It was a surreal experience standing on the balcony of somebodyâ€™s home overlooking the hills of the Judean desert outside of Maaleh Adumim, a community located near Jerusalem. The word, â€˜moonscapeâ€™ comes to mind, as the sight of these barren hills was overwhelming. Pockets of Jewish towns dotted the terrain of these hills. One had to wonder as to the viability and vitality of these settlements especially in the context of those who would want to see this area Judenrein.
The words of this weekâ€™s parsha come to mind in relation to what I saw that afternoon. â€˜The eyes of G-d watch over (the land) from the beginning of the year to the end of the year.â€™ While the ordinary understanding of the sentence clearly underlines G-dâ€™s protection of the land of Israel, the Siftei Chachamim sets forth an ominous warning based on an interpretation of Rashi. â€œIf the people are righteous, G-d will ensure that the decrees concerning the land will be good, and if not G-d will change them to become negative.â€
Rashi, in his commentary, writes that G-d watches over all countries and lands, but Israel receives special providence. Traveling through Israel, one senses the veracity of Rashiâ€™s statement, and trembles at the added comment of the Siftei Chachamim. The miracle of the daily existence of the state of Israel is apparent to all except to those who are willfully blind to that reality.
Following the verse cited above, we read the second paragraph of the Shema that also speaks to the daily miracle of existence in terms of the land of Israel, benefitting from timely rains and bountiful produce. This promise is predicated on the concomitant observance of the laws of the Torah by the people of Israel, and the failure to do so is reflective of the commentary of the Siftei Chachamim.
In light of the content and context of these verses we read on Shabbat morning, we pray that the last line of the second paragraph of Shema be fulfilled guaranteeing our length of days and that of our descendants in the land G-d has given to the Jews.