Yisrael on the radio, agricultural exhibitions in school, and parades celebrating the new harvest and the fruits of Eretz Yisrael, in the joyous spirit of the pageant bringing of the first fruits to Jerusalem in days of yore.

Thus, the Festival of Shavuot is intrinsically bound with the praising Hashem for the agricultural bounty of Eretz Yisrael. This praise and sense of gratitude is highlighted in the speech that every Jew must make to the Kohen when he brings his first fruits to the Temple:         

“I profess this day to the L-rd thy G-d that I am come to the country that the L-rd swore to our fathers to give us… and He brought us to this place and gave us this Land, a Land flowing with milk and honey” (Devarim, 26:1-15).

Additionally, the bringing of the Omer, upon which the Counting of the Omer is based between Pesach and Shavuot, can only be brought from Eretz Yisrael, as the Torah commands: “When you come to the Land… and reap its harvest, then you shall bring an omer of your first harvest to the kohen” (Vayikra, 23:10), meaning only “its harvest” from the Land of Israel. In fact, the Mishna teaches that: “Any mitzvah involving land applies only in Eretz Yisrael” (Kiddushin, 1:9).

The centrality of Eretz Yisrael to Jewish life can also be seen in other aspects of the Shavuot holiday. For instance, in Megillat  Ruth, when Naomi’s husband, Elimelech, and two sons, Machlon and Kilyon, abandon the Land of Israel and go to Moav, they are stricken to death in Divine punishment for leaving the Land.

Also, we honor King David, who was born and died on Shavuot day, by reading from the Book of Psalms. King David was so fervently attached to Eretz Yisrael that he looked upon leaving it as if he were forced to worship idols. When he had to escape to the land of the Philistines in order to escape Saul, who was pursuing him in murderous wrath, David moaned, “For they have driven me out his day from being joined to the inheritance of the L-rd, saying ‘Go serve other gods’” (Shmuel 1:26:19). The Talmud asks, “Did someone really tell David to serve other gods?” In answer, the Talmud states: “Rather, it comes to teach you that anyone who dwells outside the Land of Israel is like someone who worships idols” (Ketubot 110B).

Going up to to Brooklyn for the Festival

To be continued.