Monday, June 15, 2009

Does God Care Where We Live?

Parshat Beha’alotcha 5769

This week’s Torah reading comes just before the famous incident of the Biblical spies. The Jewish people have already received the Torah and our journey to the Promised Land continues. In next week’s parsha, the Biblical spies will return with an evil report about Israel and, as a result, the journey that was supposed to be completed in days will be delayed by 40 years.

But none of that has happened yet when we enter the story in Parshat Beha’alotcha. In anticipation of entering the Promised Land very soon, God explained to Moshe what needs to be done when God will indicate that He wants the Jewish people to journey to their next destination. At this point, the Jewish people are three days’ distance away from Israel.
“They traveled from the Mountain of Hashem a distance of three days ...” (10:33)

According to Rashi’s comment on this verse, the Holy One Blessed Be He desired to bring them into the Land immediately. God was so anxious to bring the Jewish people to Israel that the whole of the Jewish people covered three days’ distance in a single day.

A huge group of people covering physical distance three times faster than usual is certainly a miracle. Since the Talmud teaches that God performs miracles only when absolutely necessary, we can reasonably conclude that it was very important for God to get the Jewish people to Israel as quickly as possible. It was important enough that God altered natural law to make it possible to cover three times the normal distance in a single day.

This is one of the many miracles we see, both in the Torah and in everyday life, that argue in support of God having a very definite preference about where Jews should live. Where else do we see these miracles express themselves?

The entire Sefer Yehoshua (Book of Joshua) details many miracles that God did for the Jewish people at the time of our actual entry into the Promised Land, 40 years later. For example, just as God parted the sea when the Israelite slaves were freed from Egypt, so God parted the Yarden (Jordan River) when the Jewish people finally crossed into the Land of Israel. Once we were already across the Yarden and in the Land of Israel, we had to face the 70 nations who lived in the Land. In Sefer Yehoshua, there are countless examples of miracles and victories in battle that we experienced because God was with us.

The history of the modern State of Israel is replete with military miracles. The restoration of Jewish dominion over the Land of Israel in 1948 and the Jewish victory in the War of Independence, for example, are widely considered miracles, particularly when we consider their proximity to the end of the Holocaust.

The Six Day War in 1967 is another famous example. The Israeli Defense Forces were outnumbered by four combined Arab armies nearly 2-to-1. According to all the military analysts at the time, the battle was wildly lopsided and the Israelis were expected to be decimated. Yet, at the end of the war six days later, Israel controlled three times the territory it had controlled before the war, including ancient Jewish sites that had been closed to Jews under Arab authority. There’s plenty more. Google “miracles Israel” and you’ll get close to 3,000,000 results.

Today, travel to Israel from virtually anywhere in the world is possible in less than a day’s time. The State of Israel offers free airfare and many other financial incentives to Jews who wish to return Home. Despite being surrounded by many hostile Arab nations, the modern State of Israel thrives and grows.

God is clearly protecting the Promised Land. He’s protecting it for us. So we always have a place to call Home.

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