16 February 2017

Israel: Land of the Free by the Ohr HaChaim [Rabbi Chaim (ben Moshe) Ibn Attar]

With Thoughts of the Meeting Between Two Historical Leaders in Historical Discussion, Washington, DC, Shevat 2017:


Israel: Land of the Free

True freedom only exists in the holiness of the Land of Israel.

"…Who took you out from the land of Egypt, from the house of slavery." (Ex. 20:2)

Regarding the two phrases: "from the land of Egypt" and "from the house of slavery", the first expression refers to the Exodus which has already taken place, while the last expression refers to the liberation in the future when the Mashiach will arrive.

The words: "Who took you out from the land of Egypt" also provide the answer to the question why G‑d did not simply replace the Egyptians in Egypt with the Jews and establish us as the rulers in that land. Why was it necessary to leave the land, to travel through the desert, etc.? Surely the Israelites would have derived greater satisfaction from such a solution to their problems than to have to march to Canaan and there to dispossess a people which had never done them any harm. Moreover, it would have demonstrated G‑d's power if He dispossessed the Egyptians of their land!

G‑d… wanted the Israelites to reside in a country which was directly under His personal guidance….

G‑d explained that inasmuch as the very land of Egypt was a house of bondage, this would not have been appropriate. This is as read in the verse: "When the Supreme G‑d handed out the inheritance of the various nations, He established boundaries for the peoples in relation to Israel's numbers." (Deut. 32:8) 

The Zohar (I:108) comments that G‑d handed out certain places on earth to the guardian angels of the various nations, and that the only land He did not assign to such guardian angels was the land of Canaan (Israel). G‑d had reserved the land of Canaan for Himself.

The Torah says "house of slavery", describing the place as one assigned to one of G‑d's servants (the guardian angel of Egypt). G‑d did not want for the Jewish people to live in a homeland which "belonged" to the guardian angel of the Egyptians. He wanted the Israelites to reside in a country which was directly under His personal guidance.

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[Selected with permission from the five-volume English edition of "Ohr HaChaim: the Torah Commentary of Rabbi Chaim Ben Attar" by Eliyahu Munk.]  Chabad: Kabbalah

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