זאת הארץ אשר תפול לכם בנחלה. מהו לכם? לכם היא ראויה. משל למלך שהיו לו עבדים ושפחות והיה משיא לעבדיו שפחות מן אוסיא אחרת, ולשפחותיו עבדים מן אוסיא אחרת. עמד המלך וחשב בדעתו ואמר: העבדים שלי והשפחות שלי – מוטב שאשיא עבדי לשפחותי, שלי לשלי. כך כביכול אמר הקב”ה: הארץ שלי שנאמר (תהלים כד) לה’ הארץ, ואומר כי לי הארץ, וישראל הם שלי שנאמר (ויקרא כה) כי לי בני ישראל עבדים, מוטב שאנחיל ארצי לעבדי, שלי לשלי, לכך נאמר זאת הארץ אשר תפול לכם בנחלה.
“This is the Land which shall fall to you as an inheritance.” [Bamidbar (Numbers) 34:2] What is meant by “to you?” The parable is of a king who had slaves and maidservants; the king would marry off his slaves to maidservants from a different estate (sovereignty) and his maidservants to slaves from a different estate. The king reconsidered and said, “The slaves are mine and the maidservants are mine – it is best that that I marry off my slaves to my maidservants, mine to mine.” Thus, God, as it were, said “The Land is Mine, as the verse states ‘The Land is the Lord’s’ [Tehillim (Psalms) 24:1] and ‘The entire land is Mine,’ [Shemot (Exodus) 19:5] and Israel is Mine, as Scripture states ‘For the children of Israel are servants to Me’ [Vayikra (Leviticus) 25:55]; it is best that I give the Land as an inheritance to My servants, Mine to Mine,” thus the verse states “This is the Land which shall fall to you as an inheritance.”
[Bemidbar Rabba 232:10-11]
Astonishment at the Parable – An Economic Error
At first glance, the Midrash is not understood at all, neither the parable nor the lesson. The Midrash speaks of a king who owned slaves and maidservants; initially he purchased, from outside his kingdom, additional maidservants to marry off to his slaves and additional slaves to marry off to his maidservants. At some point the king decided he was making an economic error – since he already owned slaves and maidservants, he could marry them off to each other and would not need to purchase additional slaves and maidservants from external sources, and thereby save himself time and money.
However, reflecting on his situation, if the king has the resources to purchase additional slaves and maidservants, it would not be a waste of his money; on the contrary it would increase his wealth. Assume that the king has one hundred slaves and one hundred maidservants whom he marries off to each other and every couple has five children, after a number of years the king will have an additional five hundred slaves. However, if the king purchased maidservants for his slaves and slaves for his maidservants, he would double the next generation of slaves, to one thousand. Thus, every purchase of a slave from an outside source would increase the king’s work force and improve his national economy. Why does the Midrash present the king as being wiser when he decides to not buy slaves from outside sources, when the opposite seems true?
In addition, we may ask: what was the king’s original thought and what new insight did he reach? Apparently, the king’s solution is quite simple – one does not need to be overly wise to understand that there is no need to import additional slaves and maidservants, when there are so many in the kingdom.
Astonishment at the Lesson – “The Whole Earth is Full of His Glory.” [Isaiah 6:3]
Equally, the lesson of the parable, comparing God to the king, does not seem understandable. Even accepting the apparent contention of the Midrash that it would be economically advantageous to the king to marry off his slaves to his maidservants, how can this be connected to God, Who has no economic interests and is capable of whatever He chooses. If God prefers, He can “purchase” additional slaves without “losing” anything. So what is the connection to the king in the parable? Furthermore, there is nothing which does not belong to God; while it is true that the Nation of Israel expresses God’s existence in the world more than anything else, and this specifically when the nation is within the Land, yet how is it possible to assert that God prefers to have the Nation of Israel within the Land of Israel in order to prevent His need to “purchase” another nation or land which ostensibly is not His?
Explanation of Parable – Mine to Mine
It seems that the answer lies in the choice of words of the Midrash. If the Midrash were interested in teaching that the king wanted to save money, it should have stated something like: “The king reflected and said ‘I have slaves and maidservants, it is best that I marry them off to each other.’” Yet the wording of the Midrash is different, the king says: “The slaves are mine and the maidservants are mine – it is best that that I marry off my slaves to my maidservants, mine to mine.” Why was in necessary to stress that everything is his, through the repetitive use of the word “mine”?
