Parshas Bechukosai – The conditional right to Eretz Yisrael

By Avner Friedmann

In the previous parsha, Behar, the Torah discussed the mitzvot which are connected to the Land of Israel, such as the Sabbatical and the Jubilee Years, and the laws of selling and buying real estate. In this parsha, Hashem spells out the conditions under which the Jews would deserve to dwell in the Holy Land.

And these are the conditions[1]: “If you follow My decrees and observe My commandments, and perform them… You will eat your bread to satiety and you will dwell securely in your Land. I will provide peace in the Land, you will lie down with none to frighten you.” Rashi says, “That you will toil in the study of the Torah for the purpose of observing My commandments.”

Just like in every rental agreement, if the conditions are not met, the owner has the right to terminate the contract and evict the tenant. The Ramban writes[2] that the Land of Israel is G-d’s property, and unlike with the other 70 nations, where the abundance flows indirectly through their ministering angels, the supervision and the abundance in the Land of Israel comes directly from Hashem. He gave His Land as an inheritance to the seeds of His beloved ones; but not unconditionally, as it is written[3]: “You shall observe all My decrees and all My ordinances and perform them; then the Land to which I bring you to dwell will not vomit you out… and I will give it to you to inherit it, a Land flowing with milk and honey, I am Hashem, your G-d, Who separated you from the people.”

Unfortunately, the Jewish people as a whole have not always followed G-d’s will, in spite of the warnings they received via His prophets. When they refused to listen, they were evicted from their Land and became homeless in exile. When Jews behave towards G-d with casualness and don’t keep their side of the agreement, then G-d responds measure for measure[4]; “I, too, will behave towards them with casualness and I will bring them into the land of their enemies; perhaps then their unfeeling heart will be humbled and then they will gain appeasement for their sin.”

The original promise to inherit the land was made to each of our patriarchs, as it is written regarding Yaakov [5]: “The Land that I gave to Avraham and to Yitzchak, I will give to you; and to your offspring after you I will give the Land.”  Unlike with the other mitzvot, where we need the Oral Torah to provide us with explanation, as we see from the verses, when it comes to the right to the Land of Israel, HaShem spells it out in clear and plain language. He makes the fact clear and readily available to every nation and person who is interested in the truth. So when it comes to the claim over Eretz Yisrael, Jews must refer to the Torah as the only legitimate claim; all other claims can be disputed.

History shows that when Jews lived in Israel and followed  Torah and mitzvot, they enjoyed the blessings of peace, security, abundance, and quality of life as promised by Hashem, as our parsha states[6]: “and I will give peace in the land, and you will lie down with none to frighten you…” From here we learn that true and lasting peace can only be achieved through Torah. The Talmud[7] teaches us that “Torah scholars increase peace in the world, for it is said: ‘And all your children shall be learners of the Torah of Hashem, and great will be the peace of your children.’”

The Jewish people are anxiously awaiting the completion of the final ingathering to the Land of Israel, thus ending the current two thousand year exile; as our parsha promises[8] : “I will remember for them the covenant of the ancients, those whom I have taken out of the land of Egypt before the eyes of the nations, to be G-d unto them. I am Hashem.” May we experience the true and complete redemption speedily in our days, Amen.

[1] 26:3-6.

[2] Achrei Mot 18:25.

[3] Kedoshim 20: 22,24.

[4] 26:41-42.

[5] To Yaakov in Beresheet 35:12, and in 15:18 to Avraham, and in 25:3 to Yitzchak.

[6] 26:6-7.

[7] Berachot 64a.

[8] 26:45.

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