When explicating the Mitzvah for Bnei Yisrael to destroy Amaleik at the conclusion of this week’s Parashah, the Torah writes (Devarim 25:19), “VeHayah BeHaniach Hashem Elokecha Lecha MiKol Oivecha MiSaviv BaAretz Asher Hashem Elokecha Notein Lecha Nachalah LeRishtah Timchech Et Zeicher Amalek MiTachat HaShamayim Lo Tishkach,” “It shall be that when Hashem, your God, gives you rest from all your enemies all around, in the land that Hashem, your God, gives you as an inheritance to possess it, you shall wipe out the memory of Amalek from under the heaven – you shall not forget.” Ibn Ezra comments that this Mitzvah applies only when Bnei Yisrael, after vanquishing all surrounding enemies, are safely residing in Israel. This Mitzvah, continues Ibn Ezra (in his commentary to 26:1), is the first of a few Mitzvot HaTeluyot BaAretz (commandments that apply only when Bnei Yisrael reside in Israel), like Bikkurim (first fruits) and Maaser (tithes), that Moshe teaches Bnei Yisrael in the Midbar (desert). Indeed, the Gemara (Kiddushin 38b) teaches that the Mitzvot that we learnt in the Midbar are Chovot HaGuf, commandments upon every person’s corporeal side, and apply only in Israel, except for Shemittat Kesafim, pecuniary Shemittah, and Shiluach Avadim, emancipating slaves from bondage.
As we reach the end of the Shemittah year, this Talmudic anecdote is especially important to us, as it provides the basis for Rambam’s opinion that nowadays Shemittat Kesafim is DeRabannan and Shemittat Karka (agrarian Shemittah) is DeOraita, a key pillar in the Beit HaLevi’s contested opinion that Shemittat Karka nowadays is DeOraita.
Menachem Beker, in his Parperaot LaTorah, notes this Pasuk’s unique linguistic attributes. This Pasuk and the subsequent one are written in the first person – “Ki Yeviacha” and “Ki Tavo” – even though it is addressed to the entirety of Klal Yisrael, because the Mitzvah of making Aliyah to Israel applies personally to every Jew, and one who prematurely makes Aliyah is to be praised. Additionally, the Torah first describes Israel as a pronoun, “El HaAretz,” but then changes to possessive form (26:2) “Asher Tavi MeiArtzecha,” “which you bring from your land,” because when a farmer exerts effort and toils to farm Israel, the land does not remain a regular, run-of-the-mill, banal piece of land, but rather becomes his, intrinsically connected to the farmer.
It is interesting to note that many Mefarshim and the Torah itself underline the connection between Bikkurim, its underlying theme of fruit, and Israel. Perhaps this connection is no coincidence. In the Tochachah, the Torah writes that if Bnei Yisrael do not listen to Hashem, the land of Israel will be completely devastated. The Torah writes, however, (VaYikra 26:31) “VeShommemu Alehah Oiveichem HaYoshvim Bah,” “and your enemies that dwell therein shall be astonished at it.” After Bnei Yisrael had been exiled, Israel remained faithful to us and by remaining barren so our enemies will not be able to inhabit it. Ramban states that this proves that the Torah is true, because he himself saw this prophecy fulfilled. He writes that there was never a land as beautiful as Israel that became so desolate. During his trip to Israel Mark Twain perceived the same desolation that Ramban did and recorded it in his “The Innocents Abroad,” where he writes that Israel is a "hopeless, dreary, heart-broken land." Israel is waiting for Bnei Yisrael, and will accept no other nationality. The Gemara states (Sanhedrin 98b) that “Ein Lecha Keitz MiGulah MiZeh,” “There is no greater sign of redemption from the Exile” than Israel becoming arable once again, producing fruits and vegetables. Once Israel’s desolation disappears, the Geulah will be soon in coming. Anyone who visits Israel has the privilege to personally perceive the Geulah; its the tell-tale signs are impossible to neglect. The Chula valley, formerly infested with lethal mosquitoes, swamps, and morass, was a place even the most desperate of farmers found not arable. Nowadays, however, because of the toil, grit, and sacrifice of early Jewish pioneers and settlers, when one sees a picturesque tableau of pictorial farms stretching far past the horizon, he sees the Geulah.
As aforementioned, the Shemittah year is coming to a close, but if one has the privilege to eat fruits of Kedushat Sheviit and the honor of meticulously disposing of their remains, or hikes through or tours Israel’s natural scenery, he experiences the Geulah. Even something as seemingly simple and deemed trite as a garden in Israel, something that was previously, unequivocally considered inconceivable, is proof to the imminent Geulah. The credit for cultivating Israel is due to those who realized the importance of Aliyah and those who can call the land theirs, “Artzecha,” because they have developed it. With this idea in mind, other signs of the final Jewish return to Israel become readily apparent. Over half of the world’s Jewish children under age seven live in Israel and more Jews live in Israel than anywhere else in the world. Hopefully, soon, a majority of Jews will live in Israel, and we will observe the Mitzvot HaTeluyot BaAretz. By then, many anticipate observing the aforementioned Mitzvah of destroying Amalek, which applies only when Israel is free from all surrounding enemies. When one reads Megillat Eichah overlooking the golden metropolis of Jerusalem, he wonders how anyone could have lamented over the solitude and devastation this same Jerusalem (perhaps they have the wrong city); however, despite this sanguine explanation and prediction, we still observe Tishah BeAv because the Beit HaMikdash is not yet rebuilt. The Talmud Yerushalmi teaches that every generation has the opportunity to rebuild the Beit HaMikdash and is held responsible if it does not. Since the tell-tale signs of Geulah are showing, hopefully our generation will not be held responsible for failing to rebuild the Beit HaMikdash.