Mattos-Masei: It's Your Land, My Son
Hashem states explicitly and emphatically that He is giving us the Land of Israel to take 'complete hold of it'; What does that mean?
by Rabbi Lazer Brody
"You shall possess the Land and you shall settle therein, for I have given you the Land, to possess it." (Numbers 33:53)
Rashi didn't care about political correctness. In elaborating on our passage at hand, he says, "And you shall possess the Land from all its inhabitants, and only then, will you be able to exist there, for if you don't, you won't be able to exist there."
With the above Rashi in mind, we can understand how the Torah – which is so frugal with words, not wasting even a single syllable – repeats the concept of "possess". The first time the Torah says "possess" in the above passage means that we, the Jewish People, are receiving the Land as an inheritance. And, if anyone in the world has a problem with that, Hashem says, "For I have given you the Land." The second time the passage mentions "possess" means that we must physically take hold of the Land and settle therein.
The Land of Israel is different from any other type of land inheritance. For example, if a rich uncle left you an inheritance of 30,000 acres in Texas, the land is yours, even if you continue to live in New York, Toronto, or Los Angeles. Yet, Hashem states explicitly and emphatically that He is giving us the Land of Israel to take complete hold of it and to live in it.
In the Ramban's list of the 613 mitzvoth of Torah, the above passage constitutes a positive commandment to settle in the Land of Israel. We can now understand the tremendous importance that our sages placed on moving to the Land of Israel, living there, and never leaving it.[i]
Even according to the other Rishonim – our great sages of the Middle Ages such as the Rambam and the Smag, who do not list the obligation to settle in the Land of Israel as one of the 613 mitzvoth – our passage at hand is not a specific commandment but a very stern warning: namely, if you don't drive away the present inhabitants from the Land, you won't be able to settle it. What a profound prophecy! The recent tragedies of a young girl sleeping peacefully in her bed and a father of ten driving home – both brutally murdered by bloodthirsty terrorists – attests to the far reaching words of our holy Rishonim, especially Rashi, who began his commentary on the Torah[ii] by emphasizing that the holy Land of Israel belongs to Hashem and He alone gives it to whomever He desires.
Hashem gave the magnificent gift of the Land of Israel to us, His chosen people. The Ramban says[iii] that by settling anywhere outside the Land of Israel, a Jew is making a statement that he doesn't want the King’s gift. Such insolence is certainly not conducive to arousing Divine compassion.
Some think that the Land of Israel was given to the Jewish People in ancient times, but they no longer have a right to the Land, Heaven forbid. The prophet Ezra, who returned to the Land of Israel after the Babylonian exile to reestablish the Holy Temple and the Jewish settlement, says, "And you shall bequeath the Land to your offspring forever."[iv] Just as the Torah is ours forever, the Land of Israel is as well.
If one thinks that Rashi is a right-winger, he or she should know that Rashi, as well as the other Rishonim, have no political opinion whatsoever. All they care about is the truth of Torah. Like Rashi, Rabbenu Bachiya minces no words and stresses that the Jewish People must rid the Land of all other inhabitants.[v] The Mizrachi goes a step further in his classic elaboration of Torah, and in his grammatical analysis of the vehorashtem, which we translated above as "you shall possess", he says that the act of possession that the Torah is talking about is chasing all other inhabitants out of the Land.[vi]
As we clearly see in a broad consensus of our classic Torah interpretations – Rashi, Ramban, Rabbenu Bachiya, the Mizrachi and more – truth of Torah and political correctness just don't go together.
Why don't we have the power to take total possession of our G-d given Land of Israel today? Why are we susceptible to foreign dictates and pressures? Why do so many of our own politicians here in the Land of Israel lack belief in our undisputable right to the Land of Israel?
King David gives us an answer and a sharp reminder: "And He gave you the Land…to observe its laws and safeguard its statutes."[vii] The Torah is an entire contract between Hashem and the Jewish People. Sure, Hashem gives us the Land of Israel, but that's just one of 613 clauses in the Torah. There are many more, such as learning Torah, observing the Sabbath and maintaining personal and family holiness. To maintain our hold on the Land, we are contractually bound to observe all the clauses of Torah, with no selectivity, as too many people think.
On a practical basis, no one in their right mind would condone taking the law into his own hands and chasing the Arabs out of the Land of Israel today. So how do we possess the Land?
My beloved teacher Rav Shalom Arush shlit'a says that when all of the People of Israel strengthen themselves in emuna, Hashem will take care of everything else. Our efforts should be invested in strengthening our connection with Hashem. Once we do, Hashem will take care of our hostile neighbors. Just wait and see.
[i] - Ketubot 110b
[ii] - See Rashi on Genesis 1:1
[iii] - Ramban on Numbers 33:53
[iv] - Ezra 9:12
[v] - Rabbenu Bachiya on Numbers 33:53
[vi] - Mizrachi on Numbers 33:53
[vii] - Psalm 105:44-45
Rabbi Lazer Brody was born in Washington, D.C. in 1949. After receiving his bachelor's degree in agriculture from the University of Maryland in 1970, he moved to Israel and joined the Israel Defense Forces regular army, and served in one of the elite special-forces units. He is a decorated combat veteran of two wars and numerous of counter-insurgence and anti-terrorist missions on both sides of Israel's borders.
Rabbi Brody is the English-language editor of Breslev Israel's highly popular English-language website at www.breslev.co.il, and the founder and director of Emuna Outreach. Between Breslov Israel and Emuna Outreach, he devotes his time to spreading emuna and particularly the teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslev around the globe.
"Lazer Beams," Rabbi Brody's award-winning daily web journal, has been instrumental in helping tens of thousands of people around the globe find joy and fulfillment in their lives.