Yisurin — Afflictions of Love, the Commandment to Live in Israel.

(Part 1 of 6)

I, my wife and our family of seven children left the USA for Aliyah, to the Land of Israel, on the 15th of the month of Av 5773 (July 22, 2013). Since our arrival we have been met with many unexpected challenges נסיונות. This is similar to when Avraham left his homeland upon hearing from G-d, “Go for yourself from your land…” לך לך מארצך, then after his arrival he had to pass and complete ten tests נסיונות in order to develop his emunah and bitachon. When I would share my frustrations with others, many would say to me in encouragement “Eretz Yisrael Nikneh b’yesurin” which translates to: “The Land of Israel is acquired with suffering”. What is the source of this concept? How does this help one get settled in Eretz Yisrael? How does this process make us a better Jew and closer to serving G-d?

The Talmud in Tractate Berachos is the source of this quote. The topic on that page is the discussion of the fact that afflictions occur to us because of our neglect of Torah study. If however that is not the case, then these are “afflictions of love”. However, there are three “gifts” that are only acquired through suffering and one of them is the Land of Israel.

ברכות ה.

אם רואה אדם שיסורין באין עליו יפשפש במעשיו…פשפש ולא מצא יתלה בביטול תורה…ואם תלה ולא מצא בידוע שיסורין של אהבה הם שנאמר כי את אשר יאהב ה’ יוכיח…כל שהקדוש ברוך הוא חפץ בו מדכאו ביסורין שנאמר וה’ חפץ דכאו החלי…רבי שמעון בר יוחאי אומר שלש מתנות טובות נתן הקדוש ברוך הוא לישראל וכולן לא נתנן אלא על ידי יסורין אלו הן: תורה וארץ ישראל והעולם הבא…ארץ ישראל דכתיב כי כאשר ייסר איש את בנו ה’ אלהיך מיסרך וכתיב בתריה כי אלהיך מביאך אל ארץ טובה

If a person sees that afflictions are befalling him, he should investigate his deeds to determine which sin he may have committed that would cause such suffering…If he examined his deeds and did not find anything, he should attribute his afflictions to neglect of Torah study…And if he attempted to attribute his afflictions to neglect of Torah study but did not find anything, it can be assumed that they are “afflictions of love,” as it is stated “for Hashem rebukes the one He loves.” (Mishlei 3:12)…Whomever the Holy One, Blessed is He, desires, He crushes with afflictions, as it is stated: “And the one whom Hashem desires He crushed with sickness”. (Yishaya 53:10)…Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai said: The Holy One, Blessed is He, gave three good gifts to the Jewish people, and He gave all of them only through suffering. They are: Torah, The Land of Israel, and the world to come…The Land of Israel] is acquired only through suffering [, as it is written: “Just as a father will chastise his son, so Hashem, your G-d, chastises you, and it is written immediately after that verse: “For Hashem, your G-d is bringing you to a good land” (Devarim 8:5-7) (Talmud Bavli Berachos 5a)

Ekev, My Bar Mitzvah Parsha

The source of this concept is from Parshas Ekev, my Bar-Mitzvah parsha; therefore, it inspires me on a very personal level. Even more so, the Targum Onkeles translation on this pasuk speaks directly to me making Aliyah to Beit Shemesh.

תרגום אונקלוס דברים ח:ז פרשת עקב

ארי ד’ אלקך מעלך לארעא טבא ארעא נגדא נחלין דמיין מבועי עיניו ותהומין נפקין בבקען ובטורין

[Arie] For Hashem, your G-d is bringing you to a good land: a land with streams of water, of springs and underground water coming forth in valley and mountain. (Devarim 8:7)

We made Aliyah to Ramat Beit Shemesh A. We live on Nachal Luz Street (the Luz Stream) and we are building our new house down the block in the valley. One of my many inspirations to make Aliyah at this point in my life was a drasha that I heard from Rabbi Sholom Gold around Tisha B’Av prior to the twelfth siyum hashas (Tisha B’Av, Eretz Yisrael, and Geula. Youtu.be/tx-2Gq-EGDE). He stated that all Jews in the USA should be living in Eretz Yisrael by the next siyum hashas in seven years. I decided to also start learning the new Daf Yomi cycle at that time. We are now in the thirteenth cycle, the Bar-Mitzvah cycle. He asked us to choose the time to male Aliyah based on which mesechta the daf is up to. We made Aliyah during meseches pesachim on daf number thirty two; this is the numerical value of לב, the first and last letters of the Torah. Eretz Yisrael is the heart of the Jewish people and it also represents the “body גוף” of the Shechina of Hashem.

