By: Rabbi Menashe Sasson
Reporting from Jerusalem, Israel
Sefer Bamidbar [במדבר] begins with Parashat Bamidbar [במדבר]. The Hebrew word “bamidbar” means “in the desert” or “in the wilderness.” Parashat Bamidbar [במדבר] begins with a discussion of the taking of a census of the Jewish people, in the desert or wilderness of Sinay, which likely is the reason Christians have renamed and given Sefer Bamidbar [במדבר] the name “Numbers.”
The Ramban gave three reasons for the census: (1) To document the miraculous growth of the Jewish people, which had descended to Misrayim as a family of 70 individuals; (2) For each Jew to be recognized as an individual; and (3) To prepare for the military offensive that would be necessary to secure the Land upon Jewish entry into Eretz Yisra’el.
Why was a military offensive necessary to secure Eretz Yisra’el when the Jewish people crossed the Yarden river [נהר הירדן]? The answer is simple: Because the inhabitants of the Land would not willingly accept that HaShem, who created the world and, thus, who can give His Land to the people of His choosing, decreed that the Jewish people were to be – and are – the rightful owners of Eretz Yisra’el.
HaShem, in His infinite wisdom, knew that the occupants of the Land would not voluntarily relinquish their control over Eretz Yisra’el to the Jewish people. Thus, HaShem had the Jewish people prepare for war.
But not only did HaShem have the Jewish people prepare for war, He commanded them to expel the inhabitants of the land and to not enter into an agreement with them that would allow them to remain in the land.
The Halakha – Jewish law – relating to non-Jews living in Eretz Yisra’el recognizes two classes of people: those who claim an ownership or similar interest in Eretz Yisra’el and those who do not claim any such interest.
Regarding those who claim an ownership interest in the Land, the Torah is not merely referring to ancient civilizations who just happened to be occupying Eretz Isra’el prior to the arrival of the Jewish people; rather, the Torah is referring to any people – for all time – who claim a legal right to Eretz Yisra’el.
According to the Or HaChaim:
Likewise, Abarbanel said:
Today, some 3,000+ years after the Jewish people first crossed the Yarden river [נהר הירדן] and entered Eretz Yisra’el, the Jewish people, after a long exile, are finally back in the Land, and have a somewhat functioning sovereign government.
Medinat Yisra’el, the modern-day State of Israel, bills itself as a “Jewish State” (the only one in the world) and a “democracy.”
Today, in the month of Sivan 5781 (May 2021), Medinat Yisra’el – notwithstanding having had had four elections in the past two years – has still not managed to form a permanent government. The various political parties having been trying to hobble together a “coalition” government, which, under some scenarios, Heaven forbid, would include Arabs who are members of the Knesset (Israeli parliament).
What would HaShem have thought about the idea of not only allowing Canaanites to remain in Eretz Yisra’el after the Jewish people first crossed the Yarden river [נהר הירדן] and entered Eretz Yisra’el, but to allow the Canaanites to participate in a Jewish government!?
And if Medinat Yisra’el truly is a democracy, what will become of the Jewish State of Israel if, Heaven forbid, Arabs become a political majority and vote to make the State of Israel a Muslim state?
But it gets worse. Using the pretext of a failed legal challenge to Jewish property rights in East Yerushalayim, Arabs who reside in Yisra’el have been rioting; throwing rocks at police, destroying property, etc.
Their Arab brethren in Gaza have, in turn, taken this opportunity to make war against Medinat Yisra’el. During the last 72 hours, Arabs in Gaza have launched over 1,500 rockets against civilian targets in Eretz Yisra’el, targets which have absolutely no legitimate military value.
The Arabs, like the Canaanites before them, claim a legal right to Eretz Yisra’el and, because the Jewish people have failed to obey HaShem’s command to expel them from the Land, they, as the Torah has warned, are “a snare among” the Jewish people.
As we prepare for Shabbat Bamidbar 5781 (2021), the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) – the Israeli military – has been carrying out airstrikes into Gaza and, within the past few hours, has reportedly launched a ground invasion into Gaza.
Meanwhile, from the comfort and safety of their computers and mobile phones in Galut [גלות] (areas outside of Eretz Israel), some Westernized, Hellenized Jews have been rebuking other Jews on various social media apps, under the guise of seeking to prevent supposed impropriety or the alleged impoliteness of mixing politics with Torah, when these other Jews dare to express opinions which support a complete and total Israeli victory over the Arab enemy.
The Torah knows no such false distinction between politics and religion. A close examination of the Torah will reveal, not only the two Torahs which consist of the Written and Oral Law, but also the two Torahs which consist, on the one hand, of laws for individuals and, on the other, of laws for a sovereign Jewish nation.
May HaShem bless and protect both the Jewish warriors who are, at this very moment, risking their lives to fight for Eretz Yisra’el and the Jewish people, as well as every Jew in Eretz Yisra’el. As for all of our Jewish brothers and sisters in Galut, may HaShem bless them with the wisdom and insight which will allow them to support a complete and total victory over our enemies, and also to help them return to Eretz Yisra’el, the home that HaShem gave exclusively to the Jewish people.
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Menashe Sasson is a Sephardic rabbi and American lawyer who resides in Jerusalem, Israel. Rabbi Sasson received his rabbinical ordination from Rabbi Haim Ovadia, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Torah VeAhava. Rabbi Ovadia, who was born and raised in Jerusalem, was ordained by Hakham Mordechai Eliyahu, Chief Rabbi of Israel (1983 – 1993), and is a descendent of the renowned kabbalist Hakham Yehuda Fetaya Z”L.