Sunday, June 5, 2016

Land Needs Torah

There was a need to impress upon the mind of the Israelite who possessed freedom and land the value of the Torah. There was a need to proclaim to the State as a whole and to each individual in it: "The land which you own, the fields which bloom for you and the fruits which ripen for you--these are not your gods and your goods, these do not constitute you a nation nor are they the objects of your strivings as people and individuals. All these have been given to you for the sake of the Torah; for the sake of the Torah you possess them, and without the Torah you would lose them. All this land with its abundance of milk and honey, and all the rich and free national life which flourishes on it, are only a means and have only one object, namely, with this freedom and abundance to develop a communal, collective and individual life such as your God and Master has prescribed for you in the Torah." To impress on our minds and hearts this unconditional value of the Torah and the conditional value of all other possessions--this was the purpose of the ספירה of the days and weeks which  ואחד ב"ד וכל אחד , both the heads of the community and every individual in Israel מהחל חרמש בקמה had to count from the first setting of the sickle to the corn up to מתן תורה to the festival of the giving of the Law. 

In course of time Israel forgot this counting. It ceased to count up to its Torah and to see in the Torah the principal element in its national existence. It began to look for freedom and independence to its land and soil, to which it had the same right of possession as any other people to its own land. It imagined that it was entitled to count by its land, that it could dispense with the Torah and retain bread and soil, freedom and independence without the Torah, and "Judah's gods became as numerous as his cities". Then it lost land and soil, freedom and independence, saving nothing but the Torah up to which it counted no more in the land itself, and it wandered in strange lands for two thousand years. The seasons go round, the sun shines and the dew falls, but for the Jew no seeds sprout, no fields bloom, he no more puts the sickle to his own corn. And why? Because he wanted his activities to end with this sickle, and he was not willing to begin from this sickle to count to his Torah. From the time that he deified the sickle he lost the sickle! 

[R' Samson Raphael Hirsch, "Iyar," Judaism Eternal, Vol. I, p. 80-1.]


And on a similar note:

464. "There were ten generations from Adam to Noach," and again "There were ten generations from Noach to Abraham": the generations passed in review before the eyes of the Creator, "until Abraham came and took the reward of all of them" (Avos  5: 2), meaning that the entire Universe is now solely for him:  i.e. he and his seed are the central figures.

465, Indeed, this concept needs time to penetrate our minds. Even loyal and proud Jews are accustomed to thinking that the most they can claim is an important place in the world.  Jews are humble and fair-minded, and this concept is almost  repugnant to many. But the open declarations of the Scriptures cannot be disregarded. They speak clearly and declare that Israel  (not the State of Israel, which is the antithesis of the name Israel) occupies the place; it occupies the world and the Universe. 

R' Avigdor Miller, Awake My Glory, 464-5.

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