My insight as to why the lesson that is taught, that Eretz Yisrael is acquired by suffering, is found on page five in Berachos, is that the number five represents a hand – the slap of G-d…but only as a gesture of love. It was a very well known custom of Rav Ovadia Yosef to give a gentle slap on the face as an expression of affection. Maybe G-d is challenging us to see if we will still have love of G-d, emunah and bitachon despite the slap. In this manner we can gain the ultimate reward of bringing aקרבן, being close to Hashem.

King Dovid was able to withstand suffering more than any other person. He compiled and wrote parts of Tehillim thanking G-d for everything, the good and the seemingly bad. All of his suffering was borne with joy and love. We are taught by the Arizal and Maharal that each city in Eretz Yisrael possesses its own spirituality. The Arvei Nachal (Shelach 26b) wrote that every section of Eretz Yisrael corresponds to a Torah Law. Just as each mitzvah causes a distinct effect, each area of Eretz Yisrael promotes a specific type of spirituality.

I live in Ramat Beit Shemesh, which is in very close proximity to Emek Haelah. That is where the famous battle occurred between Dovid and Goliat. King Dovid travelled through this area and received inspiration to compose many chapters of Tehillim. How did we end up specifically in this location? We can look back to the time of the initial conquering and settlement of Israel by Yehoshua. The land was divided among the tribes by drawing lots. However, these miraculous lottery tickets actually spoke and chose its owner. Nowadays as well, certain areas of Israel seem to choose who is destined to live in which specific location.

Praise to G-d for Suffering

תהילים קיט:עא

טוב לי כי עניתי למען אלמד חקיך. טוב לי תורת פיך מאלפי זהב וכסף.

It is good for me that I was afflicted so that I might learn your statutes.  Better for me is the Torah of Your mouth than thousands in gold and silver.      (Tehillim 119:71-72)

King Dovid found joy in the suffering caused to him by others. As the Talmud states, “If a person sees that afflictions are befalling him he should investigate his deeds to determine which sin he may have committed that would cause such suffering…he should attribute his afflictions to lack of torah study”. In the USA my daily goal was to be a good Jewish Surgeon. Here in Israel my profession has in fact become just a means of making a livelihood. The ikar here is my daily Daf Yomi and my daily interaction with the Living G-d. Nothing here in Israel happends by chance. One can see the daily miracles driving in traffic by the multiple near collisions. People whom we need to meet just suddenly pop up and appear. We have relative security from our enemies despite the many security breaches. We see that all life events are in the hands of G-d, מקרה (רק מה’).

Those who are close to G-d always sing His praises and do not complain. Moshe was told by G-d that he was about to die, he then began to sing Parshas Ha’azinu. However, one of the wicked kings, Nevuchadnezar, also sang praises to G-d.

סנהדרין צב:

בשעה שהפיל נבוכדנצר הרשע את חנניה מישאל ועזריה לכבשן האש, אמר לו הקדוש ברוך הוא ליחזקל: לך והחייה מתים בבקעת דורא כיון שהחייה אותן, באו עצמות וטפחו לו לאותו רשע על פניו. אמר מה טיבן של אלו? אמרו לו: חבריהן של אלו מחייה מתים בבקעת דורא! פתח ואמר…אמר רבי יצחק: יוצק זהב רותח לתוך פיו של אותו רשע! שאילמלא לא בא מלאך וסטרו על פיו, ביקש לגנות כל שירות ותשבחות שאמר דוד בספר תהילים!

