Sharona Margolin Halickman

The Commandment to Drive Out the Inhabitants in order to Settle the Land

In Bamidbar 33:50-56 we read:

God spoke to Moshe in the plains of Moav along the Yarden near Yericho saying:

“Speak to B’nai Yisrael and say to them: ‘When you cross the Yarden to the Land of Cnaan, you must drive out the inhabitants of the land before you. You must destroy all their carved stones and demolish all of their cast metal idols and tear down their altars. Drive out the inhabitants of the land and settle in it because I have given this land to you to possess. You shall give the land as an inheritance to your family by means of a lottery; to the large family you shall increase its portion, to the small family you shall decrease its portion. To whomever the lottery system ordains, it shall be his; according to the paternal tribes shall you shall inherit. But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land before you, those whom you will leave over will be spikes in your sides and they will persecute you upon the land which you settle. And it shall be that what I intended to do to them I will do to you.’”

According to Rashi, the words “Drive out the inhabitants of the land” mean make it vacant of its inhabitants and then “you shall dwell in it”, you shall be able to endure there. If not, you shall be unable to endure there.

It is not enough to just conquer the Land of Israel. After we conquer it we must settle it so that the Land of Israel will remain in our hands.

According to Rabbi Saul Berman, today, those who are not Jewish are viewed as observers of the Seven Mitzvot of Noach. They are in the category of Ger Toshav (Resident Alien). They are not forced out of the Land of Israel and are welcome to live peacefully with us.

However, according to the law of Ger Toshav, those who transgress the Seven Mitzvot of Noach (which include not committing murder) may not remain in the Land of Israel.

The Torah is very specific with the fact that if we allow these inhabitants to stay they will be “spikes in your sides and they will persecute you upon the land which you settle.”

These verses ring true today. Nine years ago, for the sake of peace we gave away the Gaza strip. Instead of bringing safety and security we were rewarded with endless rockets being shot at Israel as well as numerous terror tunnels being dug to try to murder as many Israelis as possible. The Hamas leadership that has taken over Gaza is clearly not acting as a Ger Toshav, rather they are acting as murderers that must be removed from the Land of Israel.

Unfortunately, we lost many wonderful soldiers this week while fighting the war against Hamas. Three of the soldiers who specifically stand out are St.-Sgt. Jordan Bensemhoun z”l, 22, Sgt. Sean (Nissim) Carmelli z”l, 21 and St.- Sgt. Max Steinberg z”l.

These three young men were lone soldiers. Jordan was from France and Sean and Max were from the United States. Each of them made a decision to leave their families behind and join the Israeli army. They understood the importance of conquering the land so that we may settle in it.

Some were afraid that very few people would attend their funerals. Despite the security situation, over 5,000 people attended Jordan’s funeral in Ashkelon, a coastal city that has been pounded by rockets. Sean’s funeral was in Haifa, a relatively safe area and was attended by over 20,000 Israelis from all over the country. Max’s funeral was in Jerusalem which thankfully has not been hit by rockets and was attended by over 30,000 people.

Israelis are in awe of the fact that someone who is not required to fight on behalf of Israel would join the Israeli army. They appreciate the fact that someone from overseas would want to help and even ultimately give their life in order to insure the safety and security of all Israelis.

As we read this week’s Parsha, we must remember that in order to observe the mitzvah of dwelling in the Land of Israel we must drive out the inhabitants who want to destroy us no matter what the rest of the world might think.

About the Author
Sharona holds a BA in Judaic Studies from Stern College and an MS in Jewish Education from Azrieli Graduate School, Yeshiva University. Sharona was the first Congregational Intern and Madricha Ruchanit at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, NY. After making aliya in 2004, Sharona founded Torat Reva Yerushalayim, a non profit organization based in Jerusalem which provides Torah study groups for students of all ages and backgrounds.
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