P arshas Behar–Bechukosai 

“The land shall not be sold permanently for the land belongs to Me, for you are strangers and [temporary] residents with Me.” (Vayikra 25:23)

Dovid Hamelech writes in Tehillim (115:16): “And the land was given to man.” The Seforno explains that Eretz Yisrael isn’t included in what was divided among the countries of the world: Eretz Yisrael remains the portion of Hashem forever.

However, wasn’t Eretz Yisrael given to Avraham Avinu as an inheritance for his children?

Am Yisrael’s possession of Eretz Yisrael is different from land belonging to other nations. It’s not unconditional — it’s dependent on our actions while living there. Utilizing the ownership of our inheritance comes only in the merit of living according to Torah. Capturing the land with force isn’t included in the promise that it’ll stay with us. (Rav Menachem Mann Shach, Meirosh Amanah)

The year was 2005 and the country was ablaze with orange. Fiery strips of ribbons, banners, and flags fluttered from rooftops, looped across intersections, and were carried aloft by protesters. Gush Katif, the corner of our country, was in danger and most were determined to protect their people.

I was drawn into the turmoil, with an added tension. After years of living in a rented apartment, we were finally committed to buying a house. As I sat in the real estate office, I couldn’t help but feel awkward as I viewed the documents that would grant me ownership of my own piece of Eretz Yisrael.

My emotions roiled, excitement mixing with guilt and nerves. Was it callous of me to buy a home when so many were in danger of losing theirs? Was I foolish to invest so much at such a precarious time?

We say in Shema (Devarim 11:13, 21) “If you will listen… then your days will be long and those of your children on the land.” But if you serve other gods, then you will be destroyed quickly from the land. (ibid.)

“Shalom. I’m Ohad, honored to be your agent at this momentous occasion of buying your home in Israel.” The agent handed each of us a bulky contract and a pen. “You must initial each page and then we’ll sign at the end.” Ohad began racing through the fine print, Hebrew terms flying as he urged us to initial at the bottom of each page. We’d gone over the entire contract with a lawyer, but I still tried to concentrate on what I was signing.

“Clause 54. The land upon which your home rests is leased to you for 49 years, after which you may renegotiate your lease with the State of Israel.”

“Lease? Aren’t we buying our home?”

Ohad looked up, annoyed at having his rhythm interrupted. “All the land in the entire country belongs to the State of Israel. The state graciously allows you to lease the land upon which your home rests for a period of 49 years. After which you must renew your lease with the state which will, of course, grant you another lease for another 49 years.”

Of course. Unless they decide to terminate my lease abruptly due to political or security reasons.

Suddenly the whole process felt like a farce, a chess game orchestrated to propel its players to an inevitable checkmate.

Having no choice, I reluctantly signed my name, feeling the weight of centuries of galus imploding within those shaky letters. 

Those who know this truth understand the heavy responsibility to increase our merits and ensure Klal Yisrael’s continued existence. Even a small increase in good deeds is enough to possibly save the entire nation. (ibid.)

The years have gone by, and we’re grateful that we’ve managed to hang on to our home. It’s a kindness sent from Heaven to parallel the kindnesses extended below.

When missiles fired into the Golan several summers ago, we opened our homes to those from the North, stretching space and resources to provide refuge.

A few years later it was the South, residents from Ashdod and Ashkelon, sending their children to our schools to provide them with a semblance of normalcy.

Then there was the memorable summer when the center of the country was targeted, when I and my neighbors woke in the wee hours of night to herd our children into protected rooms. Then, too, Am Yisrael sprang into action, providing for and assisting those in need.

In every corner of our country, in every circumstance, Klal Yisrael opens their homes and their hearts. And together we work toward the day when we’ll truly be home. (Originally featured in Family First, Issue 542)