When the wicked Nevuchadnezar threw Chanayah, Mishael and Azaryah into the fiery furnace, G-d told Yechezkel: go resurrect the dead in the plain of Dura. As soon as he had resurrected them, the bones came and slapped that evil one [Nevuchadnezar] on his face.   [Nevuchadnezar] asked his courtiers: What is the nature of these strange bones? They told him: the friend of these three men that you have cast into the furnace is resurrecting the dead in the plain of Dura! Immediately, [Nevuchadnezar] began reciting his praise of G-d…Rav Yitzchak said: molten gold be poured into the mouth of that evil one! For had an angel not hit him on his mouth, he would have eclipsed all the songs of Dovid Hamelech in Tehillim. (Talmud Sanhedrin 92b)

How could this evil person have the potential to sing superior praises to G-d compared to Dovid Hamelech? The Kotzker Rebbe (Emet MiKotzk Titzmach pg.37) explained the message describe here, “You [Nevuchadnezar] want to sing praise to G-d when you have a crown on your head? I would like to hear how you sing after being slapped in the face.” This was a way to test Nevuchadnezar. King Dovid praised G-d even when he was inיסורין, suffering. After Nevuchadnezar was slapped, he then failed his test and became silent.

Eretz Yisrael is acquired with suffering, a slap in the face. From the comforts of the USA we celebrate Israel Day Parades; we sing praises to G-d in our daily prayers describing our love the Torah and Eretz Yisrael. Some of us have heard the annual command of לך לך! , move to Israel! After Aliyah, G-d says, “I want to see how you Praise Me now, how do you serve Me? Do you still sing the praises of Eretz Yisrael?” Living in Eretz Yisrael is a daily test in emunah, faith in G-d. Will we chose to sing the praises to G-d like King Dovid, or will we complain and stop our accolades like Nevuchadnezar?

Rav Aryeh Levine comments on this. Every happiness that we attain comes to us on account of the previous miseries that we have suffered. The midrash relates that before the enslavement of the Jews in Egypt began, the Jews wanted to assimilate, just like what is occurring in the USA today. When Yoseph eventually died, the Jews abolished bris milah saying “let us be like the Egyptians”. Because of that G-d caused the Egyptians to hate them and enact evil decrees. The suffering and oppression the Jews underwent bound and united them. If not for the slavery they would have become assimilated. The gift of Eretz Yisrael has been granted though suffering. The suffering (יסורין) is not meant to do us harm.

דברים ח:ה (עקב)

וידעת עם לבבך, כי כאשר ייסר איש את בנו ה’ אלקיך מיסרך:

You should know in your heart that just as a father will chastise his son, so Hashem, your G-d, chastises you. (Devarim 8:5)

The afflictions are for our own good.

דברים ח:ז,ט (עקב)

כי ה’ אלקיך מביאך אל ארץ טובה…ארץ אשר לא במסכנת תאכל בה לחם לא תחסר כל בה

For Hashem, you G-d, is bringing you to a good land…a land where you will eat bread without poverty, you will lack nothing there…(Devarim 8:7,9)

If not for the suffering, we would not have come into the good land of Eretz Yisrael and possess it. It is very possible that the fact that we are now here in Israel, was the reason that my grandparents merited to be saved from the fiery furnace of the Holocaust .

Moshe sung praises to G-d the day before he was told he would die. Moshe accepted divine justice, he accepted G-d and His will. He understood the essence of the Shema Yisrael prayer proclaiming G-d as one אחד. G-d is the source of all good and suffering. Singing after being hit by G-d signifies inspiration and indicates a spiritual greatness and humility, which Moshe Rabeinu clearly possessed.

Making Aliyah from the USA and living in Eretz Yisrael definitely teaches us the trait of humility on a daily basis. Despite all of our daily challenges, we thank G-d several times daily in our prayers for allowing us to live here and serve Him:

שחרית: אהבה רבה

והביאנו לשלום מארבע כנפות הארץ, ותוליכנו קוממיות לארצינו

שחרית: שמע

למען ירבו ימיכם וימי בניכם על האדמה אשר נשבע ה לאבתיכם לתת להם…

ברכת המזון

נודה לך ה’ אלוקינו על שהנחלת לאבותינו ארץ חמדה טובה ורחבה…

מעין שלש

ברוך אתה ה…ועל תנובת השדה ועל ארץ חמדה טובה ורחבה…

Dr. Avraham in his book, Nishmat Avraham, wrote and introduction to the laws of Choshen Mishpat. He quoted from the Pischei Teshuva אהע”ז עה) ):

“Happy is the one who merits to live in Eretz Yisrael and earns a living there without the need to depend on others, even if he lives a life of hardship and can serve G-d; but not everyone merits this.” A physician who lives in Eretz Yisrael and treats the sick of Israel, must thank G-d for this great merit. There is no greater profession than healing and helping the sick.

