Friday, 5 August, 2016 - 1:00 pm


In this week's Torah portion, Matot-Maasei, G-d said to Israel: "You shall inherit the Land and settle in it, for I have given you the Land to inherit it."

Following G-d's words, Moses warned the Jews against a two-state solution. If you have people who respect you and appreciate you, you can live side by side in tranquility and safety. But if you are dealing with people who believe and raise their children to believe that Jews are the Satan and Allah wants them eradicated, then by having them near you, you are in a constant state of war. When you are in a state of war, you can’t afford to give any control to your enemy, for he will use it to destroy you.

The Arab objective has never been to establish the 22nd Arab state, but to destroy the only Jewish state. This hatred is the heart of the conflict. The late Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir once said, “Peace will come when the Arabs start loving their children more than they hate ours.”

Moses was telling the Jews to always remember that “You shall inherit the Land and settle in it, for I have given you the Land to inherit it.” If we doubt for a moment our full, unequivocal right to settle the Land of Israel, if our resolve is weakened, then the enemy and international pressure—“the spikes and the thorns”—will drive us to make concessions that will only come back to haunt us. Our connection to the land, and our sense of moral justice for living in and owning the land, must be unwavering and non-negotiable. The Creator of the world has given us this country!

David Nesenoff is a videographer and webmaster. In May 2010, he interviewed one of the most prominent American journalists and columnists, a member of the White House Press Corps, 91 year old Helen Thomas, as she was leaving the White House via the North Lawn driveway.

“Any comments on Israel?” he asked her.

“Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine… and go home to Poland and Germany…”

Helen probably never heard of the fact that when the Jews were at “home,” in Poland and Germany, six million of them were sent to gas chambers. She was forced to resign her position following these remarks.

The video clip of her words went viral. Millions watched it within hours. David Nesenoff shared his story.

“Every media outlet in the world converged on me. I received thousands of threatening hate emails. Law enforcement and private agencies got involved. My son said, 'You can speak to anyone in the world; who do you want me to call?' I thought for a moment and then said one name. Seconds later I was on the phone with Elie Wiesel OBM who recently passed away.

“I knew I was going to be on CNN, Fox News, CBS, local and international TV, print, radio, blogs… ‘Professor Wiesel, what is my message?’ He said that he had read in a newspaper that I pray with Chabad each morning and he suggested that I find out what the Rebbe would have wanted me to say.

“I mentioned to my dear local Chabad Rabbi that Elie Wiesel told me to find out what the Rebbe would want me to say. Without much hesitation he said, 'Let’s find out.' We contacted Rabbi Shemtov, one of the senior Chassidim, for some insight as to what wisdom I could share. He said he had heard the following from the Rebbe: 'If you have a friend and you don’t see him for a little while, you can’t be sure if he is still your friend, but if your child goes away for a little while, he is still your child. If your child goes away for months or years, he is still your child. We are not friends of Israel. We are children of Israel, “B'nei Yisrael.” Sometimes we are away for a while in exile, even away for long periods of time in the Diaspora. But we are still the Children of Israel.

" They exist because of each other. 'The Jew walking on the street in New York, whether or not he even knows or cares about Israel, exists because of Israel, and Israel is alive because of him. ”

David continued his story: “Two days later I was on CNN’s ‘Reliable Sources’ with Howard Kurtz. I can’t remember what he asked, but I know my answer was that the children and land of Israel are one, and that is what Helen Thomas and those who want to de-legitimize Israel don’t get.

“A few months later I was the keynote speaker at Yale University’s inaugural symposium on global anti-Semitism. Before I spoke, the chairman of the symposium, Professor Charles Asher Small, introduced me, and paused to explain to the audience of international professors why I was chosen as the keynote. He explained that he never watches television but he had been visiting his parents who happened to have on CNN’s ‘Reliable Sources,’ and he heard this person say that ‘the children of Israel and the land of Israel are one and that they only exist because of each other.’ He said that those words specifically made him ask me to speak."

You see, the connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel is deeper than the connection between any other peoples in the world and their native countries. As Americans we are connected to America because we live here, we are devoted and grateful law-abiding citizens, part of its culture and work force. Yet the relationship is not essential and intrinsic. We could have been born elsewhere and lived elsewhere.

The relationship between the people and the land of Israel is organic. The Creator of the world “married” one small piece of land to one small nation and it is an eternal relationship, not subject to “divorce,” even if there is a temporary “separation." If I leave America for 2,000 years and live elsewhere, you can hardly call me an American. But the Jews left Israel for 2,000 years, yet none lost their connections. They breathe the land, they speak of the land, they dream of the land. In every synagogue and yeshiva for 2,000 years they studied Talmudic tractates about the laws of the land.

For the last 2,000 years, whenever a Jew prayed, he or she turned in the direction of Israel. Whether in the Crimea or Budapest, in Vienna or Brazil, in Johannesburg or Shanghai or the USA, Jews turned their faces toward Jerusalem. In every single prayer, during Grace after Meals, and at every Jewish ceremony, they spoke of the land of Israel. Israel is G-d’s chosen land which He gave to His chosen people, as an inheritance, forever.

For 2,000 years, any nation that conquered Israel could never do anything with it successfully. The soil wouldn’t produce for them; the streams wouldn’t flow for them. Despite numerous attempts by the Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, Crusaders, Turks and Arabs to civilize the land and turn it into a fertile powerhouse, it never worked. It remained a place of swamps, disease, and desolation. Suddenly, the Jews came back to it and it began flourishing. Fertile fields, lush orchards, productive farms, robust vineyards, vibrant cities, flourishing villages, a powerful economy, major inventions, tremendous centers of learning and study. Why is that?

The Torah predicted this 3,000 years ago. In Leviticus, Moses says that when the Jews will be exiled from Israel, the earth will remain desolate. History has proven this in the clearest fashion. Research it, and you will not find a single nation who in the last 2,000 years successfully settled the land and made it blossom for them.

The Talmud presents one of the most haunting images that occurred during the destruction of the First Temple, which we commemorate now, during these next nine days: When the first Holy Temple was destroyed, groups of young priests gathered with the keys to the Sanctuary in their hands. They ascended the roof of the Holy Temple and declared: "Master of the World! Since we have not merited to be trustworthy custodians, let the keys be given back to You." They then threw the keys toward Heaven. A hand emerged and received them, and the priests threw themselves into the fire.

The keys to the Holy Temple—the keys to the future of the Jewish world and to ensuring the Divine presence among the people of Israel—lay in the hands of the youth.”  In Temple times, they were the spiritual IDF.

Today, our youth in Israel—the young holy and precious soldiers of the IDF—are not throwing away those keys! They are holding on to those keys with pride, unwavering commitment, and incredible self-sacrifice. They are standing on the front lines and entering the lethal dens of Hamas with passion, complete dedication, and no hesitation. They refuse to give them up, and thus they ensure the protection of our people and homeland.

Today is Rosh Chodesh Av, the beginning of the saddest, most traumatic Jewish month. Temples were destroyed, communities ruined, Jews were expelled from entire countries during this month. And on the saddest day, the 9th of Av, while mourning for the holy of holies, we are reminded about the final redeemer of the Jewish nation. Moshiach was born on that date! From the depths of pain, sorrow, and sadness there is hope, strength, healing and redemption.

At the end of this week's Torah reading, we conclude the book of Numbers and proclaim Chazak! Chazak! Venitchazek!!! Be strong! Be strong! And let us be strengthened!!!

Shabbat Shalom and a Happy New Month of Av,

Rabbi Yoseph Geisinsky

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