Series - Kuzari
Love of Eretz Yisrael Hastens the Redemption
ובהערת בני אדם והתעוררותם אל אהבת המקום ההוא הקדוש ונחץ הענין המיוחל, שכר גדול וגמול רב, כמו שנאמר: "אתה תקום תרחם ציון כי עת לחננה כי בא מועד, כי רצו עבדיך את אבניה ואת עפרה יחוננו" (תהלים קב, יד-טו). רוצה לומר: כי ירושלים אמנם תבנה כשיכספו לה ישראל תכלית הכוסף עד שיחוננו אבניה ועפרה.
One who arouses in the hearts of others love for this holy place is worthy of reward and hastens the realization of our hopes, as it is written: “You will arise and have mercy upon Zion, for the time to favor her, the set time has come. For Your servants take pleasure in her stones and embrace her dust.” [Tehillim (Psalms) 102:14-15] This means that Jerusalem will be rebuilt only when Am Yisrael yearns for her to such an extent that they embrace her stones and dust.
[Conclusion to Kuzari 5:27]
What is the reason?
Kuzari quotes verses which explicitly state that God will have mercy upon Zion and rebuild her when the Am Yisrael truly yearns to rebuild Eretz Yisrael.
There are numerous mitzvot, whose importance is well known and concerning these it is easy to understand that their fulfillment will hasten the redemption. Shabbat is a central mitzva, and indeed Chazal (our Sages) taught: “Were Israel to observe two Shabbatot in strict accordance with the Halacha, they would be redeemed immediately.” [Gemara Shabbat 118b] There are other mitzvot of which Chazal teach that fulfillment hastens the redemption, as they say of the unity of Am Yisrael [Midrash Tanḥuma, Parashat Nitzavim 1] and of doing justice and righteousness [Midrash Tehillim 119:53], among others. In contrast, human intellect might perceive that the mitzva to ascend to Eretz Yisrael and build her up is not so great. In our days, it is possible to argue that living in the Land and building her up conveys benefits, and many live here for selfish reasons, rather than in fulfillment of the mitzva. In the past, ascending to Eretz Yisrael, which was desolate, building one’s home here and planting vineyards, required great dedication. Yet, even in those times these deeds appeared as mere tangible actions, lacking a spiritual aspect. The acts of the early pioneers could be seen as expressions of a nationalistic feeling or as a desire to develop an area devoid of human settlement. Plowing and cultivating the land could be seen as a simple economic act, as a means of survival. The Gemara says:
Rabbi Simla’i expounded: Why was Moses so desirous of entering Eretz Yisrael? Did he need to eat of its fruit or benefit from its goodness? Rather, Moses said “Many mitzvot were commanded Israel which can be fulfilled only within Eretz Yisrael, therefore I wish to enter the Land that I may be able to fulfill them all.” [Gemara Sota 14a]
What is the advantage of the mitzva of Eretz Yisrael that qualifies it as hastening the redemption, and even more than other such mitzvot?
First Answer – the Importance of the Mitzva of Settling Eretz Yisrael and its Role in Redemption
Indeed, we find Chazals’ teaching that the mitzva of Eretz Yisrael is an especially important mitzva. Midrash Sifrei expounds the verses in Devarim (Deuteronomy) [11:31-32]: “For you are crossing the Jordan, to come to possess the Land which the Lord, your God, is giving you, and you shall possess it and dwell in it. And you shall observe to do all the statutes and ordinances that I am setting before you today” – (Chazal) said: “settling Eretz Yisrael is the equivalent of fulfilling all the mitzvot of the Torah.” While it is true that Chazal have a similar comment concerning other mitzvot, for example brit mila, [Gemara Nedarim 32a] charity [Gemara Bava Batra 9a] and tzitzit [Gemara Shavuot 29a], there is an aspect of the mitzva of settling the Land which makes it superior to the others. Ramban [comments on Gemara Shabbat, 130a] writes that the mitzva of settling Eretz Yisrael and building her up “is a mitzva which is incumbent upon and benefits all Am Yisrael, so the Holy Land not be destroyed.” Eretz Yisrael is the Holy Land! Every rock and every meter within her are infused with sanctity. Ramban notes that this mitzva benefits all Am Yisrael. No other place in the world is suited to the unique character of Am Yisrael. The nation has the Divine promise that it will return to Eretz Yisrael, and it is necessary to prepare the Land for the nation’s return. It is possible to suggest that settling Eretz Yisrael is the redemption itself. Eim haBanim S’meiḥa cites a comment of Rashi as a source for this suggestion:
“The redeemer will come to Zion” [Isaiah 59:20] – as long as Zion is desolate, the redeemer has not yet arrived.
Rambam [Laws of Kings 11:4] defines the true Mashiach (Messiah) as one who gathers the dispersed of Am Yisrael and returns them to Eretz Yisrael and builds the Beit HaMikdash (Temple).
