‘For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land with streams and
springs and fountains issuing from plain and hill… Give thanks to the Lord your
God for the good land which He has given you’
comprise a paean of praise to the beauty, fruits and natural resources of the
Land of Israel. In these four verses, the word eretz (land) is repeated seven
times as a refrain and twice it is described and defined by the word tova
This description of the Land of Israel takes the form of a poetic
song, which is very different from a descriptive narrative. A narrative depends
upon logic to make its point; a song is the product of profound emotion and
The general Hebrew term for “inheritance” is
yerusha; But there are two objects that the Bible designates as morasha
(heritage): the Land of Israel (Exodus 6:9) and the Torah of Israel (Deuteronomy
The difference between yerusha and morasha is that a yerusha
comes very easily, usually in the form of a bequest which the recipient may use
however he wishes, even wasting it on useless or unnecessary acquisitions; a
morasha is acquired by hard work and must be given as a precious heirloom to the
The word “morasha” is therefore in the causative hiph’il
tense – to “give over.” A sum of money is a yerusha; a Sabbath candelabra or a
kiddush cup is a morasha.
The root letters of both yerusha and morasha
are the same (yod or vav, resh and shin) and when these same letters are written
in a slightly different order, they spell out the word shir (song).
have seen here how the Bible describes the Land of Israel as a song; the Bible
also calls the Torah a song (Deuteronomy 32: 44). Moreover, our Sages interpret
the word morasha as if it were written me’orasa, a fiancée; both the song of
Torah and the song of the Land of Israel are expressions of profound love and
Hence, the people of Israel seem to be wedded in eternal
marriage to the land – and the land assumes an almost personal form, like the
beloved bride of her husband, Israel. The Israelite people “comes” (biah) into
the land and sends out his seed upon it.
The Bible even uses the phrase
kidashtem – “And you shall sanctify the land [from the same root as kiddushin,
engagement] on every fiftieth Jubilee year” (Leviticus 25: 10).
of Israel will relate and respond only to the people of Israel just as a loving
wife and husband will only relate to one another. Hence, whereas the land always
yielded its produce for Israel, during the 2,000 years of our exile the land
refused to give its produce to those who came in her place. None were able to
bring forth the luscious fruit from it. Indeed, this is what gave rise to the
“Green Line”: where Jews farmed the land, it was green and where the Arabs
worked the land it was brown. And although our nation may have been separated
from our land, we were never divorced from it. Israel the land remains our first
love and eternal bride.
When the Jews worked the land in accordance with
the dictates of the Torah, allowing it to lie fallow every seventh year, giving
tithes to those who were landless and providing food for the teachers and
ministers of the Holy Temple, the land responded in kind and produced abundantly
for Israel. But when the Israelites neglected the sabbatical years and the
tithes, the land gave itself over to our conquerors and became desolate, making
up for all of the years when we did not leave it fallow in the sabbatical years
(see Leviticus 26: 34). Israel and the land have a mutual mandate to act with
mutual respect and lovingkindness.
When I first came to Israel, I heard a
radio interview with Ya’acov Hazan, one of the early founders of Mapam (the
United Workers Party) and the Shomer Hatza’ir kibbutzim. The interviewer knew
that Hazan came from a very religious and anti-Zionist family, and therefore
asked him the origin of his Zionism. Hazan explained that when he was about 10
years old had fallen ill with anemia, and his father had been advised by doctors
to apprentice him to a Lithuanian farmer in order to “strengthen his
The young boy worked hard alongside the farmer.
amazed him was how the farmer constantly smiled while engaged in this
When the youth asked him the source of his joy, he
answered, “Don’t you hear the music and the song of the land as it begins to
yield its produce?” The young boy bent down and cupped his ear to the ground,
but heard nothing at all. With a knowing smile, the peasant farmer explained,
“You see, it’s not your land. If it were, you too would hear the song and smile
at the sound of the music.”
At that moment, Hazan decided that as soon as
he was old enough, he would go to his land and hear its song. The interview
ended with the final words of 96-year-old Ya’acov Hazan: “I still work the land
and I still hear its music.”The writer is the founder and chancellor of
Ohr Torah Stone Colleges and Graduate Programs, and chief rabbi of Efrat.
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