Cherish Her Dust
And they told him, and said, “We came to the land to which you sent
us, and it certainly flows with milk and honey, and this is the fruit of it.
However, the people that dwell in the land are fierce …” (Bamidbar
Few Parshios get me riled up like this one. This is Parashas Shlach, the
story of the Spies and their nation which looked a gift horse in the mouth
and rejected it … the one time that they should have accepted it. Just as
the momentary eating from the Aitz HaDa’as Tov v’Rah—the Tree of Knowledge
of Good and Evil—cost mankind Paradise until this day, likewise has the
momentary rejection of Eretz Yisroel back at our beginning cost us 3,322
years of exile, and counting.
The amazing thing is that, after all that time, we still don’t get it. After
returning from a recent trip to North America, I can report with accuracy
that many Jews in the Diaspora are still unrepentant. I’m not talking about
people who can’t know better, having been denied the opportunity to connect
to Torah and its plans for the Jewish people. I am talking about Jews who
should know better, because they are exposed to the national goals of the
Jewish people on a daily basis.
It is a remarkable thing, when you think about it. Probably the next U.S.
election will be revolve around the borders of Eretz Yisroel. We’ve already
heard from President Obama and his call for the Jewish people to withdraw to
the 1967 borders, with what he calls some “land swaps.” And, we’ve already
heard the reaction of the pro-Israel lobby calling such a resolution
untenable, because of the security needs of the Jewish state.
Not only that, but immediately after the U.S. President went after the
borders of Eretz Yisroel, God went after the U.S., sending some pretty
wicked tornadoes as far north as Springfield, Michigan. And, if it’s not
tornadoes, then it’s hurricanes, and if it’s not hurricanes then it’s major
flooding. Somehow, every time a American President tries to fool with the
boundaries of the Land of Israel America pays a price.
On the other hand, it has been pointed out, the Canadian Prime Minister
Stephen Harper has proven himself to be a staunch ally of the Israeli
people. He has bravely stood up to Arab and world pressure, even irking his
American neighbor by going against Obama’s plan to adjust the borders back
to their pre-Six-Day War set-up. Ironically, the financial collapse of 2009
never really touched Canadian real estate the same way that it did in America.
Just a coincidence?
And, it is not just Western countries and leaders who are affected when they
tamper with the borders of the Holy Land. It was Israeli Prime Minister
Ariel Sharon who pushed to give Gush Katif to the Arabs as part of his
unilateral peace initiative. The area promptly became a terrorist haven for
Hamas, while Sharon suffered a stroke that immediately left his life in
limbo, and his reputation in tatters. He has thus far been denied the chance
to become a hero, or to receive a hero’s burial.
This is the power of Eretz Yisroel, a tiny little country that, amazingly,
literally hinges together two massive continents, South Africa and Euro-Asia
(just take a look at a map).
Hence, when the Spies came back with their evil report in this week’s
parshah, they too had tampered with the borders of Eretz Yisroel. They
didn’t leak it to the local newspapers, or present it to the U.N. But, when
they rejected the land they in fact gave the entire land to the gentile
nations that were living there, in effect going even further than most
Leftists at this time (who only want to give away enough Jewish land to
guarantee complete annihilation of the Jewish State in the next war, God
As a result, they doomed themselves. By speaking loshon hara about the land,
they sealed their own fate. I don’t know what they thought would happen to
them, but the moment they tinkered with the future of the borders of Eretz
Yisroel, so-to-speak, they set themselves up to be recipients of severe
Divine punishment, a principle that seems to be built into Creation.
Recently, I was sent an article by someone quoting a so-called rabbi who
stated that, as much of a Zionist as he is (which is apparently far less
than he seems to think), had he been around when the State was being
established, he would have voted against it. And, he is certainly not alone,
because there is a whole rabbinical college, either Reform of Conservative,
that is teaching its rabbis to be as concerned for Palestinian suffering as
Israeli suffering, if not more so.
Noble? No, Erev Rav, as in Mixed Multitude. In our desperation to fit into
the gentile world, to become just another member of the family of nations,
we create bleeding heart liberals who think that by taking up their position
against the Jewish State, we will in fact save it. How mistaken can you be.
And, as if to prove their loyalty to the gentile agenda, they are Jews who
turn on their own people. All of a sudden Jews who just want to return to
what has always been the Jewish homeland, even when occupied by foreigners,
are the enemy. All of a sudden Jews, who sacrificed family members and their
own blood in defensive wars, and who want to keep their gains which happen
to include Jewish land from the past anyhow, are the pariahs. What an Erev
Rav kind of thing to do.
