Parashat D'varim

Belonging To the Land

An obligation of responsibility for this generation and the next.

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This commentary is provided by special arrangement with Canfei Nesharim. To learn more, visit www.canfeinesharim.org.

"…You have dwelt long enough at this mountain. Turn and journey, and come to the mountain of the Amorites and to all its neighboring places, in the plain, on the mountain, and in the lowland, and in the south and by the seashore, the land of the Canaanites, and the Lebanon, until the great river, the Euphrates River. See, I have set the land before you; come and possess the land which the Lord swore to your forefathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them and their descendants after them (Deut. 1:7-9)."

A Clear Message

The idea of belonging runs deeply throughout the Torah, and particularly in this week's Torah portion, D'varim. For the Jewish people, belonging is not only manifested in the sense of belonging to a people, but also a very deep sense of this people belonging to a land. We belong to the land of Israel, and only here can a deep aspiration for wholeness in our home be fulfilled, and can we truly manifest as a nation. While being a light unto the nations may sometimes require us to bring messages of healing from slavery and spiritual brokenness and exile to the farthest corners of the earth, the essence of our tikun (repair of ourselves and of the world) is strong Jewish life in the Jewish homeland.

Reading Torah as an organic whole, a message stands out: This is how the world needs to be fixed--you, the Children of Israel, need to live according to the mitzvot (Divine commandments), not just anywhere, but "in the land which I will show you (Exodus 12:25)." That is to say, the world will be fixed by the Jewish people doing God's will in the land which God gave us.

The Next Generation

One such expression of God's will is caring for the Land of Israel. To live in exile is to live a contradiction. If a person does not live in his or her homeland, having no concrete expectation that his or her descendants will be living on the same land, then what reason is there to treat the land right, to live sustainably, and to ensure that the resources and health of the land will be there for future generations?

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Matthew Mausner is a historian, teacher, and writer in Jerusalem. He is currently completing a thesis on tribal identity and belonging at Israel's Bar Ilan University.