There Is No Torah Like The Torah Of Eretz Yisrael by Akiva Marcus


                In the middle of this week's parsha, the Torah states (פרק טו פסוק כב), "ויסע משה את ישראל מים סוף ויצאו אל מדבר שור וילכו שלשת ימים במדבר ולא מצאו מים," "And Moshe moved Bnei Yisrael from Yam Suf, and they went to the wilderness of Shur, and they went three days in the wilderness, but they did not find water."  What exactly does the water here refer to?  Do we take it literally to mean water, or does it also refer to something else?

                The Gemara (עבודה זרה ה: and בבא קמא יז.) uses two pesukim, one from הושע and one from ישעיה, to compare Torah to water.  The Gemara makes the analogy that just like a person cannot live without the basis of life, water, so too he cannot live without Torah, because that, too, is the basis of our life.  The Gemara in בבא קמא (פב.) applies this comparison to our pasuk.  The Gemara thus derives a halacha from our pasuk, namely that one should not go three days without learning Torah.  The Gemara interprets the story of Bnei Yisrael going three days and finding no water as meaning that they went three days without learning Torah.  We see from here that one cannot go three days without learning Torah; this is why we read the Torah on Mondays and Thursdays, so we should not go three days without learning Torah. 

                Water is not the only thing used as a comparison to holy things.  Eretz Yisrael is compared to honey and milk, ארץ זבת חלב ודבש.  Milk is like water; when a baby is first born it is solely dependent on the milk of its mother for food.  Just like milk is the basis of the baby's life, so too Eretz Yisrael should be considered a basis of a person's life.  Israel should also be viewed as honey, something that is sweet and special.  We have two things that Israel should be viewed as, something that is a necessity and something that is sweet and luxurious that one always want more of.

                Rav Aharon Lichtenstein, using these comparisons, gives a whole new view of the phrase ארץ זבת חלב ודבש, that Israel flows with milk and honey.  One could take this pasuk literally and say it means a land flowing with milk and honey, but perhaps it also means something more.  Rav Lichtenstein suggests that this phrase means a place where one could acquire two aspects of spirituality.  On the one hand, Israel is a land of חלב, milk (something that is a necessity), where one could learn viewing Torah as a necessity and the basis of life.  It is also a land flowing with דבש, honey, a place where one could view Torah as something sweet and luxurious, something that one cannot get enough of.

                Using Rav Lichtenstein's interpretation, we can get a new meaning for the phrase (בראשית רבה טז) אין תורה כתורת ארץ ישראל, that there is no Torah like the Torah of Eretz Yisrael.  There is no place where one can get both aspects of Torah, being viewed as something that is a necessity and something that is sweet, the way that one can in Eretz Yisrael, the land flowing with milk and honey.

Food for Thought by Ezra Frazer

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