For the week of January 27, 2001 / 3 Shevat 5761
Torah: Shemot / Exodus 6:2 - 9:35
Haftarah: Ezekiel 28:25 - 29:21

The Basis of Israelís Right to Exist

I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, where they lived as aliens. Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the Israelites, whom the Egyptians are enslaving, and I have remembered my covenant (Shemot / Exodus 6:4,5).

The Jewish claim on the Land of Israel is not dependant on politics, religion, or military strength. The giving of the Land of Israel by God to the Jewish people is based on one thing Ė Godís promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

It is difficult to base the Jewish claim to Israel on anything but God. Abrahamís ancestors had no relationship to that part of the world. Abraham himself didnít live there until very late in life. His children, grandchildren, and great grand children were nomads, never really taking up permanent residency there. When the clan numbered about seventy, they all moved to Egypt where they lived 400 years.

Following that time they conquered but did not completely eradicate the Landís long-time residents, and struggled to keep control of their territory both internally and externally. They would eventually experience decimation and exile under the Assyrians and Babylonians. Their return seventy years later would be marked by foreign oppression until being scattered again in the first century.

And yet the past hundred years have seen another return to the Land and the establishment of the modern State of Israel. The struggle for the Land continues as Israelís right to exist is still being questioned.

Yet wherever world opinion stands on these things and whatever might happen, nothing can change the fact that God has decided to give the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that Land.

But even though this is a decree of God, and the permanent establishment of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel is assured, there is a hint in this weekís portion that Godís fulfilling his promise is tied to something. It is not that his promise is dependant on anything outside of himself, or that the promise is in any way conditional. Yet at the same time there appears to be a context in which God acts. God said,

I have heard the groaning of the Israelites, whom the Egyptians are enslaving, and I have remembered my covenant (Shemot / Exodus 6:5).

When the Torah says that God "remembered," it is not implying that somehow God forgot his promise. To remember in this sense is an act of bringing something to mind in order to act upon it. So when the people of Israel were in a state of desperation, God responded to their cries and began to act upon his promise to bring them to the Land.

The spiritual and physical restorations of the people of Israel are most intimately entwined. The Scriptures document many times how God granted help to his people once they began to favorably turn towards him.

Unless we as a people turn to God again, we are in great danger of losing what little hold we currently have on the Land of Israel. That we will one day be established permanently in Israel is assured, but it will be done in Godís way and in Godís time. And when that time comes, nothing will prevent God from fulfilling his covenant. May that time be now!

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