Dr. Avraham in his introduction to the laws of Ohr Chaim quotes my Bar Mitzvah parsha, Ekev:

דברים ח:י”ז

ואמרת בלבבך, כחי ועצם ידי עשה לי את החיל הזה.

And you may say in your heart, “My strength and the might of my hand made me all this wealth!”. (Devarim 8:17)

Being A Physician In Israel

Here in Israel there is an unhealthy fascination among many religious groups to seek out the “best” doctor. This does not necessarily mean the best trained or the best qualified. There are many self promoting individuals in Israel who claim to know who the “best” doctors are. Based on these public relations promotions, people spend their money seeking care in the private medical sector. The Talmud discourages this behavior:

קידושין פב.

טוב שברופאים לגיהנם.

The best of doctors go to hell.

(Talmud Bavli Kedushin 82b)

The Torah cautions us from believing that it is our power and efforts that bring us success. Physicians need to remember this each time we save a person’s life, or when we are not successful. It is not because of our knowledge and experience that a patient may live but rather because G-d decrees who will be ill and G-d decrees who shall live. We must thank G-d for being his messengers to carry out his will.

Rav Nachman of Breslev teaches us that everything that happends is for the good and G-d loves us and doesn’t want us to suffer. Whenever we suffer there is always a purpose. There are hardships, but they are always from heaven and always for our benefit.

לקוטי מהר”ן נ”ו

כתוב בתורה הקדושה

“ואנכי הסתר אסתיר פני ביום ההוא” (דברים לא:יח)

אבל רבי נחמן מסביר:

ואפילו בהסתרה

שבתוך ההסתרה

בודאי גם שם נמצא ה’ יתברך

גם מאחורי הדברים הקשים העוברים עליך

אני עומד.

It is written in the Holy Torah

“And I will conceal my face on that day” (Devarim 31:18)

However, Rabbi Nachman explains:

And even in the concealment

From within the concealment

Surely there you will find the Blessed G-d

Also, after all the difficult things that passed before you,

I stand.

(Likutei Maharan #56)

We practically act this out every year on the 9th of Av — Tisha B’Av. For an entire evening and half a day we lament the history of all our sorrows and tragedies while sitting on the floor. Then at midday we get up and sit on a chair. This symbolizes that despite every calamity, we get up, and we are still here serving G-d with strong faith and will continue to do so. This expression takes on more meaning to those of us living in Eretz Yisrael. We are still here, standing living in Israel, despite all the historical events preventing us from being here.

Rav Elimelech Biderman (Gilyon Be’er Haparsha/Torah Wellsprings) explains that our matriarch, Leah bore children as a result of her suffering. She attributed the good that she received to her suffering. Similarly, when Rachel was not having children she wanted to get Yaakov angry, so that she would merit having children (Be’er Mayim Chaim). This is a pattern with which G-d placed into the world that after suffering comes special blessings. Before we see the light we must experience darkness. The Be’er Mayim Chayim continues to explain that yesurim / strife, cleanses a person from sin. There is no greater yesurim than being disgraced. I can attest that making Aliyah as a fellowship trained, double board certified, associate professor surgeon from the USA and then coming to practice surgery in the modern State of Israel, is a fall from grace.

The Chida teaches that Hashem placed into the rules of nature that whoever is disgraced will be helped. The Talmud in Bava Kama states that Avraham was humiliated by Avimelech taking away Sarah, his wife, to his palace. Sarah was only remembered by G-d that she was barren after this event. Once Avraham prayed to remove and heal the afflictions placed upon Avimelech, only then was Sarah fertile. After this event Sarah conceived and bore a son to Avaraham named Yitzchak.

בבא קמא צב.

