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Land of the Deer

By Rabbi Lazer Brody
10/23/2011, 6:10 AM

In Israel, there are two schools of thought. One is the material school, who sees Israel as a street-café extension of modern Europe or the USA, where one’s only concerns are high-tech, making money, having a good time, and self. If one has to step on others or even sell parts of the homeland for a few years of ersatz quiet, then so be it. This is the wolf school of thought. We’ll soon see where it takes us.

The other school of thought sees Israel through spiritual eyes, as our Divine inheritance and the hallowed homeland that is the most conducive place on the globe for learning emuna and fulfilling all of Hashem’s commandments. Such a holy land, with its center in the Holy Temple and Jerusalem, is non-negotiable. This is the deer school of thought, and we’ll soon see where it takes us.

The prophets Samuel, Ezekiel, and Daniel referred to our holy land as the Land of the Deer.

True spirituality brings people to truly love and respect one another. By the same token, material interests are devastating to peace, whether on a personal or national basis. Here's an example taken from chapter three of The Trail to Tranquility to show why:

Two Russian soldiers were once on a winter maneuver in the Siberian forest at midnight. The light of the full moon reflected on the snow, so the woods were well illuminated.

All of a sudden, they heard a thud. A distressed wild turkey with a broken wing had fallen from the treetops. Within seconds, two hungry wolves arrived on the scene. One grabbed the turkey by the wing, and the other sunk its teeth in the turkey's thigh. The two wolves began a tug of war. When neither wolf succeeded to free the turkey from the other's grasp, they attacked each other. Viciously and mercilessly, they literally tore each other apart, until one wolf dropped dead on the snow. The victor limped away, dragging the turkey between his teeth and leaving a trail of blood on the snow. A few minutes later, he keeled over and died too.

The gruesome but profound incident conveys a powerful message: The turkey weighed more than twelve pounds; it would have been a more-than-adequate dinner for both wolves. Their greed led them to anger, and their anger led them to violence. As a result, three corpses in were left in the snow - the turkey and the two wolves.

The Talmud teaches a consequent rule of thumb from situations like the wolf fight: Wherever you have peace, you have abundance; with no peace, starvation is prevalent.

Have you ever wondered why deer multiply so much faster than wolves? When a thirsty clan of deer arrives at a stream or other source of water, the bucks first allow the does to drink, and the does make sure that the fawns drink before they partake of the water themselves. The leader buck is the last one to drink - he won't take a sip until the entire herd is cared for. It's worth roughing the outback for an entire month just to witness such an inspiring sight.

Deer adults - both bucks and does - are extremely considerate of the young. When a herd of deer reaches a lush meadow, the fawns are first allowed to partake of the most luscious and tender greens; only after they've had their fill, the rest of the herd grazes.

Whereas the deer live in peace with one another, the wolves don't. Wolves are loners, each clan for itself. Get your day’s meat and the heck with everyone else. Not so with the deer.

To uproot the acute problems we face today in our holy and beloved homeland, we must become "deer" in the Land of the Deer. Instead of talking about peace with our neighbors who have no intention of ever making peace, we need to be focusing on peace among ourselves. The sooner that the Jewish people return the Land of Israel to the land of the deer rather than the land of the wolf, the better we’ll assure our security for posterity.

Peace is the true reflection of faith in The Almighty. People with faith know that The Almighty has plenty of resources to feed the entire world, so they don't have to use unethical means to obtain their livelihood. They know that G-d will provide for them without reverting to aggression or theft.

When there's peace, there's plenty for everyone.

King David teaches us that the humble shall inherit the earth (Psalms 37:11). Why? Humble creations – like the deer – get along famously with one another and therefore readily cooperate for the common welfare. Arrogant creations, on the other hand, want the whole world for themselves and therefore are constantly at each other’s jugular vein.

It’s no happenstance that the Land of Israel is nicknamed Eretz Hatzvi, or Land of the Deer (see Rashi’s commentary on Daniel 8:9). The Land of Israel is the inheritance of the humble and prolific deer, who by the way are a kosher species. Amazingly enough, the wolves are a dying breed. Today in Israel, the wolves need the intervention of the Society for the Protection of Nature to prevent them from becoming extinct altogether.

Let’s learn from the deer and live in peace with one another for the benefit of everybody.

Don't be mistaken, though: King David was as gentle as a deer with his own people. But, with the hostile neighbors on the other side of the border, he was the fierce lion of Judea. We should follow in his footsteps.

With national unity and mutual aid, we’ll certainly invoke Divine compassion to beat the rap of the impending threats and thereby insure our national independence and security until the day when Moshiach returns to take us to our rebuilt Holy Temple in Jerusalem, speedily and in our days, amen!

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