The Ultimate Destination
By: Rabbi Barak Bar-Chaim
In our lifetimes we have witnessed the miraculous growth and development of the land of Israel. This tiny geographical location is rich in both ancient history and highly advanced first world technology. In the shadows of the holocaust the Jewish people have finally returned to their homeland after two thousand years in exile. For those of us living in the diaspora, a visit to Israel reconnects one with the Jewish people and our spiritual heritage. For us the attraction of Israel is abundantly apparent. However, our sages wonder why Moses had such a burning desire to enter the land of Israel?
The Talmud (Sota 14a) asks “Did Moses need to eat her (the land’s) fruits?” and answers that Moses was so desperate to enter the land because he wanted to fulfill the mitzvot that one can only fulfill in the land of Israel. Moses had such love for the service of God that he longed for opportunities to fulfill mitzvot. However the sages of the Midrash (Devarim Rabba 11,10) state that Moses merely wanted to be in the airspace of the land and desired to be like a bird flying over the Jordan river. Why was being in the airspace of the land something Moses so desperately desired?
Rabbi Moses Feinstein explains that the physical land of Israel is intrinsically different to all other lands. It is fundamentally more holy than any other other land. Moses desired to be where the holiness of God’s presence is more acutely present. Based on this Rabbi Feinstein explains that the Mitzvah of living in the land of Israel is because of its intrinsic holiness. Since Jerusalem is more sanctified than the rest of the land the greatest Mitzvah would be to live in Jerusalem.
We learn from Moses that the main attraction of the land of Israel should be its unique opportunity to serve God and to dwell in close proximity with the holiness of the divine presence. May we merit to see the rebuilding of the Beit Hamikdash (temple) and the return of all the exiles to the land of Israel soon in our days. Next year in Jerusalem!