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Posted on August 15, 2019 (5779) By Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein | Series: | Level:

I implored Hashem at that time, saying…let me now cross over and see the good Land…[2]

“The heavens belong to Hashem; the earth He gave to the sons of Man.”[3] The gemara[4] understands this to require a beracha before we enjoy things of this world. But this pasuk also describes a separation of realms, and how each of the two gets its due.

One is easy. The claim of Heaven to what “belongs” to it is absolute. Most significantly, that means Klal Yisrael. It belongs, in its entirety, to Hashem. Indeed, those who seem the most removed from Heaven also have a place, and are not permanently banished. As the navi states, “So that none whatsoever is banished from Him.”[5] The vicissitudes of time purify Klal Yisrael to a degree that they will be able to receive yet greater purification through the Heavenly light. We have not quite arrived there, but it will happen.

The missing component is the earth, specifically the Land of Israel. It is given to Man, in the sense of being charged with the task of elevating him. It, too, requires refinement. It was given to us in an incomplete state. At the moment, it operates on the level of din – which is why the Torah warns us that it will vomit out those who are undeserving. There are rules to be obeyed, growing out of limits and boundaries in how it works its magic. When those rules are not obeyed, there are consequences.

The actual roots of the Land, however, are in pure chesed. At the time of the geulah, the Land will function on that plane. It will open up and accept all who come to it in truth. They will be raised up by the Land immeasurably, becoming holy and pure. The Land itself will help them actualize the potential in the Jewish soul to all who possess one. This itself is an exercise in chesed, not din: the Land helps rid people of their own tumah and dross, and to thereby uncover the rich potential within. It does not demand – as din might – that they do the work themselves. Rather, they are given an enormous gift.

Part of Moshe’s mission, as he prepared to take leave of his people, was to teach the Bnei Yisrael about the true character of the Land they were about to enter. This is what was behind his dogged persistence in praying to Hashem to be allowed in, and praying not as someone who deserved special treatment, but as one seeking a matnas chinam, an undeserved favor. He therefore persisted in his own prayer to be allowed into the Land. He fully accepted that Hashem’s decision not to allow him to enter was firmly grounded and justified in din. He believed, however, that if he persisted in his davening, perhaps Hashem would agree to revoke the edict, and give him permission to enter as a complete, undeserved gift. With this, Moshe would prove to the people that the Land ultimately was based upon chesed and matnas chinam.

The demonstration would be made easier, in part, because Moshe Rabbenu’s neshamah itself was an extraordinary, unearned gift. A neshamah so big that it could contain the Torah and transmit it to all of Klal Yisrael can only be described as a matnas chinam. Had this neshamah been allowed to enter Eretz Yisrael though a Divine decision of mantas chinam, the source of the Land in chesed rather than din would have been revealed and underscored.

It wasn’t to be. The people were not sufficiently ready and prepared to receive the spiritual riches of the Land. Instead, they received a land not as a gift but as a sale. Conditions and stipulations had to be complied with for the sale to be effective. There were penalties for non-compliance as well, including expulsion from the Land – a land still governed by din and its restrictions.

Matnas chinam manifests itself in one other important area. Two different strategies lead to loosening the grip of the yetzer hora. One way is by increasing knowledge and insight, with which the yetzer hora can be resisted and denounced. Another – and it is the surer path to success – is to decrease the sense of self. By dwelling on how undeserving one is – how everything he has is a matnas chinam – a person does not expect any great insight, and does not make his performance hinge on how much he understands.

Klal Yisrael – in contradistinction to others – excels in employing the latter approach. The more they achieve, the more likely they are to understand how undeserving and small they really are.

  1. Based on Mei Marom, Devarim, Maamar 7
  2. Devarim 3:23, 25
  3. Tehilim 115:16
  4. Berachos 35a
  5. Shmuel2 14:14