Thursday, February 07, 2008

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The Land of Israel

(The following was forwarded by a reader, a letter from the Lubavitcher Rebbbe, it serves as an excellent reminder...)

Letter To (Then) Member Of Knesset Of The Techiya Party,
Mrs. Geulah Cohen,
19 Sivan, 5729 (1969):

Blessings and Greetings!

I received your letter some time ago, but due to circumstances beyond my control, my answer was delayed until now.

... I wonder a bit about your surprise that in certain circles, myself among them, the title “State of Israel” was never accepted. The reason is quite easy to understand: The land of Canaan was given as an inheritance to the Nation of Israel beginning with the covenant between G-d and Abraham. The name “Land of Israel” was then established, in place of the name “Land of Canaan.” So has it been fixed for thousands of years. This is firmly grounded in the Torah, and is rooted in the vocabulary of the entire nation, from young to old. Such matters are not subject to the vote of the majority, the outcome of which is liable to change from time to time (this change being, naturally, capricious). After all the various incidents and changes which have occurred recently — for better, or, painfully, for the opposite — it is also impossible to be confident about the present change. Actually, such conjecture whether or not to accept the new title is quite unnecessary since in my opinion, as I mentioned, the matter is not given to determination by referendum. Just as the name of the “Nation of Israel” is not subject to vote in order to determine whether the Jewish People shall be referred to as they are in the Torah — The “Nation of Israel,” or the “Nation of Canaan,” etc. — so it is regarding the “Land of Israel.”

Assume one were to raise an additional point: suppose a new title for the land were necessary. Such an addition weakens the claim and ownership of the Nation of Israel over the Land of Israel, including even the confined area which was liberated in 1948, because:

i. a new name gives the entire entity the appearance of being something novel, which was only born in 1948. Thus, inevitably, Jewish claim and ownership over the land also began only then. There is at least a shade of connotation of novelty — the diametric opposite of the Torah’s stance as represented by Rashi in the opening of his explanation of the Torah.

Here I stress that the custom of our nation from time immemorial has been that a five-year-old begins studying the Five Books of Moses. This means that Rashi’s words are directed to the Children of Israel beginning at age five:

“If the nations of the world should say to the Jews ‘You are thieves, for you have conquered the land of the seven nations,’ the Children of Israel should answer them: ‘The whole world belongs to the Holy One; at will He gave it to them, and at will He took it from them and gave it to us.’”

You are most certainly aware that many, many nations have made this claim, even in our times. I have not found a single answer to this claim besides the most ancient traditional one found in the words of our sages.

ii. Some say that this term, “State of Israel” is another manifestation of the general approach and plan to become “like the nations of the world.” This theory has already claimed many lives, both physical and spiritual — and to our anguish continues to wreak destruction among the sons and daughters of Israel.

I am especially surprised that you should be the one to raise such an argument. Until now, I had been positive that you were counted among those who say that the Land of Israel belongs to the Nation of Israel, and that its borders are specifically delineated in the Torah. In Parshas Masei it is written: “All these shall be your boundaries on all sides.” Yet “because of our sins we were exiled from our land and driven far from our soil” — but even during the exile it is still our land and our soil. This title, “State of Israel,” allows room to label parts of the Land of Israel as no more than “territories” which were “conquered” by the Israeli Defense Forces in the Six Day War. Furthermore, the entire concept of conquest implies seizing the land by force from its owners through one’s own superior military prowess.

I do not wish to speak at length about this painful subject, mainly because the general cause for it is the approach of wanting to be like all the nations. Certainly my comments are not necessary, for you surely read about it in the newspapers and books which are available in the Land of Canaan (— according to the writers of those articles and books; it is just that some of them say this openly, and others only hint that this is their intention).

... May it be G-d’s Will that you send along positive news concerning all the above, as we discussed during your visit here.

“With Respect and Blessing,

/signed: Menachem Schneerson/

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