Sunday, 24 April 2016

Why G-d initially give the Land of Israel to the Canaanite nations

On the very first verse of the Torah the commentator Rashi writes as follows: ‘Rabbi Yitzchak said: In truth, the Torah should have opened with the first commandment given to the Jewish people of the month of Nissan - the first month of the year with the festival of Passover’; why then does the Torah open with the account of Creation? 

Rabbi Yitzchak responds: ‘G-d wished to inform His people that it was His power which brought about Creation, and therefore His prerogative to pass on to the Jewish people the inheritance of nations. That should there come a time when the nations will accuse the Jewish people ‘you are thieves, you conquered the land of the Seven [Canaanite] nations’, they will respond: ‘the entire world belongs to the Holy One blessed be He; it was He would created it and He who initially gave the Land to whom He saw fit; by His Will did He give it to them and by His Will did He take it from them and gave it to us’.  

Canaanite archeological remains
Here there arises a powerful question both for a five year old and an adult. Torah is written with absolute precision; regardless, the entire order of Torah was altered to give the Jewish people a response to a demand made by the nations. Why was there a need to alter the order of Torah? Would it not have been much simpler had G-d in the first instance given the Land of Israel to the People of Israel; then there would be no arguments posed by the nations, and no need to alter the order of Torah. 

The truth is that one cannot ask of G-d questions. However, just as matters recorded in Torah are open to be understood, this question also can be understood without having to resort to a blanket response that this is ‘a Decree from above’. 

The earth should not turn into a wasteland overrun by beasts of the field.

By way of explanation:  G-d says in the Torah: ‘I will not banish [the resident nations] in the course of just one single year lest the earth become a wasteland and beasts of the field overrun you; rather, I will banish them step by step. 

Had G-d given the Land of Israel to Abraham our forefather there would be just one Jew living in the entire Land. The Land would turn into a wasteland of wild animals. Similarly had G-d waited and given the Land to Jacob when there were just 70 souls. Even when the Jewish nation of six hundred thousand souls [in addition to women and children] entered the Land, there was still the need to banish the nations there step by step because even with this great number the beasts of the field would overrun them. 

G-d did not want the land to be infested with snakes, poisonous reptiles and scorpions, over a period of thousands of years up until the nation of Israel would enter the land]. Therefore did He give the Land initially to the nations; by His divine Will did He give it to them and take it from them and give it to us.   

Upon entry the Jewish people would have readymade homes and properties.

Furthermore, in the book of Deuteronomy G-d says that when they will enter the Land of Israel they will find ‘great beautiful cities not built by you, houses filled with all good not filled by you, excavated water-wells not excavate by you, vineyards and olive groves not planted by you’.  Not only would it be ‘a good and broad land’ in potential, but immediately upon entry there would be houses filled with all good, excavated water-wells and more - left by the nations! Therefore was it necessary to give the Land previously to the seven nations that the land be replete with all good for the Jewish people. 

The accusation that the Jewish people are armed robbers falls away given that the land was given to them by G-d; however, the houses full of good and excavated water wells were given to those nations; so, how could we have taken these from the nations? Every intelligent person knows that when one lives in a house belonging to another, one pays rent. Since it was G-d who created the world and the Land of Israel, He being the world owner, he gave permission to nations to dwell therein. When one calculates the rental accumulated amount due by the seven nations dwelling in G-d’s home for hundreds of years, it is understood that the value of houses filled with all good and water-wells is no more than a fraction of payment due. It would not be worth their while claiming that Jewish people took their homes, because a huge outstanding debt would remain. 

We have an example of this recounted by the Talmud, that Egyptians at a later date came and argued that [at the time of the Exodus] the Jewish people left Egypt with vast amounts of silver and gold; the representative of the Jewish people Gvihah ben Pesisah responded that the Jewish people had worked - been enslaved - for 430 years without pay. A simple calculation exposes that the value of those silver and golden vessels would not cover those outstanding wages. The Talmud continues to relate that when the Egyptians heard his response, they left behind silver and gold and ran away! 

If only the Jewish people at this time would have the strength to respond to the world nations with this legal decision of Torah [in which they also believe]. Then, not only would there be no pressure, but to the contrary, they [the Arabs] would run away from the territories as did their ancestors! Until this time they [the government] has not responded in this way for an assortment of illicit reasons.   
                                                                    Public talk Motzoi Shabbat Bereshis 1979