Parshat Devarim: Owning the Promised Land

“I said to you, ‘You have come to the hill country of the Amorites, which the Lord our God gives to us. Behold, the Lord your God has set the land before you. Go up [and] take possession as the Lord the God of your fathers has spoken to you. Do not be afraid, neither be dismayed’.” (Deuteronomy 1:20-21)

We have said that the five books of the Torah cover respectively the origin of the Jewish identity, the definition of such identity, Israel’s connection with God, the relationship of both, and the destiny of Israel. The latter is delineated as the summary of the previous books, and takes place in the land that God gave to the Jewish people, for there is no such a thing as a nation without a country.

In these two verses God’s commandment for the Jewish people to settle in the land is preceded by “possessing” it. We don’t necessarily have to own something in order to make use of it, but in the case of this particular case God wants us to make our land part of our identity in order to properly exercise such identity.

The text is also phrased as an invitation to approach this commandment as a required change of consciousness in order to settle in the land, by “going up” to it, for we have to live up to it. Thus we understand the challenges for which we are also commanded not to be afraid or dismayed, because change is something we are not always willing to accept, especially after living forty years in the marvelous comfort zone of the protecting cloud, the column of fire and the manna.

The “ascent” to the land is also reiterated in the first sentence by “coming to the hill country of the Amorite”, which in the material reality doesn’t seem to be in that way, for most of the land of Israel is flat except for the central mountain ranges between the valley of the Jordan river and the plains next to the Mediterranean sea, along with the mountains of the north.

We have said (see our commentaries on parshat Shelach in this blog) that Israel’s worst enemies dwelt in the mountains and other areas that represent higher levels and dimensions of consciousness, from which we must remove all traces of negative traits and trends.

Thus we assimilate that the latter are the strong obstructions that keep us down under the control of lower beliefs as well as emotions and feelings that we must conquer, subjugate and eliminate in order to live in the altitude of a positive and constructive approach to life. We engage is this changing process by making goodness the reference and the choice every moment of our days, as God commands us in the Torah. We do it by the goodness with which He relates to His creation which is also our bond with Him.

“Yet in this thing you didn’t believe the Lord your God. [That] went before you in the way, to seek you out a place to pitch your tents in, in fire by night, to show you by what way you should go, and in the cloud by day.” (1:32-33)

Through Moses, the Creator reproaches our disbelief and rejection of the goodness by which we successfully fulfill our lives in the material world. In this context we realize that the Promised Land is the goodness to live up to it. As we mentioned before, in order to live in goodness we must remove all that is opposite or against its ways and attributes, represented by Israel’s enemies. The prophet reminds us this.

“If you are willing and have hearkened, the goodness of the land you consume. And if you refuse and have rebelled, by the sword you are consumed; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 1:19-20)

We all know that the battles against the negative traits and trends of ego’s materialistic fantasies and illusions are not easy, particularly when we have become addicted to them and sometimes we consider them part of who we are. We also know that the withdraw symptoms may be devastating, not because of our letting go of our additions but by the void that they leave in us.

Hence we become aware that all levels, aspects and dimensions of our consciousness are indeed empty vessels that we fill with whatever we choose to put on them. In this reality God commands us to fill all of them with the goodness of love’s ways and attributes instead of ego’s fantasies and illusions.

Once we fully assimilate that goodness is our essence and true identity, thus we also make it the purpose and destiny of our lives just for the sake of it, knowing that God’s goodness is also bond to assist us in the ascent to the special goodness that He promised us by possessing and dwelling in our land.

“And I turn back My hand upon you and I refine as purity your dross, and I turn aside all your tin.” (1:25)

About the Author
Ariel Ben Avraham was born in Colombia (1958) from a family with Sephardic ancestry. He studied Cultural Anthropology in Bogota, and lived twenty years in Chicago working as a radio and television producer and writer. He emigrated to Israel in 2004, and for the last fourteen years has been studying the Chassidic mystic tradition, about which he writes and teaches. Based on his studies, he wrote his first book "God's Love" in 2009. He currently lives in Kochav Yaakov.
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