Parashat Vaera: Embracing the Gift of Eretz Yisrael
In the opening verses of Parashat Vaera, we read the promises that G-d made to Beneh Yisrael as they suffered the torment of slavery, assuring them that He would lead them out of Egypt and to Eretz Yisrael, adding, "Ve’natati Otah Lachem Morasha" – that he would give us the Land of Israel as a "Morasha," an everlasting inheritance (6:8).
As opposed to the common word for "inheritance" – "Yerusha" – the Land of Israel is referred to here with the unusual word "Morasha." The only instance of this word in the Humash is in the famous verse in Parashat Vezot Haberacha which calls the Torah "Morasha Kehilat Yaakob" – "an inheritance for the congregation of Yaakob" (Debarim 33:4). What is the difference between the terms "Yerusha" and "Morasha," and why are specifically Eretz Yisrael and the Torah described as "Morasha"?
Rav Mordechai Gifter (1915-2001) explained that most assets which a person receives as an inheritance come with no restrictions or responsibilities. Once a person inherits something, he can do with it whatever he chooses. He can use it, store it away, sell it, give it as a gift, or destroy it. The choice is entirely his. A "Morasha," however, is not something one is given, but rather something with which one is entrusted. It is given only for the purpose of guarding and preserving it so it can then be transmitted to the next generation. Both the Torah and Eretz Yisrael are given to us not as a "Yerusha," but as a "Morasha." We are entrusted with them, charged with the responsibility of preserving them and transmitting them intact to the next generation.
I once heard Rav Yisrael Meir Lau, the former Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of the State of Israel, make an interesting observation about these two precious gifts which we have received as a "Morasha." Rav Lau noted that the "Morasha" of Torah ended up being far more successful than the "Morasha" of Eretz Yisrael. After all, the Jewish People lived without Eretz Yisrael for many centuries, but we were never without the Torah. We’ve been scattered throughout the world, very far from our homeland, but we always continued studying the Torah. Both Torah and Eretz Yisrael have endured, but our nation’s relationship with the Torah has been consistently strong, whereas our relationship with Eretz Yisrael was broken for a very long time. And even today, the process of resettling the land has been fraught with complications and struggle.
The reason, Rav Lau explained, lies in the origins of our relationship to the Torah and our relationship to the Land of Israel. When our ancestors arrived at Mount Sinai to receive the Torah, they eagerly and enthusiastically proclaimed, "Na’aseh Ve’nishma" – that they would wholeheartedly accept all the Torah’s laws, without any hesitation. But a little over a year later, when they were poised to enter Eretz Yisrael, they said they did not want the land. They insisted on first sending a group of spies to check out the land, and then, when the spies returned, they decided they should not proceed, and even wept over their destiny to live in Eretz Yisrael. This "Morasha" was not eagerly accepted when it was first offered to us, and so our relationship with the land began on a shaky foundation. The land, as it were, was "hurt" and "offended." It took a very long time, Rav Lau explained, for our relationship to the land to be fully repaired, and indeed, this process has yet been completed. The struggles the Jewish Nation continues to face in securing its hold on our sacred homeland is due to our initial refusal to embrace this precious gift, this "Morasha," with which we have been entrusted. The more we work to recognize and appreciate the sanctity of Eretz Yisrael, the more we will advance this process of repairing our strained relationship with the Holy Land, and we will then experience peace, joy and prosperity in the land, and celebrate the rebuilding of the Bet Ha’mikdash and our final redemption, speedily and in our days, Amen.