My Lot in the Land of Life

This week, Americans celebrate Thanksgiving. Let’s be thankful for being able to live in Eretz Yisrael! The Land of Israel is stronger than all other mitzvot, and therefore it is important to always remember the greatness of living there!

5 min

Rabbi Shalom Arush

Posted on 30.11.23

Translated from Rabbi Arush’s feature article in the weekly Chut shel Chessed newsletter. The articles focus on his main message: “Loving others as yourself” and emuna.


Never Get Used to This! 

The Torah warns us time and again not to get used to abundance. When a person gets used to abundance, he loses his ability to feel it; he loses any sense of gratitude. He doesn’t appreciate – and that is precisely the sin of “Yeshurun (Yisrael) grew fat and kicked” that leads to distance from Hashem to the point of doing avoda zara (worshiping false gods). 


We have much good, much light, much chessed, much abundance in the Land of Israel. And, unfortunately, we became accustomed to it. We didn’t thank Hashem enough, and did not appreciate all this, and due to our sins, we were forced to learn to appreciate our existence here in the Holy Land the hard way.  


The greatest chessed is the very fact that we are living in the Land of Israel! 


This is not the place to bring all the amazing sayings of Chazal about the Land of Israel and its holiness.  


So many generations yearned and prayed, cried and hoped to set foot on the land of Eretz Yisrael and to kiss it, and even just to be buried in it. The greatest rabbis endangered their lives to travel to this land. Hashem yitbarach had mercy on us and gave us the merit to live in the Holy Land, and to breathe the holy air, and to observe Torah and mitzvot here, including the mitzvot that are dependent on living here, and to visit the graves of our forefathers and ancient luminaries. 


Tie-breaking Weapon 

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Bender zt”l, who was one of the greatest of Breslev chassidim, conveyor of its message in the previous generation, would say to his disciples: “Avreichim! Test me on this one! Do your best to remember that you are in Eretz Yisrael and be happy about this fact – and you will feel a great positive influence on all your service of Hashem.”  


That means that if Rabbi Nachman of Breslev said that all of one’s service of Hashem depends on a person always searching for and finding good points, merits, mitzvot – Rabbi Levi Yitzchak says that there is one special point that is a “tie-breaking weapon” – and that is the Land of Israel. In other words, the Land of Israel is not just one other mitzvah, but rather a super-mitzvah, a mitzvah so big and powerful that it is stronger than all other mitzvot, and therefore it is important for a person to remember at all times the greatness of the merit of being in the Land of Israel and to think of it as a huge asset. 


This is very useful for our service of Hashem because we have a rule: Every mitzvah brings glow to a person according to his attitude, his appreciation, and his yearning for the mitzvah. The rule of “As water reflects the face shown to it, so does one man’s heart reciprocate another’s” is true for mitzvot as well. All the immense light of the mitzvah of living in the Land of Israel depends on our appreciating the mitzvah, loving the Land of Israel, and thanking Hashem for this gift, and on our never taking for granted the immense merit we have earned. 



Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel), too, “gains” from our residing in it. Eretz Yisrael glows only when the Jewish people live there. Rashi explains this in parashat Chayei Sarah. 


In this parasha an amazing thing happens in the history of the Jewish People. Avraham Avinu purchases the first tract of land in Eretz Yisrael. “The Promised Land” is not just “on paper” anymore: it becomes a real property of the Jewish People. 


Even before we were a Jewish People, we had a plot in Eretz Yisrael


And after the transaction, the Torah says: “Vayakom – And Efron’s field rose”. (Bereishit 23:17) What does vayakom mean? How can a field rise? Says Rashi: “Tekuma haita lo: It rose in importance, for it passed from the hand of a commoner to the hand of a king.” 


When Eretz Yisrael was in the hands of other nations it was actually in a state of falling; but when Eretz Yisrael passes into the hands of the Jewish People – that is the rising. Eretz Yisrael rises and brushes off the dirt, renewing itself as in times of old. 


Rabbi Natan explains wondrous things in the parasha relating to the purchase of Me’arat HaMachpelah (Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron) according to the sod – the secrets of the Torah. He says that Efron had the aspects of afar – of dirt, of the Serpent, of sadness, and therefore the holy field of Me’arat HaMachpelah seemed dark and full of foreboding for him, and he didn’t have the merit to see the immense light and smell the fragrance of Gan Eden in this field. 


The rectification of the trait of sadness is the trait of emuna (faith), as explained in the books of Rabbeinu. Avraham Avinu was the first of the believers, and therefore it was he who had to rectify the klipa of sadness of Efron and transfer the Land of Israel from being controlled by the klipa, to being controlled by kedusha – holiness. 


And Eretz Yisrael itself was elevated, it had tekuma. Its holiness and light were revealed, and it became “the Land of Life”, as David Hamelech calls it. And therefore, the first act that Avraham Avinu performs in the land is to bury a righteous person in it. Because righteous people have the aspect of life; long life. Righteous people are considered to be alive even when they’re dead, and therefore immediately after buying a plot in the Land, it says about Avraham, “And Avraham was old, advanced in days (years),” for he merited a long life thanks to the holiness of Eretz Yisrael


It is explained in several places in the books of Rabbi Nachman of Breslev that a long life doesn’t mean only living for many years, rather, that the days themselves should be long and full of Torah and tefilla, full of yir’at Shamayim (fear of Heaven) and love of Hashem.  


Now we will go back to our piece of advice: never forget for a minute the extent of the merit, be joyful and thank Hashem endlessly.  


No More Sleeping 

It is clear that the focal point of this entire tragedy and terrible massacre [Editor: on Simchat Torah], and the whole difficult situation that the Jewish People finds itself in is the control over Eretz Yisrael. The cruel enemy – enemy of Hashem and enemy of the Jews – is willing to die for Eretz Yisrael. And our answer to that is to strengthen our connection with Eretz Yisrael, strengthen our emotional connection, our joy in the mitzvah of living in Eretz Yisrael


And as I have said repeatedly since this terrible disaster occurred, we must pray with all our might and insist in our prayers to Hashem that we get the complete Ge’ula (Redemption) – nothing less. So too we must pray to Hashem ceaselessly and without compromise for Eretz Yisrael, that the entire land should be in the hands of the Jewish People, with no exceptions. 


Unfortunately, the main parts of Eretz Yisrael – all the places where our holy forefathers lived, and all the holiest places are in the hands of the lowliest of the nations. The princes, sons of the queen, have been shunted off to the coastal plain, whereas the prime parts of the Land are being ruled by the children of the maidservant. 


Holy Jews, we were not given this difficult situation in order to ask Hashem only for peace and quiet, so that we can go back to slumbering. 


Hashem has shaken us and woken us up in such a painful way, so that we will truly wake up and not go back to sleep again. 


And waking up means to rise and shout: We are asking for the complete Ge’ula, we are asking for the kingdom of Heaven, we are asking for the kingship of the House of David and not for any cheap substitute. And we want the Land of Israel in its entirely, and specifically our holy Temple in its full glory that precisely from this big crisis will be built speedily in our days, Amen. 

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