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One of the many things we should learn from Moshe Rabbeinu is his profound love for Eretz Yisroel.
I implored Hashem at that time, saying. "Hashem, my G-d, you have begun to show Your servant Your greatness and Your strong hand, for what power is there in the heaven or on the earth that can perform according to Your deeds and according to Your mighty acts? Let me now cross and see the good Land that is on the other side of the Jordan, this good mountain and the Lebanon." But Hashem became angry with me because of you, and He did not listen to me. Hashem said to me, "It is too much for you! Do not continue to speak to Me further about this matter" (Devarim 3:23-26).The numerical value (gematria) of the Hebrew word for "I implored," va'eschanan, is 515. The Midrash says that Moshe prayed 515 prayers, pleading to be allowed to enter the Land of Israel, but Hashem told him not to persist any further.
Actually, it was our lack of appreciation of the Holy Land which caused all of the tragedies our People have been suffering for two millennia. The Torah tells us that when the Spies returned from the Land of Canaan and gave their negative report, "The entire assembly raised up and issued its voice, and the people wept that night" (Bemidbar 14:1). The Gemara (Ta'anis 29a) teaches us that Hashem was so angry at their reaction that He declared, "You wept in vain; I will schedule for you a lamentation for generations to come." The Gemara explains that this refers to the destruction of the first and second Holy Temples, both of which were destroyed on the Ninth of Av, and other major tragedies which occurred on that day which corresponds to the night the Israelites cried in the Desert.
Last week's parashah, Parashas Devarim, is always read on the Shabbat of or before Tish'ah B'Av. In it, Moshe, before he dies, reprimands the Jewish People for all of their sins throughout the forty years in the Desert. Among them, he discusses the incident of the Spies. After accepting the slander of the Promised Land, the Jews went to discuss the situation among themselves and came to a frightening conclusion. "And you grumbled in your tents and said, 'Because Hashem hates us did He take us out of the land of Egypt, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorite to destroy us'" (Devarim 1:27). It is amazing that after all Hashem did to save the Jews from the Egyptians; after giving them the Torah and after supplying all of their needs in the Desert, they could decide that Hashem hates them. What caused them to think that way?
Rashi brings a Midrash which explains: "This may be compared to an earthly king who had two sons and two fields, one well-watered, the other arid (dependent upon rain only). To him whom he loved best of his sons he gave the well-watered field, and to him whom he loved less he gave the arid one. Similarly, the land of Egypt is a well-watered country, for the Nile rises and irrigates it, whilst the land of Canaan is an arid country - 'And He brought us forth from well-watered Egypt to give us the arid land of Canaan.'"
The Israelites accepted the slander of the Spies and believed that Egypt was a better land than Canaan. Consequently, they concluded that Hashem hates them since He gave the better land to the Egyptians and the poorer one to them. This lack of appreciation of Eretz Yisroel caused them to cry and, consequently, to be punished with "a lamentation for generations."
What is the purpose of this "lamentation for generations?" Surely it is not an act of revenge on Hashem's part. Rather it is the tikkun, the rectification, of the tragic error they made. Hashem realized that we do not appreciate Eretz Yisroel enough. Merely bringing us into the Land of Milk and Honey would not suffice since people don't usually appreciate what they have. However, when the Holy Temples would be destroyed and we would be exiled from our Land and our homes occupied by our enemies, then we would finally realize what we had and what we lost. We would then cry a real lamentation and in the merit of our appreciating Hashem's great gift to us, we would be worthy of being redeemed once again and of returning to our Land, and, most of all, to Jerusalem, to enjoy "the joy of the whole world" (Tehillim 48:3).
I believe, therefore, that the climax of the Kinnos (Lamentations) which we recite on Tisha'h B'Av is extremely important. In the last few pieces, Rabbi Yehudah Halevi, the great Lover of Zion, expresses his tremendous affection for the Holy Land. He describes how he prefers to go barefoot over the stones in Israel and live there in poverty rather than be rich and comfortable in the Diaspora. Now that Israel is in ruins, he says, he cannot enjoy life; neither spiritually nor materialistically, and he constantly yearns for the day that he will be privileged to settle in the place which was the gift of the Creator to His beloved children.
We find that during and after the final period of the Second Temple, when the oppressive Roman yoke was very heavy on the Jews of Israel, many Sages of the Talmud preferred to remain there, although they could have moved to Babylon where the spiritual and economic situation of the Jews was very good. Thousands of students studied in the academies there and they compiled the Babylonian Talmud. Yet these followers of Rabbi Akiva chose to suffer in Israel rather than be comfortable in Chutz La'Aretz (the Diaspora). Indeed, in the Sifri (Devarim 80) it is told of great Rabbis who considered leaving Eretz Yisrael for good reasons but remembered that the mitzvah of living there is equal to all of the mitzvahs of the Torah, and they returned.
May we learn to appreciate Hashem's great gift to us and may we have to lament no more. May we be redeemed by the hands of Moshiach, speedily in our days, Amen.
Shema Yisrael Torah Network