Acharei-Kedoshim 2

D'var Torah by Rabbi Jay Spero


The Sins of the Land

Contact Rabbi Spero at 862-9546 or


In the first of the two portions read this week, Acharei Mos, G-d warns the Jewish nation not to imitate the deviant practices of the land they had dwelled in, Egypt, nor the land they were about to enter, Cana’an (Israel): “Do not become contaminated through any of these (deviant acts), for through all of these acts, the nations that I expelled before you became contaminated. The land became contaminated and I recalled its sins, and the land threw out its inhabitants” (Lev. 18:24-25).

What does it mean that G-d recalled the sins of the land? People commit sins, not the land.

Obviously there is something special about the Land of Israel, that unlike other lands, Israel cannot tolerate sin. Rashi compares the Land of Israel to the digestive system of a prince who is unable to eat coarse food. So too Israel, that it can only accept refined behavior.

How are we to understand this? Why did G-d make a land more spiritual than other lands?

The Talmud states (tractate Kesubos 110b) that whoever lives outside of Israel, it's as if they have no G-d. Rav Chaim Friedlander explains this cryptic passage. Our purpose in this world is to have a relationship with G-d. The way we do this is through observing the commandments in the Torah. Through this, a person will begin to notice Divine hashgacha — providence — and this brings him even closer to G-d.

In the land of Israel, this providence is most keenly felt. (One of the reasons stated for this is that every country has a ministering angel, placed there by G-d, which oversees it. Israel has no such angel; G-d Himself oversees.)     

So a person who lives outside of Israel is lacking in his opportunities to see G-d’s providence up close.

If we look at what is happening in Israel today we see how strong the Divine Providence is in Israel.

The amount of media attention and political attention paid to Israel is mind boggling. That a nation of five million people, on a sliver of land smaller than nearly every state in the U.S.A., captivates the interest of the world, is astounding.

This is a message to us from G-d. The ideal place of Israel is at the center of the spiritual world, a world of closeness to G-d through His Torah. When that ideal order is messed up, it throws the world into chaos.

When we see Israel consistently being mentioned in a derogatory fashion on CNN and being constantly condemned by the United Nations it must make us take note and ask why. We must be careful that our response is the age-old Jewish response to troubles: to look in the mirror. To blame all the bad things that are happening on Arafat or on the State Department is missing the big picture.

And the terrible things happening in Israel should spur us to cry out to G-d and to get close to Him in the hopes of averting evil decrees.

Maimonides writes in the laws of fasting, Chapter 1, Law 2: “That when tragedy occurs to cry out to G-d. And those who don’t cry out and say that what has happened is random bad luck are being cruel, for they are withholding salvation from the community.”

May we merit this salvation from G-d.

Rabbi Jay Spero is the rabbi of the Saranac Synagogue in Buffalo.

Home ] Up ]