“ויתפלל אברהם אל האלקים וירפא אלקים את אבימלך ואת אשתו ואמהתיו” וגו’. וכתיב “וה’ פקד את שרה כאשר אמר” וגו’.

Avraham prayed to G-d and G-d healed Avimelech, his wife, and his maidservants etc. And it is written in the very next verse: Hashem had remembered Sarah as he had spoken etc. and Sarah conceived and bore a son unto Avraham. (Talmud Bava Kamma 92a)

Similarly, the Raba in Morei Nevuchim teaches that when a person remembers Hashem, no bad can happen to him. All misfortunes occur at the moments when one forgets Hashem. Hashem said to Yaakov “I am with you protect you …” (parshas Vayetzei). The Yeitev Leiv explains, that when one is with G-d and is focused on emunah, he is protected and no bad can befall him.

בראשית כח:טו

והנה אנכי עמך ושמרתיך בכל אשר תלך והשבתיך אל האדמה הזאת, כי לא אעזבך עד אשר אם עשיתי את אשר דברתי לך.

Behold, I am with you; I will guard you wherever you go, and I will return you to this soil; for I will not forsake you until I will have done what I have spoken about you. (Bereishis 28:15)

Rav Chaim of Voloziner, in Nefesh Hachaim also taught this lesson.

The following is a great concept and a wonderful segulah, which removes from the person all harm, so no one can harm him or affect him in any way. The segulah is: When a person affixes in his heart the awareness that Hashem is the true G-d and there is no other power in the world, other than Him, and that the entire world is filled with his Oneness…..   ה’ הוא האלקים האמיתי, ואין עוד מלבדו, this results that automatically all powers and all those who desire to harm him cannot hurt him, at all.          (Nefesh HaChaim Sha’ar 3, Chapter 12).

After the Torah reading, the Sefer Torah is lifted into the air for all to see, this is called hagbah הגבה. There is a custom to search for a word beginning with the first letter of the observer’s first name. For this reason, during hagbah I search for the letter aleph, since my name is Arie / ארי which starts with the letter aleph/א (אר”י is also an abbreviation for the Land if Israel ארץ ישראל). Rav Noam Elimelech explains that דין / judgment (punishment) can turn into compassion when one adds an aleph to it. In this manner the word דין becomes G-d’s Holy name א-ד-נ-י .

The Chasam Sofer learns from the ladder of Yaakov how to serve G-d in our daily occupation. The ladder of Yaakov was perched on the earth and its peak reached the heavens. This indicates that even when one is occupied in worldly matters, he should have it touch the heavens, by doing it in a spiritual manner. Working in Israel is not just a job, it is a Holy endeavor. In a similar fashion, the Chasam Sofer (commentary on Sukkah 36) explains that any occupation undertaken in Eretz Yisrael, is included in the mitzvah of yishuv Eretz Yisrael. In Tractate Berachos, Rav Yishmael advises Jews to combine Torah with a worldly occupation.

ברכות לה עמוד ב

ת”ר ואספת דגנך מה ת”ל לפי שנא’ לא ימיש ספר התורה הזה מפיך יכול דברים ככתבן ת”ל ואספת דגנך הנהג בהן מנהג דרך ארץ דברי ר’ ישמאל

The Rabbis taught in a Baraisa: The verse states: “And you will gather your grain.” For what reason did the Torah have to say this? For since it is stated: “This book of the Torah shall not depart from your mouth,” it would be possible to think that the words of the Torah here are meant literally as they are written, i.e. that one must study Torah every waking moment and would thereby be precluded for earning a livelihood. The Torah therefore states: And you will gather in your grain, which bids us to lead, together with [Torah study], a life conducted in the way of the world, i.e. Torah study should be combined with the earning of a livelihood. These are the words of Rav Yishmael.                 (Talmud Bavli Berachos 35b)

It is in Eretz Yisrael that Rav Yishmael’s ruling applies! Rav Yaacov Haber shared with me the insight that, one is only fulfills the mitzvah of yishuv Eretz Yisrael, if his source of income is from his working in Israel. Thus my practicing surgery in Eretz Yisrael is not just a job – it is a mitzvah! The physical and material aspects of the Land are objects of holiness, vehicles in the service of Hashem.

