It seems that an unholy alliance of international bodies conspire to condemn Israel at every possible opportunity, delegitimizing its existence, its holy sites, its economy … the list seems to be endless. The process is directed against all aspects of Israel’s religious, political, social and economic structures in an attempt to weaken the will of the Jewish people and drive apart a nation united to survive against all the bows and arrows of outrageous fortune aimed at them.
But the truth of the matter is that we have greater worries to perturb us. For the opening words of Parshat Ekev already and immediately confront us with a tremendous problem. And it is this: For Israel’s loyalty to the observance of the Torah, God promises the fulfillment of the Bris and the Chesed of entry and conquest into Eretz Yisrael. But only two chapters later do we read that the sole reason Israel has to enter Israel has nothing to do with righteousness. Rather, it is the wickedness of the current inhabitants and their desecration of the land that demands their immediate removal by the Jewish people. The only reason God is allowing them entry into Israel dates back to the promise made to Avraham that his future generations will enter the Promised Land, even if they do not toe the observant line.
So what is the reason for conquering and living in Israel?
The Ohr HaChaim gives a brilliant, but sober, commentary to this seeming contradiction, and it goes to what God promised originally. The oath to Avraham was that God would allow them to conquer and enter Israel. However, the expectation to remain in Israel to the end of eternity is dependent on their fealty to the Torah. Go to Israel, and you find it to be a truly amazing community of peoples, and whether they are religious or nonreligious, they unite in their fealty to the Torah and respect for Torah’s values, in the Chesed and in the ever-growing commitments to projects to shoulder so many needs of this small nation. To survive in Israel among the turbulences that never cease and yet to continue to believe in the Shavua of God and, especially, the conditional eternal existence of the Bris should give us greater cause for concern for all those times we fail to meet the expectations of the latter.
The next time we hear the phrase Am Yisrael Chai, we should truly hope that the Ohr HaChaim’s remarks will be the definitional history of the Jewish people, guaranteeing an eternity of existence because of our fulfillment to an authentic and meaningful Torah heritage, treasured and embraced by all.
Rabbi Chaim Landau is rabbi emeritus at Ner Tamid Congregation.