Thursday, October 27, 2016

Stop Being Defensive Arshat Bereshit

Kahane on the Parsha 
Rabbi Meir Kahane- Parshat Bereishit

The most famous of all the commentaries of the great Rashi is, undoubtedly, the very first one. Concerning the verse, "In the beginning G-d created the heavens and the earth..." (Genesis 1:1), Rashi quotes the Midrash that asks: Why did the Almighty begin the Torah with the story of creation? After all, the Torah is essentially a book of laws and statutes. Surely, it should have begun with the first mitzvah the Jews were commanded to keep.
The well-known answer is, of course, that the Almighty wished to underline the fact that "He told His people the strength of His deeds in order to give them the inheritance of the nations" (Psalms 111:6). Meaning: Should the nations come to the people of Israel and complain, "You are THIEVES! You have STOLEN the land of the seven Canaanite nations!" the Jews can reply, "The land belongs to the Almighty who created it. By His will He originally gave it to the Canaanites, and by His will He took it from them and gave it to us."

Thus the words of Rashi. Nevertheless, a look at the verse from Psalms that is cited gives rise to a question. If the verse is to be an answer to the nations, it should have read, "He told the nations the strength of His deeds," not "He told HIS PEOPLE the strength of His deeds."
The answer is, however, that the most serious problem when it comes to the Jewish claim to Eretz Yisrael is not the fact that the nations do not recognize it. The nations are no problem for a Jewish people with faith in G-d. The real tragedy is the fact that so many of the Jewish people THEMSELVES do not believe or have grave doubts about the legitimacy of the Jewish claim to the land. In order to make the nations believe, it is the Jews themselves who must first be convince! And that is why the verse emphasizes, "He told His people the strength of His deeds." If the Jews believe it, they will have the strength and self-confidence to tell the nations.

Yet another question is raised by the Siftei Chachamim. In Parshat Lech Lecha (Genesis 12:6), Rashi writes, "[The Canaanites] were capturing the land from the descendants of Shem since Noah had given it to Shem when he divided the land." If that is true, what claim do the nations have on Eretz Yisrael? How can they accuse the Jews of stealing the land? After all, if Noah originally gave the land to Shem and the Jews are his descendants, it is only right for them to retake the land from the Canaanites who stole it in the first place.

It appears to me that the answer to this question contains an important lesson for today. Yes, the Jew ONCE lived in Eretz Yisrael and the land ONCE, originally, belonged to Shem, but the nations of the world can always say, "What does it matter what happened centuries ago? People come and people go. What matters is that now, TODAY, the Canaanites live here, and you cannot come after so many years claiming it's yours." Indeed, this is exactly what the Arabs say to the Jewish people today!

How do we reply to this claim? The lesson of the first Rashi in the Torah is that, in the end, there are no "logical" or "political" answers to the world. The ultimate answer is only the one: The Almighty created the land. He is the owners and in Him vests all title. He decreed the Jewish people to be His inheritance, and the land to be theirs. Let us believe it and shout it forth joyously.
The Jewish Press, 1979
Shabbat Shalom!

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