What was the driving force that made the Jewish people resist their entry into the Holy Land?
By Rabbi Berel Wein
To a great extent the Jewish people have always had an easier time dealing with the study and observance of Torah than with the primacy of the Land of Israel in Jewish life and thought. For various reasons, throughout our history we have always had difficulty dealing with the reality of being an independent, self-governing national entity living within the borders of the country that the Lord assigned to us.
Even before ever entering the Land of Israel, as we read in this week's Torah portion, the Jewish people shied away completely from entering that land and establishing their home there. They preferred living in a trackless desert to having to face the realities of nation building and a problem-laden challenging existence.
Centuries after Jacob and Joseph attempted to remind their descendants that Egypt was not their homeland and that their eventual future lay in their return to the Land of Israel, the Jewish people were still reluctant to revamp the core ideas and values of their tradition and of their ancestors. All later generations of Torah scholars and biblical commentators have attempted to understand what the driving force was that made the Jewish people so resist their entry into the Holy Land.
Though there are many incisive and psychologically penetrating thoughts advanced on this subject, after all is said and done, the question remains a perplexing and disturbing one.
Why is it that the generation that saw so many miracles – in fact lived a miraculous existence on a daily basis and pledged themselves and their descendants to live a unique and moral lifestyle, should somehow have balked at entering the Land of Israel. Like most questions that begin with the word “why” there are no easy or convincing answers to this difficult issue.
There is a concept in Jewish thought advanced in the Talmud of “seek out and analyze and study the matter and receive reward for so doing” even if there is no practical answer or solution to the issue involved.
The Talmud itself raises this comment regarding the number of cases that appear in the Torah that are so complex and technical as to render them impractical of any rational solution or mode of behavior.
This opinion really teaches us that we should be able to recognize the possibility of such situations occurring even though we cannot attribute cause or practical solutions to the issues involved. Apparently it is sufficient for us to recognize that such a possibility exists and may still exist and not be dis-heartened or forlorn over that fact.
The mere recognition that somehow these events occur is sufficient enough for us to learn a lesson and continue to persevere in a positive fashion.
There are unfortunately many Jews within the Jewish world today who still do not recognize the Land of Israel as being a central tenet of our faith and our existence.
It is almost irrational, certainly inexplicable, why after all of the events of the past two centuries of Jewish life this should be so.
And, no matter what causes we will search for, the perplexing question as to why this is so remains.
So, all we can do is recognize that this has been a constant problem in Jewish society since the days of Moshe and that basically all we can do is acknowledge the situation while continuing to persevere in building and populating the Land of Israel.