I will make the Land desolate, so that it will become desolate [also] of your enemies who live in it. And I will scatter you among the nations, and I will unsheathe the sword after you. Your Land will be desolate, and your cities will be laid waste. (Vayikra 26:32–33)
…and I will remember My Covenant [with] Jacob, and also My Covenant [with] Isaac, and also My Covenant [with] Abraham I will remember. And I will remember the Land. (Vayikra 26:42)
The harsh warnings delivered in this week’s parashah are considered more brutal than those presented in Parashat Ki Tavo because there, the rebuke is a prophecy delivered by Moshe, like all other Torah portions, whereas here the words are spoken by Hashem, directly to the people, through the throat of Moshe. Yet, there are still words inserted in the rebuke that demonstrate Hashem’s constant love for His people even when they do not behave as they should, thereby raising his ire.
When a man divorces his wife, so long as he doesn’t marry another, she feels hope that perhaps he will reconsider and remarry her. However, should he take a second wife, all hope of reuniting is extinguished. Our Creator banished us from His Land and burned down His house, yet He never replaced us with another nation. This demonstrates to us that He has not forgotten us. In a more physical way, His yearning for our return to Him is demonstrated by the fact that our homeland, that we shared with Him in better days, remains desolate. For centuries the Land of Israel remained mostly uninhabited and undesirable to the nations because they saw an unproductive landscape lacking oil, coal and diamonds, and bountiful produce as well. Then about 70 years ago the Jewish people returned and the desert began to bloom.
When Ramban arrived in the Holy Land he dropped to the ground and lay crying over the barren sight he confronted. Moments later he stood upright with a happy smile on his face. His traveling companions were perplexed and inquired about his contradictory behavior.
“When I saw a land covered with rocks and thorns I thought ‘Can this be the land of milk and honey we were promised?’ and therefore I cried. Then I realized that if the Land was fruitful as in days of old, the nations of the world would inhabit it in order to benefit from its bounty and that would make our return difficult, if not impossible. So the undesirable physical state of our homeland made me smile.”
In our generation we have seen another instance of this blessing within a curse. When we abandoned the fields and hot-houses of Gush Katif they were flourishing with produce. Once the control passed to others, the land returned to a desolated wasteland. This desolation is a bright spot in an otherwise dismal situation.
Hashem promised, even as He delivered His rebuke, that the Covenant of our Patriarchs will never be forgotten. One day soon, baruch Hashem, He will act upon His Covenant and return us to our Land speedily in our days. Amen.