A winning combination

Jacob's fear at meeitng Esau shows the merit of living in Israel. Even today, we must show the world that the land belongs to the Jews.

Rabbi Shlomo Sobol ,

Rabbi Shlomo Sobol
Rabbi Shlomo Sobol
INN: Daniel Malichi

The incomprehensible fear that our ancestor Yaakov felt before his encounter with Eisav teaches us about the great merit of dwelling in the Land of Israel and that even in our generation, we must continue to prove to the world that the land does belong to the Jewish people.

After 20 years in Lavan’s house, Yaakov - with his wives and children - begins the journey to return to Eretz Israel. On the way, Yaakov prepares for the expected encounter with his brother Eisav who is waiting for his return. The Torah describes to us in this week's Torah portion that Yaakov has fears ahead of the meeting, as it says: "Yaakov was very afraid and he was agitated.”

The question arises: why was Yaakov so afraid of meeting Eisav? After all, Yaakov attests about himself "with Lavan I lived" and the Be’er HaMikdash explains that the word “גרתי – I lived” is the same letters as “תרי"ג – 613” so Yaakov is saying here “and the 613 commandments I kept at all times.” If so, it is clear to us that the merits of the righteous Yaakov definitely outweigh the merits of the wicked Eisav. So that just strengthens our question: Why was Yaakov so afraid when contemplating the encounter with his brother?

The Midrash relates that Yaakov Avinu said: "All these years he (Eisav) dwelt in the Land of Israel. So now he is coming to me with the power of having dwelt in the land." In other words, during Yaakov’s 20 year stay in Charan, he was unable to observe the commandment of dwelling in Land of Israel. On the other hand, Eisav was privileged to dwell in the land of Israel all of those years, which is why Yaakov feared that the merits of the Land of Israel would stand to Eisav’s advantage.

Before we delve deeper into the Midrash, the first and most amazing thing the Midrash teaches us is that Yaakov feared that Eisav’s merit of living in the land of Israel was equal to the merit of all the mitzvot that he, the righteous Yaakov, performed while abroad! We see from this the enormous significance of Yishuv Eretz Yisrael, we learn that the best place to observe the Torah and the mitzvot is in Eretz Yisrael, and that the superiority of the mitzvah of Yeshuv Eretz Yisrael is equal to all of the mitzvot.

However, the Midrash is still puzzling – why does Eisav deserve merit for mitzvat Yishuv HaAretz? For that matter, what merit does any Gentile receive for dwelling in the holy land of Israel?

But it seems that the Midrash is teaching us something new and amazing about the essence of the Land of Israel, which we would dare not think of ourselves: The power of the Land of Israel is so great that even Gentiles living in the land receive merit for it, even though it is not their land and the mitzvah of Yishuv HaAretz was not commanded to them.

Throughout history, even until our generation, we see that our enemies are fighting for the merit to live in the Land of Israel. Every nation seeks its connection to Eretz Yisrael and tries to argue why the land actually belongs to them. In order for us to overcome them and prove to them that this is our land which was promised to our fathers and to us, we must show them that our devotion and our love for the Land of Israel is - and will always be - greater than theirs.

In our generation we have had the privilege of returning to the Land of Israel, and we have brought together the connection between the people, the Torah and the land. Certainly. this combination of Jews living a life of Torah and mitzvot in the Land of Israel is a winning combination. Therefore, the more that Jews worldwide immigrate from the exile of Chutz La’Aretz to our natural home, and the more we increase our practices of Yishuv HaAretz, study of Torah and observance of mitzvot, the more we will strengthen our right and our claim to the Land of Israel.

Rabbi Shlomo Sobol is the head of the Barkai Rabbinical Organization and the rabbi of the Shaarei Yonah Menachem community in Modi'in.