Rabbi Herschel Shachter
Rabbi Herschel Schachter

National Pride

In the days of Yehoshua, Eretz Yisroel was divided among the shevatim. With the exception of shevet Levi, each of the other shvatim got an equal share in the land. When Bnai Yisroel crossed over the Jordan, it took the first seven years to conquer the land from the thirty one kings, and then another seven years to divide the land among the tribes, families, and individuals. The rabbis had a tradition that the mizbeach in the Beis Hamikdosh may not be located in the section that belonged to shevet Yehuda. The kings were to come from Yehuda, the mizbeach represented the religion, and it was deemed inappropriate that the religion be under the control of the government. (This is one of the weak points of the Chief Rabbinate in Israel; since it is a branch of the government, it is basically under their control.)

This should have left the possibility open for the mizbeach to be located in the area of any of the remaining eleven tribes. But the tradition had it that only the area of shevet Binyamin qualified. This was already ordained by Yaakov Avinu and by Moshe Rabbeinu when each of them expressed their blessings to each of the shvatim before they died.

Why was Binyamin singled out? The Medrash gives two suggestions, which perhaps really blend together to become one: 1) When the entire family of Yaakov met up with Esav, they all showed their respect by bowing down to him, except for Binyamin (who was not yet born.) 2) All of the other children of Yaakov were born outside of Eretz Yisroel, except for Binyamin, who was born in Eretz Yisroel; he was the only "sabra".

As long as the Jewish people lived in foreign lands they had no choice other than to be respectful and conciliatory to their enemies. Everyone had to bow down to Esav. But as soon as the Jewish medinah was established, they could no longer be conciliatory to these enemies. An independent sovereign state must act with pride! Yes, the possuk in Tehillim describes Eretz Yisroel as "geon Yaakov", "the pride of the Jewish people", and sometimes they are even obligated to go to war (and obviously, to sacrifice human lives) to maintain their sovereignty over the medinah! Many will ask, does it really make any sense to loose human lives merely for the sake of "pride"? And the answer is "yes"! The Tehillim refers to Eretz Yisroel as "the pride of the Jewish people." Every country in the world has the right to go to war to maintain sovereignty over its land; and the Jewish people not only have the right, but even the obligation.

G-d considers "arrogance" to be an abominable trait. But Binyamin who was born in Eretz Yisroel was a "sabra", and he had "national pride." This "national pride" was what was needed to have the mizbeach built in his section. Arrogance pushes one away from G-d; but a healthy sense of independence and national pride brings one closer to G-d. The individual who is subservient to other human beings can not fully be subservient to G-d.

Only the Jews who live in Eretz Yisroel have the mitzvah of aliyah laregel; to come closer to G-d. The Jew with the galus mentality can not be fully subservient to G-d, and thus only the free men in Eretz Yisroel have this mitzvah. The Torah expresses itself by stating that three times a year all the Jewish men must come to visit "the Master" Hashem. The Talmud understood this to mean that slaves who are subservient to their human masters don't have this mitzvah. They can not succeed in becoming fully subservient to Hashem, which is the purpose of the aliyah laregel.

Binyamin, of course, must be careful that his "national pride" not lead to the abomination of "arrogance". If the sabra's independence and "national pride" will bring him closer to Hashem, there will be no room to develop any arrogance. The closer one comes to Hashem, the more humble he will become.

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