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Parsha Note: B’ha’aloth’cha, Sh’lah, Qorah

June 8, 2014

The running theme of the entire Torah is, as the Christian bumper sticker goes, God gave the Land of Israel to the Jews, and He wanted the Jews to stay there and keep His Torah.

Also, the Jews’ failure to live up to the standards of the Torah would result in their temporary expulsion from the land, but it is their duty to repent, make their way back to the land, and try to start over.

Today, many Jews in the diaspora might:

1. not believe in the Torah, and they therefore see no reason why they should ever want to live in Israel.

2. believe in the Torah, yet they still see no reason why they should ever want to live in Israel. They might even have centuries-old, quasi-halachic justifications for such feelings.

3. not believe in the Torah, yet their nationalism motivates them to want to move to Israel, but they do not wish to create a nation according to the Torah’s prescription.

All of these viewpoints are completely unoriginal, and the first two were actually those possessed by key figures in our parashiyoth.

Dathan and Abiram and company exemplified the first approach. They did not believe in Moses’s Torah, nor did they see any reason for the national conquest enterprise.

When the Israelites began their journey from Sinai, Moses asked his father-in-law if he would join the nation for the trip to the promised land. Jethro/Hobab, who had come on his own to recognize the God of Israel and accept His Torah, refused, “For I shall go to my land and my family.” His response foreshadowed the spies’ counsel and the people’s overwhelming reaction, which amounted to, “All this talk about Torah and promised land and blessings is nice and all, but when we think realistically, we see that we can not actually do what the the Torah/Moses/God demand of us, so it’s better if we just gave up on the whole thing and headed back to Egypt.”

The third approach was advocated in times of national emergency past, for example by the various Zealot groups in the latter era of Second Temple and the ensuing century. Many strayed completely from the Torah, but still believed strongly in Jewish nationalism.

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