As the Vilna Gaon points out, the last battle of history, for the Jew at
least, is against the Erev Rav. And, it is a battle that a Jew cannot
sidestep, for doing so, says the GR”A, is do join the ranks of the enemy,
not avoid them. And, if that becomes the case, he warns, it is better that a
person wasn’t born in the first place. Ouch.
What is this historical battle about? Says the Gaon, it is about the Erev
Rav uniting the descendants of Yishmael with the descendants of Eisav in a
final battle against the Jewish people. And, it seems, it is battle that
takes place over the ownership of Eretz Yisroel, precisely what is happening
already. And, their primary means of doing this, explains the GR”A, is
trickery and sleight of hand.
This does not mean that they walk out onto a stage, cape, wand, and all, and
pull a proverbial rabbit out of their proverbial hats. It means that they
walk out onto the international stage, suit, tie, and all, and pull Eretz
Yisroel away from the Jews. They expend energy and financial resources to
undermine the Jewish right to Jewish land because, they know better than
most Jews, that keeping Jews off their land means keeping the redemption off
Now, the leaders that Moshe Rabbeinu chose to spy the land had clearly been
born of traditional stock, and were not from Erev Rav per se. But that does
not mean that they had not been affected by the Erev Rav, even in some small
way, the net effect being their lack of desire to enter the land and build
redemption. That’s not a Jewish trait. That’s an Erev Rav trait.
True, just as the Talmud distinguishes between someone who breaks the Torah
to rebel and someone who breaks it because of unbridled desire, likewise
must this discussion make a distinction between Jews who reject the land
because they seek to undermine the national goals of the Jewish people, and
those who reject it because they’re just having too good a time in the
Diaspora. There is a fundamental difference between the two groups.
Indeed, the latter group may even dream of making aliyah one day, and some,
who can afford it, even have a second home in the Holy Land, visiting it at
least once a year, if not more. Furthermore, many of them may even send
their children to learn in Israel or on special programs, and support the
country in whatever way they can, short of moving in permanently.
The main thing is to do something that shows that one’s heart resides in
Eretz Yisroel, even if one’s body will not. Personally, I tell people, at
the very least, open a bank account in Israel and put some money in it on a
regular basis, even if only a minimal amount. It is a way of fulfilling the
You will arise and show mercy to Tzion, for the time to favor her, the
appointed time will have come. For Your servants desire her stones and
cherish her dust. (Tehillim 102:4-15)
And, doing so is extremely important at this time of history, and why the
borders of Eretz Yisroel are playing such a prominent role in international
politics today. This is not Divine Providence’s way of saying that the Land
of Israel is not important and irrelevant to the Jewish people at this time,
as some would like to think. Rather, it is Divine Providence’s way of saying
just the opposite, that Eretz Yisroel matters tremendously, and may be the
test of our generation.
For we find that every generation has its own unique Divine test, usually
with respect to a specific mitzvah. And, what is a test without a struggle?
So, therefore, if there is a particular mitzvah with which a particular
generation has a particular struggle, we can assume that it is the
generation’s particular test.
“Ah,” but you may say, “who says that living in Eretz Yisroel today is
indeed a mitzvah? Are there not many opinions that say just the opposite,
that today there is no mitzvah to live in the land of our fathers at this time?”
For the moment, we will bypass the heavyweights who do hold that there is a
mitzvah to live on the land today, and certainly one if you are already
here. That’s an argument for another time, because it is not on that mitzvah
that we presently focus, but on one which is clearly a mitzvah according to
all opinions. And, if it is not exactly one of the 613 Mitzvos, then it is
certainly connected to many of them, if not all of them, on some level, and
fulfilling it can be a real life-saver at this precarious point in history.
In fact, read the above verse again more carefully and see what it actually
You will arise and show mercy to Tzion … For Your servants desire her
stones and cherish her dust.
Notice how the emphasis in the verse is on cherishing Eretz Yisroel, every
aspect of it right down to its dust. That’s a mitzvah that is active every
conscious moment whether during times of redemption or times of exile. It’s
that love of the land, which is bound up with the ultimate goals of the
Jewish people, that distinguishes a Jew at the end of history, determining
whether he is part of the Jewish people or part of the Erev Rav.
For, though making aliyah at this time of history may be optional for some,
not wanting to is not an option for any Jew. This is something that cannot
be emphasized enough at this late stage of history, and something that so
many people take for granted, or do not think about at all. Even Jews who
already live in Eretz Yisroel may not cherish the land as much as they ought
to, and also have to improve upon this trait. Then, and only then can the
generation finally atone for the tragic mistake that the generation of the
Spies made in this week’s parshah, when, in their hearts, they rejected the
Text Copyright © 2011 by Rabbi Pinchas Winston and Torah.org.