Unfortunately, because of the long Exile away from the Land of Israel, instead of one Torah, we have two. We have the real, complete, original Torah which Moshe received at Sinai, the Torah of Eretz Yisrael, and we have its truncated and distorted imposter – the Torah of Galut. What is the difference? The difference between night and day. Basically, the Torah of Galut removed the Land of Israel from the Torah. Wandering from one foreign land to the next, the Jews didn’t have their own Homeland, so they developed a non-geographic Torah that could be performed anywhere, when, in fact, the Torah was given to be observed in Eretz Yisrael. Obviously, you can’t build the Beit HaMikdash in Russia, France, nor even in New York. You can’t have a Jewish State in the Catskills, or the Kingdom of Israel in Florida.
To cite an example - last week I came upon the Dvar Torah of a popular Internet Rabbi, who cited the verse: “See, I have set before this day life and good, and death and evil; in that I command you this day to love the L-rd your G-d, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments.” (Devarim, 30:15). Conveniently for his message of universal, non-geographic Judaism, he stopped there without completing the verse which goes on to state: “then you shall live and multiply, and the L-rd your G-d shall bless you in the Land whither you go in to possess.”
The Torah of Galut and its promulgators take scissors and snip, snip, snip away, wherever they please, to cut the Land of Israel out of the Torah. Jewish publishing companies in America have made an industry out of this omission. So have shlichim.
To cite another example – it is obvious that of “Shoftim” (Devarim, 16:18). It begins talking about the role of “shoftim and shotrim,” Jewish judges and policemen. Rashi explains that the role of Jewish policemen is to make sure the commandments are kept by the populace. There may be a Jewish cop or two in New York, but he can’t give you a fine, or drag you to jail, for selling bread on Passover. Obviously, we need our own Jewish Homeland and society to keep this aspect of Torah.
And while the policemen and judges in Israel today don’t yet fulfill this function in all of its Torah aspects (and very often act in defiance of the Torah as many of you are fond of noting), this is a passing phase in the evolving process of shedding the mentality and cobwebs of galut, and gradually returning to our true Torah lifestyle, little by little, (Jerusalem Talmud, Berachot, 1:1).
The Torah portion continues with the injunction that legal questions must be decided by the Jewish Supreme Court in Jerusalem. Even the people who are obsessed with disagreeing with everything I write will have a hard time explaining that Jerusalem can just as well be in Texas or California, and that the Torah’s use of the expression, “the place that I have chosen” means not necessarily Jerusalem, but any place that there is a thriving Jewish community, even in Melbourne or Dubai.
Next, the Torah portion of “Shoftim” speaks about the Jewish king. Imagine a Jewish king in Paris, London, or the White House! Especially when the Jewish king is called upon to enforce Torah law over the kingdom where he rules. Obviously, this part of the Torah can only come to fruition in the Land of the Jews. Also, please note that the affairs of the king refer specifically to the Jewish NATION in the NATIONAL framework of the Torah. It isn’t a private mitzvah for every Jew to declare himself king. Imagine what chaos that would lead to:
“I’m the king!”
“No, I’m the king!”
“What do you mean? Both of you are imposters – my son is the king!”
“What’s the big deal? My son’s a doctor!”
Obviously, the Torah is telling us that Judaism is much more than a list of ritual precepts – Judaism is the NATIONAL CONSTITUTION of the Jewish NATION. And that can only come about in the Land of Israel.
Then, the Torah portion of “Shoftim” goes on to discuss the allotments awarded to the Kohanim and Leviim. Once again, all of the matters concerning priestly dues and tithes only apply in the Land of Israel.
Then come the rules that apply to prophets. While there may be many would-be prophets wandering around the streets of Manhattan, prophecy is one of the unique specialties of the Jewish People, restricted to the Land of Israel, or concerning the Land of Israel, as in the example of the prophecy of Ezekiel in the land of Kasdim, which continued because it started in Eretz Yisrael and concerned the return of the Jews to Israel (Kuzari, 2:14).
Next in the Torah portion of “Shoftim” comes the designation of “cities of refuge,” where accidental murderers can flee. Once again, the Torah is not talking about Miami Beach, Las Vegas, or Chicago, even in the heydays of Meir Lansky and Bugsy Siegel.
And then we come to commandments about the Israel Defense Forces and war. With all due credit to the JDL, how long do you think a Jewish army with tanks and fighter jets would last in Russia, or Germany, or the good old USA? Obviously, to have a Jewish army you need your own Jewish country. I think even the biggest lovers of gentile countries and adversaries of aliyah can understand that.
All of these things are vital parts of Torah and true Jewish life: policemen, judges, Jerusalem, Jewish kings, priestly tithes, cities of refuge, prophecy, armies, and wars.
Finally, the Torah portion of “Shoftim” ends with the mitzvah of the “eglah arufah,” in the case where a murdered body is discovered on the outskirts of the city. Once again, if you live in Brooklyn or Monsey, this doesn’t apply to you, so you can continue to relax.
It turns out that this Torah portion is completely concerned with Torah life in the Land of Israel. The commandments we can perform in the exile is an “itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny” version of Torah when compared to the all-encompassing NATIONAL TORAH of ERETZ YISRAEL.
G-d has commanded all of his People, the Children of Israel, to establish this National Torah Constitution and perform its laws in the one and only place on Earth where this is possible – in the Holy Land. This is a NATIONAL MITZVAH, incumbent on the Nation, and every Jew, to participate in the establishment of the Nation of Israel, according to our Torah constitution, in the Promised Land.
Right now, it is called Medinat Yisrael – the State of Israel. If, in the future, it is called something else, like “Medinat Moshe,” or “Medinat David,” or “Medinat Yehuda,” fine.
Right now, G-d, in His infinite kindness, has given us the State of Israel, and it is up to us to build it, and to do our share, each and every one of us, in steering it more and more toward the path of the Torah to which we all aspire. And to do that, we have to be here, in the Chosen Land, where Hashem wants His children to be.
The only reason Mashiach hasn’t come is because of the lovers of Galut, who insist on staying in Gentile lands when they could readily live in the Promised Land instead. They themselves are holding up our Redemption. Beware, my good friends, beware.
Tzvi Fishman was awarded the Israel Ministry of Education Prize for Jewish Culture and Creativity. Before making Aliyah to Israel in 1984, he was a successful Hollywood screenwriter. He has co-authored 4 books with Rabbi David Samson, based on the teachings of Rabbis A. Y. Kook and T. Y. Kook. His other books include: "The Kuzari For Young Readers" and "Tuvia in the Promised Land". His books are available on Amazon. Recently, he directed the movie, "Stories of Rebbe Nachman."