(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
‘You shall eat and be satisfied and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land which he has given you” (Deut. 8:10)
Ekev first and foremost provides us with a paean of praise to the Land of Israel; its very special fruits and its beautiful topography.
And it also gives us the “mother of all blessings,” the source for all
of the blessings we make on objects of physical enjoyment: “You shall
eat and be satisfied and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good
land which He has given you,” our grace after meals.
This is the only time in the Bible where we are commanded to make a
blessing. But this blessing is strange, because instead of thanking God
for the food, we are thanking him for the land. Why bless the land? My
suggested answer partly explains why we have become a pariah nation, why
we seem to be losing our legitimacy especially in the eyes of Europe,
which had originally been so supportive.
Yoram Hazony, the head of the Shalem Institute, has circulated a
pre-publication article in which he argues that it is not the actions of
Israel but rather the values of the Western world that have changed. In
the wake of the horrors of Auschwitz, not only the Jews but the Western
world understood that it was the powerlessness of the stateless Jewish
people which facilitated the tortures and tribulations that we suffered
at the hands of Nazi Germany. Therefore, the need of the Jews for a
nation-state became almost axiomatic – despite continuing anti-Semitism.
During the last decade, the paradigm of the Western world has changed.
It has become apparent to many political scientists and even
spokespeople of popular culture that indeed it was the power of
individual nationstates like Germany that led to Auschwitz; by
continuing such nation-states, we are merely preparing the way for
They argue that the world is now changing from a separatist-nationalist
paradigm to a world of united peoples, individual rather than national
rights, universal ideals and ultimate demilitarization. The most
powerful example of this is the European Union in which countries like
Germany, France and the UK are losing their particularities and national
histories in favor of a more universal cultural expression. In this
milieu, Israel has become an anachronism; it is only because of this new
mind-set that Israel can be called an Auschwitz state and it becomes
In an excellent article which appeared in the Shalem Institute’s Azure
journal (Spring 5770- 2010), Dr. Daniel Gordis trenchantly argues that
our Bible would vigorously disagree with this new paradigm, arguing that
we’ve already “been there, done that” in the story of the Tower of
The story opens with a world of “one language and uniform ideas” – and
that uniformity led to a mass totalitarian state, devoid of individual
worth and rights, which ultimately self-destructed in the manner of the
Nazi axis and the former Soviet Union.
The message is rather one of universal ethical absolutism but with
separatist and national pluralism, a world of nation-states, each with
its own cultural narrative and ethnic expressions, but “they will all
call upon the name of the Lord to serve Him with one consent” (Zephaniah
3:9) when “nation will not lift up sword against nation and humanity
will not learn war anymore” (Isaiah 2:4).
It is within the individual ethnic expressions that cultural creativity
is fostered, that national pride, which – when limited by proper ethical
norms based upon every individual having been created in the image of
the Divine – will produce an idealistic national purpose that will
provide the impetus to continue the narrative into succeeding
It is specifically in cultural diversity that we begin to appreciate the
glory of a God who created people who look and think differently, which
leads to creative accomplishment and healthy competition.
Indeed, the European Union is lying down dead before the steady march of
Islam, which is taking it over with lightning speed. The nation-state
Israel may be an anachronism in the minds of the post-modern world, but
the paradigm of Israel is the only way to go. Witness the uniform
facelessness of the despotic Soviet Union which had no recourse but to
return to the separate cultural and ethnic entities that humanity needs
in order to survive creatively.
Food, the staff of life, is an interesting and valid expression of
cultural separatism; hence different nations have their own distinctive
foods, like the pasta of Italy and the wines of France. The Land of
Israel produces unique fruits that have become an expression of the
uniqueness of the Jewish people who live on it and eat from its bounty,
the Seven Species after which we make a special blessing.
In respect to cultural separatism, our Bible crafts the blessing “You
shall eat and be satisfied and you shall bless the Lord your God for the
good land which he has given you” – the fruit of Israel, which is
unique to the Land of Israel, the patrimony of the people of Israel.
The writer is the founder and chancellor of Ohr Torah Stone Colleges and Graduate Programs, and chief rabbi of Efrat.