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Earning the Holy Land

Friday, 12 August, 2016 - 11:11 am

There is the age-old conundrum over defining the nature of the Jews. Are we a nation? A faith group? An ethnic group? A verse in this week’s Parsha helps us understand the issue. Moses quotes G-d as saying, “You have stayed at this mountain “Rav” - excessively. Turn away and journey… Come and possess the land that G-d promised to your fathers.” The simple meaning is that “you have been at Sinai long enough, it’s time to move on.”

However Rashi cites an alternative interpretation. “Your stay at this mountain has been “Rav” plenty for you,” alluding to the spiritual wealth accumulated at Mount Sinai. “Your stay at this mountain has brought you significant greatness… You built the Mishkan, the menorah, and other furnishings; you received the Torah; you appointed a Sanhedrin…”

The Rebbe fuses the two interpretations and explains, that because the people of Israel had accumulated so much spiritual wealth at Sinai they were now sufficiently spiritually endowed to to take the next step of inhabiting the land of Israel. Indeed, G-d was eager for them to put the “spiritual wealth” into action through practically living a G-dly life in the land of Israel. We are not just a nationality defined by a common geographic origins. To quote the 11th century sage, Rav Saadya Gaon, “Our peoplehood is defined by our Torah.”

Had they been worthy and not sinned with the spies, their conquest of the land would have been achieved “without a single shot fired.” The Holy Land was a natural fit for a Holy People. All obstacles would have seamlessly rolled out of the way. They had everything they needed to make it a perfect fit; a Torah, a Mishkan, and a Sanhedrin.

This should teach us a lesson about who we are and what defines our connection to the land. It is not about military strength (although sometimes that is necessary), it is about living up to the holiness conferred upon us at Sinai, thereby making us the perfect fit for the land that is “holy.” As we reflect on the destruction and exile associated with Tisha B’av this weekend, as well as the hope and belief of a rebuilt and free future, it behooves us to be cognizant of what defines our achievements and how we successfully attain them.

It is with great joy that we welcome Dr. David and Nechama Kaufmann back to New Orleans. We wish them much success in good health and happiness.

It is with great joy that we welcome Shloime and Tzivyah Greenwald and their family to our New Orleans Jewish community. May the move be a source of open and revealed blessing for them.

The men’s mikvah, also used for immersing utensils, is back up and running.

Wishing you a meaningful Tisha B’av weekend, may it be experienced through the rear-view mirror of Redemption!

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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