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INSIDE AND OUTSIDE THE LAND OF ISRAEL

From the Cyber Rav--  Rabbi Rafi Rank
rafirank@mjc.org

Rabbi Rafi Rank

Shabbat Shalom, Everyone.  CyberRav here with a bit of Aural Torah for you!

After schlepping around in the wilderness for 40 years, and the B’nei Yisrael poised to enter the Promised Land, two tribes propose an alternative plan.  Reuven and Gad (that’s G-A-D, one of the tribes) propose to Moses that their two tribes not cross the Jordan, but remain in an area which we would presently identify as part of the Royal Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. These two tribes did not want to cross the Jordan, because that territory was perfect for cattle, of which they owned an abundance.

Moses didn’t like the idea.  Were these two tribes going to abandon their sister tribes, leaving them to conquer the land of Israel themselves?  But Reuven and Gad explain their full intention: to cross the Jordan and conquer the land, and only after the land is settled, to return to their homes, east of the Jordan River.  And so it seems that from the very beginning of Israelite history, we have a division of Jewish people which today Israelis would describe as follows—you are either ba’aretz, in the land of Israel, or hutz la’aretz, outside the land of Israel.  If you are in Tel Aviv, you are ba’aretz, in the land of Israel, and when you are in Century Village in Florida, you are hutz la’aretz,, and this is true even though we know that next to Israel, Florida is the Holy Land.

Making aliyah or moving to the land of Israel is a huge mitzvah.  We should all have the zekhut, the privilege of doing this at some point in our lives, and may it be only for good reasons.  Nevertheless, we see from the Torah portion that the idea of hutz la’aretz, living outside the land, has a long history.  And Moshe accepts it, but only under one condition, that those living outside the land commit themselves to physically support their brothers and sisters who have chosen to live in the land.  Moses demands of Reuven and Gad military service, no small price to pay for living outside the land, but he essentially sets up a paradigm for us who do live hutz la’aretz,. If military service is the least that the two tribes could do for their brothers and sisters who are entering the land, how much more important are the little things that they could do, like supporting the economy, visiting, talking up the land, or keeping the land in their prayers, and so forth. 

You and I may not be prepared or even qualified to serve in the Israeli Defense Forces.  In my case, I’d be doing Israel a favor by not joining.  But there are many different ways to support Israel that you and I can do, and by so supporting Israel, we, in a sense, pay our dues for choosing to live hutz la’aretz,.

Israel is the greatest miracle of the Jewish people in the last 100 years.  We should be sure to support her financially, visit her frequently, and perhaps even move there forever, if we have the means to do so.   The Jewish people understood from the very beginning that not all of us were going to end up ba’aretz, but at no point could we ever conceive of Jews hutz la’aretz, not feeling a deep connection with their brothers and sisters, ba’aretz. May that connection only grow stronger, each and every year.

This is Rafi Rank, the CyberRav, wishing you a Shabbat Shalom, and encouraging you to spread a little aural Torah around your Cyber community!

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