Since the month of Elul has unique spiritual properties, we are going to go over a few things from the last few Torah portions, with the hope that their teachings will be grasped by everyone.
Sometimes people ask, “What is the purpose of the Torah?”
G-d Himself gives us the answer. The Torah states: “All the commandments which I command you this day shall you observe to do, that you may live, and multiply, and go in and possess the Land which the L-rd swore to your fathers (Devarim, 7:8).
G-d gave us the Torah so that we could live fruitfully in the Land of Israel. That’s what the verse says. There is no way else to interpret it. This means that living in the Land of Israel isn’t just an extra mitzvah for which you get bonus points if you fulfill it. Living in the Land of Israel is THE mitzvah. It is the reason all of the commandments were given to us – to enable us to refine ourselves in order to live in this unique Holy Land. Why? Because only when the Jewish People live a life of Torah in the Land of Israel is G-d’s Kingship manifest in the world. When Jews are in exile outside of the Land of Israel, it is a desecration of the Name of G-d, as the Prophet states: “And when they came to live amongst the nations, into which they came, they desecrated My holy Name, in that people said of them, ‘These are the people of the L-rd and they are gone out of His Land (Ezekiel, 36:20).
In other words, when a gentile sees Jews living in Canada, and Brooklyn, and Australia, he says, “Hey, the L-rd gave the Jews the Land of Israel, and they prefer living here with us instead of obeying their G-d.” That’s called a “Chillul Hashem,” or desecration of the G-d. The opposite – when the Jews return to the Land of Israel – is called a “Kiddush Hashem,” or a sanctification of the Name of G-d, as G-d Himself states: “And I will sanctify My great Name, which was desecrated amongst the nations, which you have profaned in the midst of them; and the gentiles shall know that I am the L-rd, says the L-rd G-d, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes – for I will take you from among the gentiles, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own Land” (Ezekiel, 36:23-24).
Is that clear? Or do I have to repeat it another 10,000 times before it sinks in? Jewish life in the Land of Israel is a sanctification of the Name of G-d, and Jewish life in the Diaspora is a desecration of the Name of G-d – that’s what the Prophet says.
Let’s read on a little further in the Book of Devarim. The Torah states: “Like wise, when the L-rd sent you from Kadesh Barnea, saying, ‘Go up and possess the Land which I have given you,’ then you rebelled against the commandment of the L-rd your G-d, and you believed Him not, nor hearkened to His voice” (Devarim, 9:23).
The Torah says it plain and simple – going on aliyah is a commandment. Rejecting aliyah is a rebellion against G-d. That’s what the Torah says. I’m not making it up. Look for yourselves. I haven’t changed the words. The Torah clearly states that not going on aliyah is a rebellion against G-d and an expression of lack of faith, as it says, “and you believed Him not.”
Not only does the Torah make it clear that G-d wants the Jewish People to live in Israel, the Torah states this over and over again. For instance, just a little later, the Torah states: “Therefore you shall keep all the commandments which I command you this day, that you may be strong, and GO IN AND POSSESS THE LAND, into which you go in to possess it, and that YOU MAY PROLONG YOUR DAYS IN THE LAND which the L-rd swore to your fathers to give to them AND TO THEIR DESCENDANTS, a Land flowing with milk and honey” (Devarim, 11:8-9).
My friends – do you get the message yet? Eretz Yisrael is not some tinsel town LA, or honky town Detroit, or some second rate borough like Brooklyn – Eretz Yisrael is “the Land which the L-rd your G-d cares for; the eyes of the L-rd your G-d are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to the end” (Devarim, 11:12).
And what follows that? The second paragraph of the “Shema,” which promises blessing in the Land of Israel for obedience to the Torah. And what is the punishment if we stray from the Torah? The worst punishment that can be – exile from the Land of Israel, as it says, “And you will quickly perish from the good Land which the L-rd gives you” (Devarim, 11:17), to live as Obamalicking Jews amongst the goyim.
This is the message that a Jew is to absorb in his heart, and write in his tefillin, and teach to his children, as the Torah goes on to say in the very next verse, “And you shall lay up My words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they will be as frontlets between your eyes. And you shall teach them to your children….”
“That your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, IN THE LAND which the L-rd swore to your fathers to give them, AS THE DAYS OF HEAVEN UPON THE EARTH” which means forever, at all times, in every generation, even now my friends.
And I ask you once again – do you get the message?
Let’s go on to the next Torah portion. What does it say?
“For you shall pass over the Jordon to GO IN AND POSSESS THE LAND which the L-rd your G-d gives you, and you shall possess it AND DWELL IN IT. And you shall observe to do all the statutes and judgments which you shall observe to do IN THE LAND which the L-rd G-d of your fathers gives you to possess it ALL THE DAYS THAT YOU LIVE UPON THE EARTH” (Devarim, 11:31-12:1).
That means forever. Not just in Biblical days. Forever.
Do you get it now, my beloved brothers and sisters? It’s time to face the truth. The Day of Judgment is before us. The shofar blasts at dawn, telling us to wake up!
Yes, I know it is difficult. I know it is scary. Thousands of years ago, when G-d gave us the Torah, He knew that making aliyah wouldn’t be easy. He knew there would be excuses, and draft dodgers, and Jews going AWOL, running away from the ranks. That’s why He had the priest in charge of aliyah give them a pep talk on the verge of entering the Land, saying, “Let not your hearts be faint, fear not, and do not tremble” (Devarim, 20:3). So as not to embarrass the frightened among them, G-d Himself gave them excuses for not joining in the commandment to conquer the Land: “Who has built a new house and not dedicated it? Who has planted a vineyard and not eaten of it? Who has betrothed a wife and not taken her? Let him go home, lest he die in battle…. What man is there that is fearful and fainthearted? Let him go and return to his house, lest his brother’s heart melt like his heart” (Devarim, 20:5-8).
Rabbi Yose HaGalilee explains that these people were afraid that they would die in battle because of their sins, so the Torah gave them these excuses for going home to cover up their shame (See Rashi, Devarim, 20:8).
True, there are many people today who simply cannot come on aliyah for justified reasons. But for those who can, and don’t, they shouldn’t be writing discouraging talkbacks against aliyah and against life in Israel, lest they melt the heart of their brothers with all of their unending blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.