Acharei Mot

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Spark: According to the Torah, Israel does not belong to the Jewish People. Our presence there is contingent on our moral behavior. We must not take the land for granted and remember that our presence there is not guaranteed.

Key Text

Leviticus 18:26-28

כו וּשְׁמַרְתֶּם אַתֶּם, אֶת-חֻקֹּתַי וְאֶת-מִשְׁפָּטַי, וְלֹא תַעֲשׂוּ, מִכֹּל הַתּוֹעֵבֹת הָאֵלֶּה:  הָאֶזְרָח, וְהַגֵּר הַגָּר בְּתוֹכְכֶם.

כז כִּי אֶת-כָּל-הַתּוֹעֵבֹת הָאֵל, עָשׂוּ אַנְשֵׁי-הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר לִפְנֵיכֶם; וַתִּטְמָא, הָאָרֶץ.

כח וְלֹא-תָקִיא הָאָרֶץ אֶתְכֶם, בְּטַמַּאֲכֶם אֹתָהּ, כַּאֲשֶׁר קָאָה אֶת-הַגּוֹי, אֲשֶׁר לִפְנֵיכֶם.

And you shall keep My laws and My ordinances, and you shall not do any of these abominations, both the native and the proselyte who dwells in your midst, for the people of the land before you did all these abominations, and the land was defiled; and let not the land vomit you out when you defile it, as it vomited out the nation before you. (18:26-28)

Leviticus 25:23

כג כִּי-לִי, הָאָרֶץ:  כִּי-גֵרִים וְתוֹשָׁבִים אַתֶּם, עִמָּדִי.

23 For the land is Mine; for ye are strangers and settlers with Me.

Modern Context/Framing

The Land of Israel is not the cradle of Judaism nor of the Jewish people. From the perspective of Judaism – the Land of Israel is a task placed on the people of Israel throughout the generations. The essence of this mission is not control of the land, but the implementation the Torah in the land. The Scroll of Independence of the State of Israel opens with a deliberate lie – “The Land of Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish people.” The Jewish people was not born in the Land of Israel, but came to the Land of Israel as a consolidated nation. The traditional historical consciousness of Judaism sees the birth of the nation – in a symbolic sense – with Abraham our father, who recognizes the Creator in Iraq. The people of Israel comes to crystallization (“and on this day they became a people.”) with the covenant sealed in the desert, in a no-man’s land. This teaches us that the Torah is not dependent on the Land of Israel. The Torah was given outside of the land, and the bulk of the people of Israel’s existence throughout the generations was outside of the land. The greatest spiritual and religious creativity took place in the Exile. Without the task of observance of Torah there is no religious meaning to possessing the land. . .

Yeshayahu Leibowitz. “On the Significance of the Land of Israel for Judaism.” In a symposium at Bar Ilan University, 1979.


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