The Desolation of the Land - A Comfort and a Challenge
By: Rav Shlomo Friedman
In the midst of the difficult bleak words of the rebuke of the תוכחה, there is a phrase which the תורת כהנים tells us offer words of comfort. The פסוק states והשימותי אני את הארץ ושממו עליה אויביכם היושבים בה. The תורת כהנים(quoted by רש"י) relates from that it eases the pain of our exile to know that our enemies will be unsuccessful in settling the land and that the land will be desolate as long as they are dwelling in it. The בית הלוי in דרוש ח(printed in שו"ת בית הלוי) raises the question - what good is it to us that our enemies are unable to cultivate the land if anyway we aren't able to benefit from being there.
Suggests the בית הלוי that when we see the nations of the world trying to develop the country but without much progress, we are being given an important message. After all, we were evicted from the land due to the land's holiness. The Land of Israel was not willing to tolerate our sins. Had the foreign peoples that claimed the land been able to dwell in the land, this would indicate that ארץ ישראל has lost its sensitivity and holiness. However when this special place refuses to accept the other nations, the land is in effect telling us that it is still retaining its holiness for the purpose of eventually welcoming back its true children - children that can live up to high standards expected by the land.
Along similar lines the בית הלוי understands the moving גמרא at the end of מסכת מכות that indicates that when the prophecy of ציון שדה תחרש is fulfilled, we gain confidence in the נבואה of עוד ישבו זקנים וזקנות בשערי ירושלים. Why are these two related? The former ( ציון שדה תחרש) implies utter desolation, the latter (עוד ישבו...) speaks of our return. Seeing that during the years of exile the land is virtually uninhabited makes us realize that the land is waiting for us to come back.
As beautiful as this דרשה was when it was written approximately a hundred fifty years ago, in our generation how much more so. After all, if at the time of the בית הלוי the words of the תורה regarding the inability of other nations to coax the land to bear its fruit were so evident, the implied return of the Jewish people to the land did not yet transpire. We have been זוכה to see the קיבוץ גלויות and the land's welcoming us back. We have seen the words of the נביא זכריה - עוד ישבו זקנים... וילדים וילדות משחקים ברחובותיה become an everyday reality.
When we celebrate and give thanks on יום ירושלים for the special gifts we've been given, we must not forget why is it that we were evicted from the land, and why the land was waiting for us to return. If we could hear our holy homeland speak it would certainly be telling us - "Welcome back my dear children, but you must always remember - you were given the land for a special purpose - as the פסוק tells us:
(תהילים קה), בעבור ישמרו חוקיו ותורותיו ינצורו," So that you will keep His laws and guard His teachings." Only this can guarantee our presence and permanence in G-d's Palace.
שבת שלום ויום ירושלים שמח
Shiur ID: 9152