Our relationship with the Land of Israel depends on how we act while living there. Thus, in this week’s parashah, the Torah exhorts us not to defile the land with the immoral behavior that the Canaanites engaged in, lest the land spew us out. Last week’s parashah provides another example. There, the Torah describes the phenomenon of leprous growths on houses, the likes of which has never been seen in any other land. In his commentary on Eichah 5:1-2, the Maggid explains that this phenomenon results from the connection between the land and us. When we become sick with sin, the land – so to speak – becomes sick as well.
In his commentary on Eichah 1:7, the Maggid elaborates on our relationship with the land. He notes that a person may focus his life in the land on either material or spiritual pursuits, and he discusses the result in each of these cases. One who focuses on material pursuits suffers two types of loss. First, his immersion in material enjoyments corrodes his soul. In addition, the pleasure he derives from these enjoyments is fleeting; as he grows used to them, their sweetness fades. By contrast, for one who focuses on spiritual pursuits, the Land of Israel provides enhanced well-being and lasting satisfaction. For the spiritually-oriented man, the land’s special holiness promotes his efforts toward spiritual refinement. He thus strides and uplifts himself level by level to true contentment. And while perfecting his soul, he constantly feels the land’s beauty and charm.
This pattern, the Maggid says, is reflected in the declaration a person makes before the Kohen when bringing his first fruits to the Mikdash (Devarim 26:3): “I declare today to Hashem your God that I have come to the land that Hashem swore to our forefathers to give us.” Here the speaker is saying: “I am living the life that makes the land’s special charm as sweet to me as if I had just come today.” The sweetness lasts forever, never fading. In the same vein, the Torah states shortly afterwards (Devarim 26:11): “And you shall rejoice in all the good.” If we cherish the Land of Israel specifically for its special spiritual qualities, the pleasure we derive from it will never diminish in any way – our joy will always be complete.David Zucker, Site Administrator