Our Obligation to Settle The Land
Rabbi Chaim Lobel
Chapter 19, Verse 23) “When you shall come to the Land and you
shall plant any food tree, you shall treat its fruit as Orlah
(forbidden); for three years it shall be Orlah to you, they
shall not be eaten.”
Tanchuma (Chapter 8) comments on G-d's commandment of “and you
G-d is telling the Jewish people, “you will find the land filled
with abundance of all good. It will not be desolate. Do not say
'we will dwell in the land but not develop or plant in it.'
Rather, be very careful with its settlement. Just as you entered
a land fully developed and planted, so too you must further
develop it for your children after you”.
Tanchuma, it seems the reason one is obligated to develop Israel
is because the Jewish nation received it fully inhabitable. In
other words, just as the Jewish nation entered a country ready
for its settlers, so must each generation work to insure that
the next generation also inherit a fully developed land.
Why is the obligation of settling Israel based on the fact that
the Jews received a developed country? Wouldn’t the commandment
makes sense regardless of how the Jews received the land? Of
course we should take care of the land G-d has given us. Of
course we should preserve and develop the land for future
generations. Why does the Tanchuma insist the commandment is
grounded in G-d’s gift of giving a fully developed land to the
Jewish nation to the Jews?
alone is insufficient. What if a man has no children or plans to
sell the land? What if he cares not what will happen in the
future? In that case, the Tanchuma says, you still have an
obligation to repay the favor that G-d did for your forefathers
and your forefathers, in turn, did for you. Just as you have
benefited from the work of prior generations, so do you have a
responsibility to future generations. And that responsibility
stands regardless of what circumstances and logic may suggest.
Rabbi Chaim Lobel is the
Rabbi of Young Israel of Aberdeen, Congregation Bet Tefilah,