Wouldn’t it be easier to just find a new homeland?
Parshas Sh’lach is a good opportunity to reaffirm our special connection with Eretz Yisrael. After all, it was this core value that the 10 meraglim (spies) nefariously convinced the nation to reject. Before unleashing their terrible lies about the Land, the spies began their report with a seemingly innocuous statement. “We came to the land to which you sent us, and it also is flowing with milk and honey” (Bamidbar 13:27). This may sound like a compliment at first glance, but take note of the word “also” - what does it imply?
The truth is, the spies intended severe damage with this description by denying that Eretz Yisrael was distinctive. Surrounded by an audience of people desperate to return to Egypt, the meraglim announced that their planned destination was no better than the previous “land flowing with milk and honey” (see 16:13). Mitzrayim had been nice, and yes, Eretz Yisrael is “also” nice, maybe even somewhat inferior (Oznayim LaTorah). Even their praise was laden with rejection of the notion that Hashem’s chosen land was unique in any way.
To challenge this assertion of their fellow agents, Calev and Yehoshua countered that Eretz Yisrael was not just “another” fruitful land; it was beyond comparison. “The land we passed through to scout is a very very good land” (14:7). With the repetition of the word “very,” they registered their outrage that Hashem’s promised land was being equated to Egypt or any other location. The Land of Israel is not “also” flowing with milk and honey - it is the only such place in the world (Ohr HaChayim, v. 8).
Chaim Weizmann, the first president of the State of Israel, was once asked by a British minister, “Why do the Jewish people stubbornly insist on the heavily contested Land of Israel? Wouldn’t it be easier to simply pursue a new homeland, one with much less resistance?”
The Zionist leader replied, “I can ask you the very same question. You expend many hours of travel with every visit to your elderly parents; but why bother with such a hassle? Surely there are plenty of old couples who live much closer to your home - perhaps even within walking distance!” Faced with the minister’s stunned silence, the former president concluded, “Obviously, you could never replace your beloved parents with a pair of strangers, regardless of how much easier it would make your life. And the same is true of our emotional bond with Israel. There is too much personal history to replace it with a stranger!”
It is astounding how little has changed over the last 70 years - and in the last 3,300 years, for that matter. In every generation, there are those who rise up to question and threaten the Jewish people’s familial relationship with Eretz Yisrael. Some do it with lashon hara, others with rockets, and many under the guise of humanitarian efforts. It is critical to actively stand with Israel, the way we would stand by family. This is not just another piece of land. It is our only home.