Seeking the Holy Presence in Our Holy Land
“כי תכלה לעשר… בשנה השלישית… וענית ואמרת… ביערתי הקדש מן הבית”
“Look down from Your holy dwelling, from the heavens, and bless Your people Israel, and the ground which You have given to us, as You swore to our forefathers a land flowing with milk and honey.”
This prayer, said at the end of the ‘Declaration of Tithes’ which begins with our title quote of this week’s parsha, is said on Pesach of the fourth and seventh year (i.e Shmita year – this coming year) of the Shmita cyle. In this declaration one is to specify the proper observance of the mitzvot of the Land such as ‘I did not transgress Your commandments’, interpreted by our Sages to mean that one did not tithe one species for another species of produce.
Interestingly, at the end of this declaration one is to declare the final condition of observance, ‘I have done all that You have commanded me’, interpreted by our Sages as declaring ‘I have been glad, and gladdened others with it (the produce)’. Similarly, we see the same emphasis on the necessity of joy in regard to the Holy Land echoed once again later in this parsha, when the Torah tells us that the reason for the curses in Israel’s exile from the Land is because ‘you did not serve HaShem with joy and goodness of heart with plentitude’.
If so, why is gladness of the heart such a necessary component of the mitzvot of the Land and living in this Land in general? As we have shown before, this Land is the Land of the Revelation of HaShem’s Holy Presence. If we are to examine the nature of happiness we find that true happiness is the revelation of the soul in one’s being to an extent that one feels a ‘fullness’ with this ‘revelation’. The soul, as brought much in Torah literature, is a ‘spark from the Holy Presence’. Therefore, when one is in happiness in regard to the Holy Land one connects to the source of happiness, the revelation of the Holy Presence through one’s soul.
In this way we can explain why our Sages explain David’s yearning for ‘the joy of Your salvation’ (Ps. 51) as a yearning for the revelation of the Holy Presence to him. Now we can understand more fully why the holy Or Hahaim explains the first words of our parsha ‘Vehaya (‘vehaya is only a term of of joy’ – Tanhuma Shmini 9) -when you come to the Land’ as conveying the message that ‘true joy can only be in the Land of Israel’.
Once one can declare such joy with the Land and its mitzvoth, one can continue to the prayer in the following verse -“Look down from Your holy dwelling from the heavens” – as HaShem’s heavenly dwelling corresponds to His earthly ‘dwelling’ in the Holy Land and the Bais HaMikdash (see end of intro. to Tikunei Zohar) – “and bless Your people Israel, and the ground which You have given to us” – as Israel express their joy with this Land – “as You swore to our forefathers” of Hebron – roots of our People’s connection to this Land through the oath of God to them and through their purchase and settlement of the Land beginning with Hebron – “a land flowing with milk and honey” – “to give taste in the produce” (Sifri), so we may find joy in our Holy Land – ‘the joy of our salvation’ – this is the revelation of the Holy Presence.
Real Stories from the Holy Land #87:
“My wife was fired from her job teaching, but she managed to find new work by replacing two teachers who had decided to leave their schools because of their move from Kiryat Arba. However, one of the teachers decided to stay in Kiryat Arba, and, seeing this, my wife decided to forfeit her new job in favor of this previous teacher. Just then, she was offered another job that earns the same as she just forfeited, and I was offered a stipend amounting to the same amount my wife lost in her dismissal.” (A.S)
Sources: Rambam Maaser Sheni 11, 15, Yalkut Shimoni Shmuel I 121, Sifri on parsha