The Reward for Honoring Parents and Eretz Yisrael
הרב מרדכי גרינברג
Honor your father and your mother, so that your days will be lengthened upon the land that Hashem, your G-d, gives you. (Shemot 20:12)
One may ask: It is understandable that the reward for agricultural mitzvot will be in Eretz Yisrael. However, honoring parents is a rational, humanistic mitzvah, which other nations also observe due to its moral ethic, and which applies equally in Eretz Yisrael and outside of the Land. Why, then, is the reward specifically determined to be in Eretz Yisrael?
The answer to this question is rooted in a comment of the Ramban on Parshat Acharei Mot, where he asks a similar question, but in the opposite direction. It says there, in the section of the arayot, "Let not the Land disgorge you for having contaminated it, as it disgorged the nation that was before you." (Vayikra 18:28) The Ramban asks: Arayot are sins between man and G-d, which are incumbent upon the person's body, and are not linked specifically to Eretz Yisrael. Why, then, is the punishment for these sins greater in Eretz Yisrael than outside of the Land?
The Ramban explains there at great length the special quality of Eretz Yisrael, that is constantly guided by G-d in a direct manner, unlike other lands, where the Divine guidance is through officers and kings and G-d rules only in an indirect manner. Therefore, it is impossible to draw close to Him other than in Eretz Yisrael -- the Land that is "before Hashem," about which it says, "the eyes of Hashem are always upon it," and which is called, "the gate of Heaven" and "G-d's Sanctuary." Clearly, it is impossible to compare one who sins in G-d's Sanctuary to one who sins in the street. So, too, regarding the mitzvot -- which draw a person close to the Creator -- closeness to the King in His palace is far greater than closeness to Him outside.
Therefore, the Ramban writes, "The mitzvot are primarily for those who sit in the Land of Hashem," and there the mitzvot achieve their special value. Hence, the sin of arayot in Eretz Yisrael is entirely different than arayot outside of Israel.
In regards to honoring parents, the Torah introduces a novel concept. Even though it is a rational, humanistic mitzvah, still, it is connected -- like all other mitzvot -- specifically to Eretz Yisrael. Therefore, the Torah emphasizes that even mitzvot such as these apply especially to Eretz Yisrael -- "so that your days will be lengthened upon the land that Hashem, your G-d, gives you."
The GR"A's disciples add a collective dimension to this mitzvah. Besides honoring parents in the simple sense, there is a collective mitzvah on Am Yisrael to honor its parents, its elders from previous generations, and to guard above all the tradition of its ancestors, until the earliest patriarchs of Am Yisrael. When they observe the early tradition, they will be worthy of the rightful privilege of the early ones. What is their rightful privilege? -- That which was said to Avraham initially, "Go forth from your land ... to the land that I will show you ... To your offspring I will give this land (Bereishit 12:1-7); "For all the land that you see, to you I will give it, and to your descendents forever" (13:15). This commitment was repeated to all the patriarchs.
This is what is promised here. If Israel will honor the heritage of the patriarchs, the Divine promise regarding their connection to Eretz Yisrael will be fulfilled, and they will live long lives, "upon the land that Hashem, your G-d, gives you."
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