Apparently, the intention of the Midrash is different than our initial assumption. Indeed, it would have been economically beneficial for the king to import slaves, but the king’s intention was not to achieve economic benefit, rather to create a kingdom which would carry his name; that anyone seeing a slave or a worker in that kingdom would comment “What slaves/workers of quality, it is clear they belong to the king.” The king is aware of the fact that his approach will adversely impact his national economy, but his interest is quality, not quantity. Thus, the king stresses that the slaves and maidservants are his and “mine” are to be married “to mine.” According to this explanation, the king’s original thought was to focus on quantitative development of his economy, and he reconsidered and decided to focus on qualitative development.
Your Torah is Given Only to You
In Rabbi Yehuda haLevi’s work “Kuzari” after the rabbi briefly presents the basics of Judaism to him, the king of the Kazars asks a very difficult question [Part 1, 26]: “The king said, ‘I can see from what you have said that your Torah was given exclusively to you.’”
To us, this comment may seem a simple truth, and indeed, the rabbi’s answer is [ibid. 27]: “What you say is true, and all who join us from among the nations will partake of the goodness which the Creator will provide for us, though not on an equal basis. If the obligation to observe Torah were the result of the fact that God created the world, then all would be equally obligated, for all are His creatures. However, the obligation of Torah comes from the fact that God took us out of Egypt and connected His glory to us, for we are called ‘(God’s) treasure out of all peoples’” [Shemot (Exodus) 19:5].
This approach is in conflict with the general universal perception, in accordance with which, if one believes in particular ideals, he is expected to spread those ideals to as wide an audience as possible, it is seemingly illogical to keep the ideals to oneself. However, Judaism has a different approach from other religions, and does not claim to be suited to all nations and does not expect all the people of the world to join it. God’s will is that we serve Him out of choice and free will. The Gemara (Talmud) [Gemara Avoda Zara 2b] teaches that God offered the Torah to every nation, and each questioned “What is written in it?” To one nation God replied “You shall not murder” [Exodus 20:13], and that nation responded that they could not accept Torah. Another nation informed God that they could not accept the prohibition “You shall not commit adultery” [ibid.]. Of all the nations of the world, only Am Yisrael (the Nation of Israel) agreed to accept Torah without inquiring after its content. The approach of Am Yisrael expresses the loyalty of a slave to his master. Apparently, this unique connection is the reason that God added a holiday after Sukkot, during which we offer sacrifices for the seventy nations, that is, all the nations of the world, God added Sh’mini Atzeret in order to spend the day with His loyal nation.
The Explanation of the Lesson
We can now understand the lesson of the Midrash. Based on the common world-view, if God has a special nation, Am Yisrael, He should want to scatter it throughout the world, not concentrate His nation in Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel). The Chosen People would be expected to reach every corner of the world and spread Judaism there. Similarly, if God has a Chosen Land, He should desire that all nations aspire to live within her. This was the original approach of the king: importing slaves and maidservants symbolizes spreading Am Yisrael throughout the world, as well as bringing all nations to Eretz Yisrael.
However, the Midrash compares God to the king after he changes his approach. As noted, the goal is quality, not quantity. “Not because you are more numerous than any people did the Lord delight in you and choose you, but because of the Lord’s love for you.” [Devarim (Deuteronomy) 7:7-8] God does not desire to spread Torah or Am Yisrael throughout the world, nor is He interested in giving the Chosen Land to all nations. God desires that His nation, “For the children of Israel My servants” [Vayikra 24:55], live in His Land. God is interested in quality, and only when the chosen nation is within the Chosen Land are we able to achieve the destiny God chose for us and for the Land. Specifically focusing the Israelite national power within the Land of Israel, and not dispersion throughout the world, will allow us to fulfill God’s wishes. “It is best that I give the Land as an inheritance to My servants, Mine to Mine.”
Thank God, in our generation we have witnessed the return of the Chosen People, God’s servants, to Eretz Yisrael, God’s Land. We are fulfilling the match made by God, between His nation and His Land. This is not merely a technical point, but one of great significance. In order to develop ourselves as God’s “Treasured nation” [Devarim 7:6], we must live in His Land. Only this match between the Land and the nation will allow God’s name to be completely associated with us – God’s nation in His Land.
May it be His will that we thereby merit the complete redemption, speedily in our days. Amen.