Being Worthy Of the Land
Summarized by Dov Karoll
The first passage in the Ramban's commentary on the Torah explains that the land of Israel belongs to God, and that the ability to live in it is dependent on His will. A people that sins is expelled from the land, and a people loyal to God will remain in it. The means of staying in the land are not primarily the observance of mitzvot bein adam la-Makom (between man and God), but rather fulfilling the interpersonal mitzvot, such as achdut (unity) and ahavat chinam (love of fellow Jews).
The Meshekh Chokhma (Rav Meir Simcha of Dvinsk) notes that the Torah mentions punishment for non-observance of mitzvot such as Shabbat, but does not mention the punishment for interpersonal sins. According to the Meshekh Chokhma, the punishment for national laxity in interpersonal mitzvot is the loss of the land of Israel.
Based on this, we cannot automatically assume our ability to dwell in this land without complications. Religious Zionism has taken as axiomatic the notion that God will not exile us again. Even if one accepts this assumption, this does not mean that there will not be difficulties along the way if we are not loyal to God and we do not get along with one another. As such, it should not surprise us that we have encountered wars of some sort every decade or so, since we have not attained the perfection that is expected of us.
However, one needs to maintain perspective during this difficult time. I was here for the War of Independence (1948), the Sinai Campaign (1956), the Six Day War (1967), the War of Attrition, the Yom Kippur War (1973), and the Lebanon War (1982), and I can tell you that this is not as difficult a time as those were. Unfortunately, we have much experience with crisis situations. It is a great privilege for us to be here in Israel during these momentous times, as we are part of the forging of the history of the Jewish people. I feel bad for people who are in the Diaspora who are relegated to the role of spectator in the unfolding of Jewish history here in Israel. At the time of the Yom Kippur War, I told Harav Lichtenstein that it is a great privilege that he had recently made aliya and is here now with us at the center of Jewish history, not on the periphery.
At this time it is important for us to perform a cheshbon ha-nefesh (self-assessment) on matters of achdut and to try to improve ourselves, thereby becoming worthy of keeping the land.
(This sicha was originally delivered on leil Shabbat Parashat Bereishit 5761 .)