April 16, 2024
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April 16, 2024
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Sometimes we need to state the obvious, as it is important to remind ourselves of the truth. The land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people. Sounds simple. Unfortunately, today this is an idea that is very much disputed. Only a few days after the most heinous crimes committed by Hamas terrorists, the world’s sentiments are once again swinging negatively against the state of Israel. In fact, the world believes that Israel deserved this horrific attack. Rashi explains in his first observation on the Torah, why the Torah started with the creation story. His comment seems prophetic.

For if the nations of the world should say to Israel, “You are robbers, for you conquered by force the lands of the seven nations [of Canaan],”

For centuries people did not understand what Rashi was referring to. The Jewish people are going to be accused of stealing the land? Fast forward to today. This is something that we hear daily. The entire United Nations seems to exist simply for this purpose. The disproportionate number of UN resolutions against the state of Israel are a clear illustration of Rashi’s comments. There seem to be very strong forces that want to see the State of Israel, as we know it, to cease to exist. Rashi’s commentary conveys that there were forces from the beginning of time against the Jewish nation and its connection to the land. To understand this, we need to better understand what the mission of the Jewish people is and how this mission is fulfilled through the land.

Rashi quotes a verse from Psalms 111:6. The verse connects the creation of the world and the Land of Israel. What is this connection? The Talmud in Yoma 54b states the Temple Mount was the starting point of creation. This is where the foundation stone is located. It is from this place that the entire world was formed. As the seat of creation, the land of Israel is imbued with the force of creation. On that very land, Hashem placed the people who accepted the mitzvot through which the process of creation can continue.

Rashi explains in the first verse of the Torah what might be Hashem’s motivation. Bereishit, the first verse of the Torah, can be understood as “for the sake of reshit.” Reishit implies firsts or new beginnings. Rashi quotes two examples: The Torah and nation of Israel, both of which have textual references that tie them to reishit. The Midrash Rabbah on Bereishit 1:4 lists additional things that are associated with reishit that include challah, ma’aser and bikurim. The significance of this relationship with reishit, represents the emergent quality in each of these things. Each one has an aspect of the beginning of the process of coming into being or becoming.

Ramchal explains that the idea of creation of the world was predicated on hope. It is the hope that something good will emerge from creation. When it says that Hashem wanted to show us the power of His ways, He wanted to teach us the concept of the emergent quality embedded in His creation. He rooted in creation the hope that something good would come out. This quality was embedded into “the land” as well. Therefore, He took the people associated with reishit and He promised them that they would inherit the place of reishit. This is why the mitzvot that we associate with the land, like challah, maaser and bikurim all are associated with reishit. The Land of Israel was meant to become the place that would be most fertile for nurturing reishit.

A major example of the fulfillment of reishit can be found with Avraham. The Torah tells us, Genesis 12:1, that Hashem commanded Avraham to leave his homeland and go to the land of Israel. The key word here is the beginning of the command, “Set forth.” Hashem asked Avraham to leave his place of comfort and to go and become “yourself.” The place that Hashem instructed Avraham to go to achieve this becoming was the Land of Israel, where he could develop and emerge. As Avraham continued his quest to develop himself and the world, he grew his connection to the place where the energy of creation is imbued in its land. The energy of the land, together with the people of mitzvah combine to allow the process of creation to continue. We cannot become satisfied with what we have accomplished, rather we need to continue to grow, develop and create.

This legacy and responsibility for the pursuit of reishit was passed down to the children of Israel. The assignment to develop reishit, to ensure that creation continues to emerge is the obligation of the nation of Israel. The place for this to occur is the land of our inheritance, the Land of Israel.

Today’s struggle is centered on this issue. There are forces that do not want to see the quality of reishit/emergence occur. This is our challenge. To quote Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks:

“What will prevail, the will to power with its violence, terror, missiles, and bombs or the will to life, with its hospitals, schools, freedoms and rights? Every time I visit Israel I find among Israelis, secular or religious, an absolute unswerving dedication to Moshe Rabbeinu’s great command, “U’vacharta b’chaim, choose life,” because we need to stand up and fight and we need to stand up and win. Judaism is the defeat of probability by the power of possibility, and nowhere will you see the power of possibility more clearly than in the State of Israel today. Israel has taken a barren land and made it bloom again. Israel has taken an ancient language, the language of the Bible, and has made it speak again. Israel has taken the west’s oldest faith and made it young again. Israel has taken a shattered nation and made it live again. Friends, let us not rest until Israel’s light shines throughout the world, the world’s great symbol of life and hope.”


Rabbi Kaplan teaches Torah classes for Jewish Journeys of Bergen County. He currently lives in Jerusalem with his wife Elana and family.

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