Is Now the Time to Settle the Land of Israel?

 

What is the right timing to settle the land of Israel? For over fifty years, all the governments of Israel have thought that the present is not the right time for Jews to settle in the parts of the land of Israel liberated in the Six-Day War. There have always been considerations and various explanations, but the conclusion was always the same: Not now!

It is important to declare sovereignty over all the parts of the land of Israel that are in our hands. A political declaration that goes no further than the paper it is printed on, however, is worthless. Sovereignty has to go hand in hand with a policy of actual settlement.

If not now, when?

Sadly, the politicians attempting to lead us without faith in God and without commitment to the Torah are mistaken once again. Instead of the hesitant, “Not now” the Torah says, “If not now, when?” This is a general principle that is relevant to every individual.

In the public arena, we can learn from the first person to conquer the land of Israel. Joshua, the successor of Moses, brings the people of Israel into the land of Israel and conquers it from the Canaanites. The process of conquering the land is not completed in a day. A true leader knows that it is not always possible to finish a process immediately. On the contrary – Joshua was chosen because he knew how to persevere. He would report for duty day in and day out at Moses’ tent, for decades. He was quiet and thorough.

Before Moses’ passing, there was another person in the limelight: Pinchas the son of Elazar, the son of Aaron the Priest. But, despite the well-deserved praise for Pinchas for his zealous act, he was not appointed to lead the Jewish people. Leadership must include moderation. The leader must know how to include each and every person in his flock.

Joshua and every leader of Israel, however, must be careful not to allow their moderation and discretion to transform into laziness and negligence. The sages do not make exceptions for anyone and they criticize Joshua on this specific point. The Book of Joshua recounts how, “Many days Joshua… made war”[1] and Rashi on there explains, “the verse speaks of him critically.” Joshua should have conquered the land of Israel at a faster pace and completed it in his lifetime. True, impulsivity is not a positive character trait, but one should definitely act with alacrity – tempered alacrity, the formula prescribed by the Ba’al Shem Tov.

But God Himself forewarned that, “I will drive them [the Canaanites] out from before you slowly.”[2] It was predetermined to be a process that would take a long while. Why should Joshua bear the brunt of the criticism?

This apparent contradiction, which the Torah is obviously well aware of, is meant to teach us an important principle that governs our conduct whenever there is a process whose eventual outcome is in God’s hand yet requires our actions and contribution. In every such situation, we must differentiate between God’s responsibility and our own. Those things that do not depend on us sometimes take time. We want Mashiach now, but God determines the pace and He has good reason for the rate of developments. But regarding everything that is in our hands, the rule is, “One should perform mitzvot with alacrity.”[3] We should never let an opportunity to act pass us by.

Connection Points

We can understand the great value of settling the land of Israel according to the words of the prophet, “For as a young man unites with a virgin, so your sons will unite with you.”[4] Rabbi David Kimchi, the medieval commentator known as the Radak, explains this verse with the following words, “as long as the nations of the world were living there, the land of Israel was not described as ‘married’ for they were not accepted by the Land and their dwelling was not appropriate to it…but when Israel will return to its midst, it is like the uniting of a young man with a virgin.” The land of Israel is the bride and the Jewish people are the groom. As long as we are in foreign lands, the wedding is postponed. But when we return to the land, the groom and bride unite in joy. Thus, every Jewish community in the land of Israel is a meeting point between the nation and the land, the groom and the bride. This is the inner driving force for settling the land. We want the map to be filled with connection points between the people of Israel and the land of Israel—with no black holes.

[1] Joshua 11:18.

[2] Exodus 23:30.

[3] Pesachim 4a.

[4] Isaiah 62:5.

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