By: Rabbi Menashe Sasson
Reporting from Jerusalem, Israel
Parashat Shemot introduces us to Moshe Rabbeinu, who was born in Misrayim at a time when a government decree that, if followed, would have required all male Hebrew babies to be killed shortly after birth. Moshe Rabbeinu, however, survived the infanticide decree, grew to adulthood, married, and started a family.
Then, one day when he was at work, shepherding sheep for his father-in-law Yitro, Moshe Rabbeinu had an encounter with Hashem, at what is known as the Burning Bush. “And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of the bush; and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, but the bush was not consumed.” Shemot 3:2. “G-d called out to him out of the midst of the bush. . . .” Shemot 3:4.
During the subsequent conversation that occurred between Hashem and Moshe Rabbeinu, Hashem told Moshe “I am the G-d of thy father, the G-d of Abraham, the G-d of Yizhaq, and the G-d of Ya’aqov.” Shemot 3:6.
Hashem continued: “I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Misrayim and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows; and I [have] come down to deliver them out of the hand of Misrayim and to bring them up out of that land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of [Eretz Israel]. . . . Shemot 3:7-8.
One obvious question is why did Hashem take the Hebrews out of Misrayim, rather than simply solving their difficulties with the government and thus making life in Misrayim tolerable. Another obvious question is why did Hashem promise to take the Hebrews to Eretz Israel, rather than, for example, to Brooklyn, London, Paris, Madrid, Baghdad, Tehran, or some other place.
The answer, of course, is because Eretz Israel is holy; it is The Holy Land; The Promised Land. The Torah is singularly focused on this point.
“And the land which I gave to Abraham and Yizhaq, to thee [Ya’aqov] I will give it, and to thy seed after thee will I give the land.” Bereshit 35:12.
The Torah explicitly states the reason for the Exodus. “I am the Lord your G-d, Who brought you out of the land of Misrayim, to give you the land of Kena’an [Eretz Israel], and to be your G-d.” Vayyiqra 25:38. This pasuk is often misquoted as “I am the Lord your G-d, who took you our of Egypt to be your G-d,” omitting the all-important phrase “to give you the land of Eretz Israel.”
The Talmud states:
Halacha, that is, Jewish Law, states that the misva of living in Eretz Israel is timeless; it is still the Halacha today. The Shulchan Aruch, Even HaEzer 75:4, states that: “If [a husband] proposes to ascend to Eretz Yisrael and [the wife] does not want to [go], [the husband] must divorce her. . . . [And if the wife] proposes ascending [to Eretz Yisrael] and [the husband] does not want to [go], he must divorce her.”
Instead of singing “Next year in Yerushalayim,” let us make it “This year in Yerushalayim.”
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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 Mordechai Eliyhau, Chief Rabbi of Israel (1983 – 1993), and is a descendent of the renowned kabbalist Hakham Yehuda Fetaya Z”L.