Everyone around the Kaplans' Shabbos
table was listening attentively to their neighbor, Mr. Wolf, who had just come back from a visit to Eretz Yisrael.
It was exciting to listen to him because the way he described places and people made you feel as if you had been right there with him.
You could tell that Mr. Wolf really loved Eretz Yisrael. He spoke about the courageous people who live in dangerous areas and the brave soldiers who protect them.
"They have such emunah and bitachon!" he exclaimed. "They are so determined to make their homes even in those faraway, isolated settlements. What's more, they are b'simchah! Can you imagine? When I asked one family how they manage with constant worry and concern for safety, they replied: "Worry? We are satisfied and busy with our lives, and we feel honored to have the privilege of fulfilling the mitzvah of yishuv ha'aretz - settling the land. Why should we waste our energy on worry?"
"What do the children do?" Shternie asked. "With such danger lurking, they probably stay inside near their parents most of the time."
"Oh, no!" replied Mr. Wolf. "There is no way anybody can keep those kids indoors. They play everywhere as if all of Eretz Yisrael were their own back yard! Ah, if that time would only come. After so many years and so much effort, the situation is still the same. Wars don't solve the problem; the so called "peace process" doesn't work. How else can we convince the world that this land is ours?"
"By looking into the first Rashi in Bereishis!" responded Shternie knowingly.
Mr. Wolf looked at her quizzically.
"Let me explain," said Rabbi Kaplan. "Rashi begins his commentary on the Torah with a question: why does the Torah begin with the details of creation? If HaShem's intent in giving us the Torah was to tell us how He wants us to live our lives, the Torah should have begun by teaching us about mitzvos. Instead, the Torah begins with 'Bereishis boroh Elokim es hashomayim v'es ha'aretz' - 'In the beginning HaShem created the heaven and the earth.'
"Rashi answers this question, saying that there will come a time when the nations of the world will accuse the Jews, saying: 'You are thieves. You have taken the land which belongs to the seven nations by force.' Rashi instructs the Jewish people to answer: 'We are not thieves. This land, and the entire world, belongs to its creator, HaShem, as is described in the beginning of the Torah. When He wished, He gave it to the seven nations who lived there. Later, He wished to take it away from them and to give it to us.' "
"This is what we need to tell the world," emphasized Rabbi Kaplan. "Instead of searching for magical solutions, we should be true to our Torah and present our point honestly and with determination. We don't have to be embarrassed or afraid to tell the world HaShem's very first message in the Torah.
"There is also an important lesson that every Jew can learn from the words Eretz Yisrael. The word Eretz is connected to the Hebrew word ratzon - to want. Each letter in the word Yisrael is a first letter in the phrase, Yesh Shishim Riboh Osios LaTorah - ''There are six hundred thousand letters in the Torah.'
"Am Yisrael is commanded to conquer Eretz Yisrael. Besides actually entering and taking over the land, our daily avodah is to really want (eretz) to fulfill all that is written in the Torah (Yisrael). This is our goal; at times it does not come so easy. Just as the Jewish people had to wage war and conquer Eretz Yisrael, so we must make the effort to overcome whatever might stand in our way of wanting to do what the Torah says."
(Adapted from Likkutei Sichos, Vol. X, p. 1)