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The Special Gift of Israel

April 25, 2020

“Remember to say please and thank you.”  Every parent repeats this to their child before he leaves to visit a friend.  Our relationship with Hashem is full of pleases and thank yous, and I’d like to discuss this in one specific context.

In Parshat Metzora, we read of three different types of tzaraat: affliction of the body, clothing, and home.  Tzaraat on one’s body or clothing can occur anywhere, but tzaraat on the home is limited only to those homes in Eretz Yisrael.  “כי תבאו אל ארץ כנען אשר אני נתן לכם לאחזה ונתתי נגע צרעת בבית ארץ אחזתכם, when you enter the land of Canaan that I give you as possession, and I will inflict tzaraat on the home in the land you possess (Vayikra 14:34).”  Only once Bnai Yisrael enters the land will it be possible for their homes to contract tzaraat.  Why is this so?  It seems clear that a home that is in Eretz Yisrael is fundamentally different from a home elsewhere.  A person or family who has chosen to plant roots in the Holy Land has made a choice that changes the very identity of their home.  They have chosen to live in our homeland, in the place that out forefathers lived, and the place where ultimately, we will all return.  But living in Eretz Yisrael also comes along with a certain responsibility.  When connected to the land, when living in the palace of the King, we are held to a higher standard.  And thus, only then, tzaraat of the home becomes a possibility.

The Midrash teaches us that the first person in the Torah to say a real thank you was Leah.  “הפעם אודה את ה', this time I thank G-d (Bereishit 29:35),” Leah uttered, after giving birth to her fourth son, Yehuda.  However, that thank you is followed immediately by the Torah telling us that, “ותעמד מלדת, then she stopped giving birth (Bereishit 29:35).”  It almost sounds as if she could have or should have had even more children, but somehow her thank you caused her to stop giving birth.  (True, she later did have two more children, but she temporarily stopped mothering children).  What was missing from Leah’s thank you?

Later in that same parsha, Rachel finally has her first child.  She names him Yosef for, “אסף אלקים את חרפתי... יסף ה' לי בן אחר, Hashem has taken away my disgrace… may Hashem add to me another son (Bereishit 30:24).”  Her thank you expressed appreciation for what she had, and also included a desire and a request for more.  Perhaps Leah had become so used to having children, it had happened so easily for her, that she thought that a mere thank you was enough, and of course more would come!  Rachel, who waited years for her first child, understood that she cannot take it for granted, and therefore, her thank you included a please as well.  Thank you Hashem for what You have given me, but I am not satisfied yet, and I am asking You to please give me more.

We live in truly unprecedented times.  It has been two thousand years since such a large percentage of the Jewish population lived in our homeland. We have access to the Old City of Yerushalayim and so many of our holiest places.  Our army and ability to defend ourselves is as strong as it’s been in millennia.  The modern State of Israel continues to contribute to world technology, economy, and science in miraculous ways.  There is truly so much to be thankful for and proud of.  And it is crucial that we thank Hashem and express our gratitude for living in times when we can visit, live in, and support the land of Israel in ways that our grandparents could only dream of.

However, merely saying thank you is not enough.  We know there is so much more that we need, that Israel needs, and that the world needs.  We continue to pray for the safety of our brothers and sisters in Israel, for the success of the people of Israel, and Hashem to rebuild the Beit Hamikdash and return Yerushalayim and Eretz Yisrael to its place of splendor and glory.    

This coming Wednesday is Yom Haatzmaut, Israel Independence Day, when we will celebrate the 72nd birthday of the modern State of Israel.  This is certainly a time to say thank you from the depths of our heart.  Thank You Hashem for what the land of Israel means to our people and to me as an individual.  Thank You for the gift of being able to visit, see, and taste the beauty and holiness of this special place.  And yet, thank you is not enough.  This is also a time to say please.  We must realize and express that we are not satisfied, and we are determined to continue begging Hashem that we should merit to see the complete redemption.  We are so fortunate to live during the times of אתחלתא דגאולה, the beginning of the redemption.  May this be the year when we merit to see its completion!  So let’s take the time this special week to say thank you… and please!    לשנה הבאה בירושלים!  Next year in Jersusalem!

Shabbat shalom!

Rabbi Daniel Fox

Thu, January 21 2021 8 Shevat 5781