In this week’s Parsha, Hashem promises to give the land of Israel to Avraham at the Brit Bein Habitarim. The Pasuk says, “On that day Hashem made a covenant with Avraham saying: to your children I have given this land from the river of Egypt until the great river, the Euphrates River…” (15:18-21). The amount of land specified in these Psukim is one huge amount. The land stretches from the Nile River in Egypt all the way to the Euphrates River in present day Iraq. However, in Perek 17 Pasuk 8, Hashem says at the Brit Milah, “and I will give to you and your children after you the land of your sojourns, the whole land of Canaan,” and we know from Parshat Noach that the borders of Eretz Canaan stretched from “Sidon (in Lebanon) going toward Gerar until Gaza going toward Sdom, Amorrah.” The boundary of Canaan described here matches the general area where our forefathers lived, “Eretz Migurecha” (17:7-8). The Avot traveled in the area between Beer Sheva and Gerar in the south and Shechem and Dan in the north. Furthermore, in Parshat Maasei, Hashem gives another definition of the borders of Eretz Yisrael. Hashem outlines the borders of Eretz Canaan; from the Mediterranean Sea until the Jordan River. How come in the Brit Bein HaBitarim, Hashem promises Avraham a different and much larger portion? Rav Menachem Leibtag suggests an answer, that we must explain the relationship between each Brit and its respective definition of the land.
Rav Leibtag suggests that the two Brittot correspond to two different levels of Kedusha, holiness. The Brit Milah corresponds to the religious and personal aspect of our nation’s relationship with Hashem, as it emphasizes an intimate relationship with Him. We see this when in the preparation for the Brit, Hashem changes Avram’s name to Avraham, promising him that He will establish and maintain a special relationship between Himself and Avraham’s children. In this Brit, the land is referred to as Eretz Canaan, the inheritance to Avraham’s children, is referred to instead as an “Achuza” and not a “Yerusha,” as by the Brit Bein Hab’tarim. So we see from this that there are two aspects to the Kedusha of Eretz Yisrael. The “Kedushat Haaretz” by the Brit Bein Hab’tarim refers to the conquest of the land and to the establishment of a national entity. This Kedusha is only achieved once Bnei Yisrael establish complete sovereignty. On the other hand the “Kedushat Eretz Canaan,” the Kedusha of the Brit Milah is eternal. This Kedusha reflects Hashem’s presence over Eretz Yisrael even when other countries have control over it. This Kedusha is intrinsic and forever present. Once this area has been conquered, Bnei Yisrael have the option to take over the rest of the land promised in Brit Bein Habitarim. The demarcation for the borders described in this Brit could be a limit as to how far the land can go. However, this extra land isn’t intrinsically Kadosh, while the border described to Avraham in the Brit Milah is intrinsically Kadosh.