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Three Wonderful GiftsHaKadosh Baruch Hu gave three wonderful gifts to Yisrael, but each of them is acquired only through suffering: Torah, Eretz Yisrael, and Olam Haba (Berachos 5a).
Moreinu HaGaon HaRav Avraham Ya'akov (Zeidel) Epstein, ztzuk"l (mashgiach ruchani of Yeshiva Torah Ore), in his book Me'Imrei Shlomo, vol. 1, says that this statement of Chazal is very perplexing. For we know that when one gives a gift, he gives benevolently, with a deep desire to benefit the recipient.
How is it possible then that God, the source of goodness, should give three wonderful gifts and yet force the receiver to suffer?!
The Maharal (in the Introduction to Derush al HaTorah v'HaMitzvos) treats the topic thoroughly: Chazal have taught us here the deep meaning of Eretz Yisrael for the people of Israel. Eretz Yisrael is not simply the ideal that is commonly pictured, of everyone sitting under his grapevine or fig tree, in a land flowing with milk and honey, where one can enjoy all the possible pleasures of the world; a land where there is no toil or burden of making a living; a land where there is no subservience to any other government or foreign nation. This is not the real essence of Eretz Yisrael for Klal Yisrael.
Everybody understands that Olam Haba is a spiritual situation completely divorced and separate from all physical pleasures and notions. The Gemara in Berachos 17a states: "In Olam Haba there is no eating or drinking, but the tzaddikim sit with their crowns on their heads enjoying the radiance of the Shechinah." The Torah, also, is something holy and pure, the opposite of physical desires and lusts. The deep desire of the Jew, especially a ben Torah, is to cling to the "Giver of the Torah," to make every effort to enter into the realm of the Shechinah and enjoy the great radiance. As the Zohar says (Vayikra, p. 3), "There are three levels which unite one with the other: HaKadosh Baruch Hu, Torah, and Yisrael."
So, too, the very essence of Eretz Yisrael is a special spiritual one, specifically for Klal Yisrael. It is a place of gaining attachment to the Shechinah. Therefore, these three wonderful gifts are impossible to attain without first purifying oneself and completely abandoning the physical as much as is possible. If there remains some residue of attachment to the material, some sort of connection to this world, this is a contradiction to acquiring Olam Haba. The way to attain Olam Haba is only through suffering. This is what breaks and annuls the pleasures of this world. Suffering is something in opposition to the pleasures of the world, which cleanses one from the material. So, too, Torah perceptions are acquired specifically through suffering, which brings about separation from this world and annulment of one's attachment to desires and lusts.
Chazal revealed to us that it is very possible to make a mistake and think that Eretz Yisrael is only a physical attainment: our figs and grapes, our fruit, our Land. Do not make this mistake - Eretz Yisrael provides one of the greatest connections to Hashem Yisborach. It requires a complete separation from the material. Lack of cleansing oneself from the material interferes with attainment of the advantages of the Land. Therefore, it was given, and can be acquired only through suffering, and the abandonment and cleansing of the material.
Therefore, Chazal said (Pesachim 113a) that among those who inherit Olam Haba is one who lives in Eretz Yisrael. One who lives in the Holy Land with no interference or disturbance, meriting to connect himself to the significance and very essence of Eretz Yisrael, becomes automatically united and attached to HaKadosh Baruch Hu and Olam Haba. Therefore, our forefathers, whose purity from the material was the epitome of perfection, so desired Eretz Yisrael, the same way that one who is pure and free of the material desires Torah and Olam Haba.
How mistaken are the individuals who desire Eretz Yisrael merely for the material benefits of the Land. This is a total contradiction to the very essence of Eretz Yisrael.
Shema Yisrael Torah Network