The Mishna in Pirkei Avos instructs us to be strong like a lion/Arie, to carry out the will /רצון of Hashem. Earth / ארץ is from the word רצה which means wants. Because the earth at the time of creation wanted to do the will of G-d, ארץ=רצה . When working for parnassah, one must take time to think about G-d.

פרקי אבות ה:כג

יהודה בן תימא אומר: הוי עז כנמר, וקל כנשר, רץ כצבי, וגיבור כארי לעשות רצון אביך שבשמים.

Rabbi Yehuda ben Tema says: Be bold like as a leopard, light as an eagle, swift as a deer, and strong as a lion to carry out the will of Your father Who is in Heaven.

(Pirkei Avos 5:23)

What Does Not Kill Us Makes Us Stronger

Israel is a harsh place to live and has a harsh culture to endure. The Vilna Gaon asks why the miracle of the twelve stones that Yaakov placed by his head, when he went to sleep in Bet El, was to unite the individual rocks into one stone pillow? Why not have a better miracle in which the rocks transform into a comfortable pillow cushion? The answer is that softness does not emerge from a dispute. The rocks “argued” which each other who is more worthy to serve as a pillow for Yaakov. The Beis Hamikdash was destroyed because of Jewish hatred one for another. Unfortunately, this baseless hatred שינאת חינם still persists to this day.

The Bas Ayin teaches that the Chanukah menorah should be placed below ten tefachim. In this manner one must bend in order to light it. We learn from this that if one wants miracles, he has to be ready to lower himself or be mivater. For example, driving on the highway and allowing another person pass in front of you; this concept is very foreign in Israel.

Everyone has hardships in their life. The purpose of these events is to arouse people to pray to Hashem because Hashem desires to hear our tefillos. In sefer Berishis (28:20) Yaakov prayed that if Hashem will give him bread and clothes then He will be a G-d for him. In the end, all of Yaakov’s prayers were answered except for having bread to eat. Hashem did not promise him that he would automatically receive bread to eat. This is because G-d wanted to leave Yaakov with some hardship with which he would still need to pray for. When the quality of life is good, like in the USA, it is difficult to serve G-d completely. In Israel, we see and experience G-d, every day.

כתובות קי:

ת”ר לעולם ידור אדם בא”י אפי’ בעיר שרובה עובדי כוכבים ואל ידור בחו”ל ואפילו בעיר שרובה ישראל שכל הדר בארץ ישראל דומה כמי שיש לו אלוה וכל הדר בחוצה לארץ דומה כמי שאין לו אלוה שנא’ לתת לכם את ארץ כנען להיות לכם לאלקים.

The Rabbis taught in a Baraisa: A person should always dwell in Eretz Yisrael even in a city with a majority of idolators and a person should not dwell outside of Eretz Yisrael even if he would be dwelling in a city with a majority of Jews. Because whoever dwells in Ertez Yisrael is considered to be one who has a G-d, and whoever dwells outside of Eretz Yisrael is considered to be one who is Godless, as it says, “To give you the land of Canaan, to be a G-d unto you (Yayikra 25:38). )The juxtaposition of these two pesukim teaches us that “to be a G-d unto you” is dependent upon being in “the Land of Canaan,” i.e. Eretz Yisrael(. (Kesubos 110b)

When everything is good and bright, we may forget to pray to Hashem with a complete heart לב . But when we undergo hardships it is easier to pray and pour out our hearts in tefillah. Darkness is allegorical to when people are going through hard times. The menorah teaches us about the small light. G-d wants to hear our tefillos. The purpose of these hardships is to help us open up our hearts in tefillah. Eretz Yisrael is the ideal location for prayer. The purpose of bringing a “sacrifice” in the Beis Hamikdash was to bring a קרבן ; not to give something up but rather to get close, קרוב to G-d. Ironically, we have had to fight wars to get the privilege to pray at the Maaras Hamachpelah in Hebron, Kever Rachel in Beis Lechem and the Kotel in Yerushalayim. Unfortunately, Jews are still prevented by the Israel Government and the Arabs from praying at the Holiest and most ideal location for prayer in the world, the Temple Mount הר הבית.

