The fulfillment of God’s promises resulted in the miracle of a Jewish return to their land after nearly two millennia of dispersion.
The Jewish connection to the land of Israel (and their love for it!) dates back almost four thousand years. It began when God told Abraham to leave his homeland, Ur Kasdim, and go “to a land that I will show you.” Abraham had such great faith and trust in God that he left his home and community. He was reassured by the Divine promise, “I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who curses you I will curse; and by you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves” (Genesis 12:2-3).
The Torah says, “On that same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram (his original name), saying: ‘To your descendants I have given this land…”‘ (Genesis 15:18). It is interesting to note that the Hebrew verb used in the verse just cited is natati, meaning “I have given” (past tense). This “I have given” implies that God had already given the land to the Jews at some earlier time, though this is the first record of such a promise! Was the land promised to the Jewish people at an earlier event? What’s going on here?
According to Jewish tradition, God set aside and designated the Land of Israel for the Jewish people already at the time of Creation. This is closely related to the verse, “The earth is the Lord’s and all that it contains, the world and those who dwell in it” (Psalms 24:1). It is explained that since the entire world belongs to God, He has the right to apportion it as He chooses, and He chose to give the Land of Israel to the People of Israel!
How did the Jews maintain their attachment to Israel throughout the centuries of exile?
To fulfill their vow never to forget the Holy Land during their exile, the Jewish people introduced the theme of Israel into virtually every aspect of their daily life and routine. For example:
Jews always face towards Jerusalem when reciting their daily prayers.
A prayer for the rebuilding of Jerusalem and return to Zion is included in the Grace after Meals.
The Passover Seder meal, as well as the High Holy Days services, are concluded with the hope and prayer of “Next year in Jerusalem!”
It is customary for a groom to break a glass at a Jewish wedding, in order to recall the destruction of Jerusalem – even at the happiest moment of his life.
Jews fast on the anniversary of the destruction of the first and second Temples, a day known as “Tisha b’Av.”
There are many other customs and rituals that are intended to have us remember Jerusalem and Israel. As you can see, no matter what the circumstances, the Jewish people never lost their connection to the Land of Israel.
The Land Never Forgot the Jews
And the land never forgot the Jews either! The prophets tell us that the Land of Israel will stubbornly “refuse” to bear fruit unless the Jews, its natural caretakers and the inhabitants for whom it was created, dwell in it and cultivate it. History proves this as well. Modern Israel was a land of desert and swamp for centuries until waves of immigrating Jewish Zionists in the mid-nineteenth century began tilling its soil. Only then did the land blossom and give forth its produce: “For the Lord will comfort Zion; He will comfort her waste places, and will make her wilderness like Eden…” (Isaiah 51:3). Nobody but the Jews can make this land bloom.
As we can see, God’s promise to Abraham created an irreversible bond between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel. The fulfillment of God’s promises resulted in the miracle of a Jewish return to their land after nearly two millennia of dispersion. Never during the long intervening centuries did the Jews waver in their passionate yearning to return home to the land God had given them. Never did their love for Israel wane. We’re back…and we aren’t going anywhere else!
By: Rabbi Ari Enkin