| Parshah |

Parshas Shelach: The Gift

Hashem gave us two gifts that are called a morashah (inheritance): the Torah and Eretz Yisrael

“You should see what kind of land it is, and the people who live there…” (Bamidbar 13:18)


ashem gave us two gifts that are called a morashah (inheritance): the Torah and Eretz Yisrael. Curiously, despite the implication that both are eternal components of our heritage, Rav Meir Shapiro points out that throughout our national history, very few Jews have been able to experience Eretz Yisrael. In contrast, the yerushah of the Torah has been the foundation of our identity in every generation, accessible to almost every Jew who wishes to study it. Why has one inheritance been so much more readily available than the other? (Rabbi Ozer Alport, Parsha Potpourri)

“Mazel tov!” Despite the slight static of the long-distance phone call, I could hear the thrill in my friend Miriam’s voice as she poured out the details of her daughter Rina’s recent engagement. She’d waited for this for a few years, and I wanted to know all the details.

“So where are they going to live?” I asked.

“Well, that’s the thing,” Miriam’s voice got more subdued. “The chassan wants to start out in Eretz Yisrael and Rina’s fine with that.”

“That’s great! I’ll finally get to know Rina better!”

“Yeah, but I don’t know. To move to Israel? With the situation?” Miriam’s voice trailed off.

I almost laughed. The way Miriam voiced the word situation, it sounded like something that shouldn’t be discussed in polite company.

“Are you scared because of the war?” I figured I might as well be blunt and get her feelings out there. I could understand them.

“No, not really the war,” she confessed. “It’s just… living so far away from family and all the technical difficulties of Eretz Yisrael. Her life will be so much harder than if she’d stay close to home.”

Rav Shapiro explains that although the Torah and the Land of Israel were both given to us as yerushos, there was a critical difference in the way we received them. When Hashem offered us the Torah, we did not ask any questions and unequivocally responded “Naaseh v’nishma.” In contrast, before entering Eretz Yisrael, the Jewish people first sent spies to evaluate its quality and worthiness.

Technical difficulties? Like the fact that my utility bills are in Hebrew and that there’s no Costco here? While I understood a mother’s worry and desire not to see her daughter struggle, I was also perplexed. Isn’t life in This World always full of technical difficulties? Unless Rina managed to find an apartment in Utopia land, marriage itself would surely entail certain difficulties, but no one was suggesting she stay single. And hopefully, Rina’s future would always be full of technical difficulties like parenting and insurance premiums and perhaps mortgage rates. Life is chock-full of technical difficulties, not only in Eretz Yisrael, and there are a lot of perks here to offset them.

I know that not everyone can live here. People and families are so complex and there are many valid reasons why things wouldn’t work for everyone. But Miriam’s couple wanted to try it out. And I wanted to tell Miriam what this could mean for them. To live a bus ride away from the Kosel, Kever Rochel, Meron… to walk down a path that Avraham Avinu himself may have walked… to live in close proximity with some of the gedolei hador living in your own neighborhood… to keep shemittah….

The perceived need to examine the land instead of marching in with total trust in Hashem was inherently problematic and rendered the inheritance incomplete. Because we insisted on first assessing Eretz Yisrael to decide if it was good enough for us, the land in turn examines us to decide if we are worthy as well.

But I held myself in check. I didn’t want to get on my soapbox, and I also probably wasn’t objective. I’ve always wanted to live in Eretz Yisrael, so any “technical difficulties” were my choice. That doesn’t mean I always sail through the nisayon. Yes, living far away from family is difficult. Plus, I dream about living in Alaska where summers aren’t so hot, and enjoy driving when I visit the States because roads there were actually built with cars in mind, not camels.

Eretz Yisrael is a package. A gorgeous gift-wrapped package that previous generations only dreamed of. And yes, the packaging isn’t always certified frustration-free, but it’s a gift we can accept with love.


 (Originally featured in Family First, Issue 899)

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