Someone asked me whether I feel safer in Israel or America. This man said that in Israel he cannot tell the difference between an arab and a Jew and he doesn’t know who might attack him.
I answered with the possuk we read a few weeks ago,
“The land to which you cross over … to take possession of it is a land … that Hashem your G-d, seeks out. The eyes of Hashem, your G-d, are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to year’s end.” (Dvarim 11:11-12)
The entire world is dangerous, but the eyes of Hashem are on the Land of Israel.
What does that mean?
Rashi, quoting the Gemora, says that the fate of the land of Israel is decreed in general on Rosh Hashana, but the way the decree is carried out depends on our behavior during the year. The fact is that both the general and specific decrees depend on our behavior.
King David writes, so to speak echoing the thoughts of Hashem: “My people did not heed My voice and Israel did not desire Me. So I let them follow their heart’s fantasies … If only My people would heed Me; if Israel would walk in My ways, in an instant I would subdue their foes and turn My hand against their tormentors.” (Tehillim 81)
The entire world is unsafe, but we have a way to seek safety.
The Brisker Rav was in Yerushalayim during the War of Independence. He used to sit near an outside window and learn during the bombing. His family implored him to move to a more protected area, but he continued to learn in this place. Once, “during a particularly heavy bout of shelling, his children begged him and he acceded to their request.” Later, they found that a large chunk of ceiling, “enough to kill a person,” had fallen where he had previously been sitting. But he said, “The stones fell only because I left the room. Had I stayed, they would not have fallen.” (In their Shadow, Feldheim Publishers)
Reb Chaim Kanievsky zt”l, made a similar statement. During the Gulf War in 1991, the leader of Iraq threatened to fire chemical-filled warheads into the cities of Tel Aviv and Bnai Brak. Reb Chaim assured residents “that no harm would befall Bnai Brak. Rebbetzin Kanievsky said, ‘My husband says there is nothing to worry about, as tens of thousands of pages of Gemara are protecting Bnai Brak.’” (Rav Chaim, Artscroll/Mesorah, page 492-3) Indeed, although missiles landed a few feet outside the city boundaries, no missile fell in Bnai Brak!
Today we do not have leaders on the level of the Brisker Rav and Reb Chaim, but nothing has changed in terms of our protection. We have to remember that Am Yisroel has survived two thousand years of exile, during which we have been completely outnumbered and surrounded by those who hate us. How have we survived? Surely, our protection is supernatural. There is no logical explanation except that Hashem loves His children.
The Presence of Hashem is stronger in Israel than anywhere else, but the fact that “His eyes are upon” the Land is a double-edged sword. That means that it is more dangerous to commit a sin here than anywhere else, and it is also more meritorious to be immersed in mitzvos here than anywhere else.
Hashem sees us when we are outside the Land, but, within the Land, our actions carry more spiritual weight. I personally feel safer here because I feel Hashem’s Presence more strongly, and there is nothing else which protects us. Hashem is always holding our hand everywhere, but within Eretz Yisroel one can feel His hand holding our hand.
Recently, the computers belonging to a prominent Jewish accounting firm were attacked by hackers, apparently from Russia, who demanded a ransom. How is it that someone can open up secrets from the financial records of people thousands of miles away?
A similar story: I needed a taxi in Jerusalem. I tried to get one online but there was none available at the time, so I flagged down a taxi on the street. I got in the taxi and started to give my destination, but the driver said to me, “You don’t need to tell me where you are going. I know. I just saw you trying to get a ride online!” How did he know who I was?
My friends, everything is open and known in Shomayim! This is important to know during the Month of Elul. There are no secrets, and our fate rests completely upon our actions. With that in mind, why don’t we act for our own good?
We read in this week’s Parsha, “It shall be that if you listen to the voice of Hashem, your G-d to perform all of His commandments … then Hashem your G-d will make you supreme over all the nations of the earth. All these blessings will come upon you and will overtake you …. Blessed shall you be in the city and blessed shall you be in the field …. Hashem shall place you as a head and not as a tail .… if you listen to the commandments of Hashem your G-d!” (Dvarim 28:1ff)
And this week’s Haftara adds, “The children of your oppressors shall go unto you in bent submission …. they shall prostrate themselves at the soles of your feet, all those who slandered you … No longer shall violence be heard in your land nor plunder and breakage in your borders …. Hashem will be to you an eternal light and your G-d for your glory….”
We have the power to bring all this about. May we see it soon with our own eyes!