Friday, August 19, 2022
There’s No Place Like Home
The Israeli Ministry of Tourism recently unleashed an aggressive marketing campaign to court tourists back to the Holy Land in the post COVID era. The campaign is touting the sun, sea, and sightseeing of Israel. It doesn't fail to highlight the Mediterranean beaches and the authentic Israeli cuisine to capture the hearts and minds of travelers this summer. It appears to be effective, as the number of tourists rival pre pandemic records. Interestingly enough, our Parsha this week also touts the Land of Israel as a preferred place not only to visit and live but as our place of destiny. It contrasts the qualities of the Land of Israel with the only other country the Jews were familiar with at the time-- Egypt. How Israel and Egypt are compared are contrasted is somewhat peculiar. The Torah states, "For the land, which you will possess it, is not as the land of Egypt, from which you came out, where thou did sow the seed and did water it with thy foot, as a garden of herbs; but the land, whither ye go over to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys, and drink water as the rain of heaven come down." It's noteworthy the Torah doesn't say that falafel, shawarma, or hotel breakfasts is better in Israel. Out of all the factors to highlight the superiority of Israel, it appears to choose a poor example. Regarding irrigation vs. rainfall, Egypt seems to have a clear advantage over Israel. The Nile was a blessing to the Egyptian economy and agricultural society, as the people constructed canals and irrigation ditches to harness the Nile river's yearly flood and bring water to distant fields. The Nile was constant, and the people did not have to worry about a drought a shortage of crops due to a lack of rain. The people of Israel were not so fortunate as they depended on rainfall. There were years when rain was plentiful, and there were times when rain was scarce. Indeed, a tractate in the Talmud entitled Taanis articulates a series of fasting and prayers in the event of a drought. The farmers in Israel every autumn were racked with anxiety about the pending rainfall and could only fantasize about an irrigation system that was sourced from the Nile. Why does the Torah specifically choose to identify this particular example to highlight the superiority when it appears that Egypt has a clear advantage? The Torah is teaching us a profound lesson about why the Land of Israel is the most conducive place to have a relationship with the Al-Mighty. There are other places where it might be more convenient to live, or there may be more amenities available. However, the most conveniences or amenities (as in the irrigation system in Egypt) does not translate into the most meaningful life. As there are times of drought in Israel, that also results in increased prayer and awareness of G-d. The Land of Israel is the most conducive place to have a relationship with G-d because one is more aware of G-d than any other location. For this reason, the Torah contrasts Israel with the conveniences of another country. It may not have the most amenities. In matters of what counts most-- a place to commune with G-d- there is no place like home. Have a peaceful Shabbos, Rabbi Yaakov Fisch
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