Thus, by definition, developing the Land and ascending to Eretz Yisrael constitute the beginning of the redemption process in a real way.
There is still one layer missing from our exposition. The mitzva of settling Eretz Yisrael is a practical mitzva. One must take action to ascend to the Land, to settle and develop her. This being the case, what benefit is there in the yearning and desire for Eretz Yisrael? Certainly, holding the Land dear is the catalyst for fulfilling the mitzva of settling Eretz Yisrael in the fullest way possible. Clearly, the practical mitzva is the essential factor, but even the desire to fulfill this mitzva hastens the redemption.
Second Answer – Exile Resulted From Rejecting the Land
One of the great rules of Torah is that God relates to Am Yisrael measure for measure. [Gemara Sanhedrin 90a] Tehillim states explicitly that the sin of the spies (i.e., rejecting Eretz Yisrael) is the cause of Israel’s exile from the Land:
"וימאסו בארץ חמדה, לא האמינו לדברו. וירגנו באהליהם, לא שמעו בקול ד'. וישא ידו להם, להפיל אותם במדבר. ולהפיל זרעם בגוים, ולזרותם בארצות"
They rejected the desirable Land; they did not believe His word. They complained in their tents; they did not hearken to the voice of the Lord. He raised His hand to them to cast them down in the desert, and to cast their seed among the nations and to scatter them in the lands.
Indeed, the Talmudic comment on this matter is well known:
"אתם בכיתם בכיה של חינם, ואני קובע לכם בכיה לדורות"
The Holy One, blessed be He, said to them: “You have wept without cause (in response to the report of ten of Moses’ spies), therefore I will set (this day) aside for weeping throughout the generations to come.”
[Gemara Ta’anit 29a]
Yalkut Shimoni  elaborates on the means employed by the ten spies in an attempt to convince the Israelites to refuse to ascend to Eretz Yisrael, describing how they went to every corner of their tents and cried, as if worried that their children would be abused by the Canaanites, causing all the Israelites to cry excessively.
Thus, the rectification of the sin of the spies requires loving every corner of Eretz Yisrael, as compensation measure for measure for the sin which caused Israel’s exile from the Land.
A Midrash teaches that during the reign of Reḥavam the Israelites rejected the Heavenly Monarchy, the monarchy of the House of David and the Beit HaMikdash (Temple):
"אמר רבי שמעון בן מנסיא: אין ישראל רואין סימן גאולה לעולם עד שיחזרו ויבקשו שלשתם, שנאמר: "אחר ישובו בני ישראל ובקשו את ד' אלוקיהם ואת דוד מלכם ופחדו אל ד' ואל טובו (הושע ג, ה)"`
Rabbi Shimon ben Menassya says: Israel can never see the signs of its redemption until they return and seek all three, as the verse states “Afterwards, the people of Israel will return and seek the Lord their God and David their king, and they shall come trembling to the Lord and to His goodness at the end of days” (Hosea 3:5).
[Yalkut Shimoni, I Samuel 106]
Eim haBanim S’meiḥa quotes Magid Mesharim, who writes that the Israelites of the generation of the exodus were not worthy of entering Eretz Yisrael, and that God encouraged Moses to send the spies so they would see the good in the Land and praise her to the Israelites, and they would then be worthy of entering the Land.
We saw two reasons that love of Eretz Yisrael brings the redemption:
1) The mitzva of settling the Land is exceedingly important, and love of the Land arouses ascent to her and developing her. This itself is the beginning of the redemption of Am Yisrael, which includes its ingathering to the Land and preparations for building the Temple.
2) Israel’s exile from the Land was decreed because they rejected the Land, therefore love of the Land is the rectification of the sin which has prevented the complete redemption.
Based upon these reasons, Kuzari asserts that “Jerusalem will be rebuilt only when Israel yearns for her to such an extent that they embrace her stones and dust.”
Love of the Land and Redemption in our Times
Approximately two centuries ago, Rabbi Yehoshua of Kutna noted that the entire generation was yearning for Eretz Yisrael, from the simplest of Jews to the most elite, and he wrote: “It is a virtual certainty that the spirit of redemption has begun to shine.” During that period, that of Rabbi Zvi Kalisher and his colleagues (the fathers of modern religious Zionism), the kings of the Land offered the Land for sale to the Jews. Rabbi Kalisher and his colleagues encouraged Jews to take advantage of this opportunity, which could have greatly advanced the process of redemption. However, Am Yisrael was insufficiently aroused to participate in this venture.
Over the past century and a half, much of Am Yisrael has gathered within the Land. The process of redemption is underway. The waves of aliya have been expressions of love of the Land. Generations were imbued with the desire to build up the Land and gather within her. The ingathering of exiles has increased throughout this period of special love for Eretz Yisrael.
With God’s help, we will vigorously pursue the mitzva of settling Eretz Yisrael and the special mitzva of loving the Land, thereby meriting the complete redemption speedily in our days. Amen.
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