The Tiferes Shlomo astutely points out that the Torah does not state, “when you go out to victory כי תצא לניצחון; rather the Torah says “when you go out to war כי תצא למילחמה” . The goal is the war, the battle. Our role is to keep trying and never give up. If we do so, we win the war. We blow the shofar to remember Aikedas Yizchak on Har Habayis (Berishis 22:13). Why do we blow the shofar? At the Aikeda, the rams horns got stuck in one of the bushes and it could not free itself. The shofar therefore represents the challenges and struggles we experience. G-d desires the struggle. Avodas Hashem is the goal, and success is to keep on trying again and again.

We say in the Mussaf Rosh Hashanah prayer, “because you listen to the sound of the shofar and you listen to the teruah and there is no one like you”:

כי אתה שומע קול שופר ומאזין תרועה ואין דומה לך.

The Pri Megadim asks why are there two words for listening? He explains, that there are two types of listening: מאזין is listening from close by; whereas, שומע is listening from a distance. Hashem is closer to the people who struggle. G-d is closer to the people who are struggling with their yezter hara to do G-d’s will. The Or Hachayim goes on to explain parsha Ki Tzezei: the soul left heaven and came down to this world למילחמה, to wage war with the yetzer hara. The goal is the war and never to lose hope. Living in Israel is a daily war and battle on all fronts, physical and spiritual.

The Merit of Living in Israel

The Prayers in Eretz Yisrael are heard and accepted more that in chutz la’aretz. We learn this concept from Talmud Arachin, comparing the tefilos of Moshe to Yehoshua. We learn from Yehoshua that the merit of one who enters Eretz Yisrael is greater than that of one who is born in Israel.

ערכין לב:

בשלמא משה לא בעא רחמי דלא הוה זכותא דארץ ישראל אלא יהושע דהוה זכותא דארץ ישראל אמאי לא ליבעי רחמי

It is understandable that Moshe did not pray to have the evil inclination for idolatry abolished, because he did not have the merit of Ertez Yisrael, but Yehoshua, who did enjoy the merit of Eretz Yisrael, why did he not pray for this? (Talmud Arachin 32b)

he Mutzal MeiEish comments that from this we learn from Yehoshua: one who enters Eretz Yisrael (makes Aliyah) has greater merit compared to one who is born in Israel.

There is an individual mitzva for every individual to live here. Ramban, (רמב”ן ספר (המצוות תצוה ד’ states that the mitzva of yishuv Eretz Yisarel d’oraysa applies even today since the pasuk says:

במדבר לג:נג

והורשתם את הארץ וישבתם בה, כי לכם נתתי את הארץ לרשת אתה.

You shall rid the land and you shall settle in it, for to you have I given the land to possess it. (Bamidbar 33:53)

דברים ו:ג

ושמעת ישראל ושמרת לעשות אשר ייטב לך ואשר תרבון מאד, כאשר דבר ה’ אלקי אבתיך לך ארץ זבת חלב ודבש.

You shall listen [people of] Israel and you shall beware to perform so that it will be good for you and so that you will increase very much as Hashem the G-d of your forefathers spoke to you – a land flowing with milk and honey.

“ושמרת לעשות” (beware to perform), according to some Rabbis teach us that Yishuv HaAretz (settling the Land of Israel), is equal to all the mitzvos of the Torah (Sifrei, Re’eh 53). Living in Israel properly according to Torah and Halacha, is the ultimate service to G-d. It is the רצון ה’ and a קידוש ה’.

תהילים פו:ג

חנני אד-ני, כי אליך אקרא כל היום.

Show me favor G-d, for to you do I call all day long. (Tehillim 86)

About the Author
Arie E. Pelta, M.D., a Board Certified General and Colorectal Surgeon from the USA , made aliyah with his wife and 7 children in 2013. He is also a active Medical Corps Officer holding the rank of Captain in the IDF Reserves. Currently practicing in Laniado Hospital in Netanya and at Assuta Medical Center in Tel Aviv, part of the Assia Medical group; speciaizing in the surgical care of all problems of the colon, rectum and anus.
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