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Parshas Matos-Masei (5777)

Eretz Yisrael: The "Supernatural" Land

Everyone knows that, according to Jewish tradition, when the Messiah arrives he will take all the Jewish people with him to live in Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel). But did you ever wonder how so many millions of Jews are going to fit into that tiny country?!

The truth is that Eretz Yisrael is larger than you think. Although the southern border of Israel – as delineated in this week’s double Torah portion (see Numbers 34:1-12) – doesn’t extend that far south of the Dead Sea (sorry, but Eilat is not part of biblical Israel), the northern border reaches way north into present-day Lebanon.

Furthermore, although we read in this week’s Torah portion that the eastern border of the biblical Land of Israel is near Yam Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee), the Torah states elsewhere (see, for example, Genesis 15:18 and Deuteronomy 1:7) that Eretz Yisrael extends eastward all the way to the Euphrates River!

And the Bible commentators explain that the borders mentioned in this week’s portion were applicable when Joshua entered the land. However, in order to accommodate the entire Jewish nation with the arrival of the Messiah and the Ingathering of the Exiles, the eastern border will expand to the Euphrates (which is deep into present-day Turkey and Syria!).

[Click here for map of borders of Israel as delineated in this week’s Torah portion.
Click here for a rough sketch of “Greater Israel” borders in the Messianic Era]

There is another reason why I am not too concerned about all the Jewish people fitting into this one relatively tiny strip of land in the Middle East with the coming of the Messiah. And that is because, unlike other lands, Eretz Yisrael is a “supernatural” land, a land that transcends time and space.

You see, in the Book of Daniel (11:41), the Land of Israel is referred to as Eretz HaTzvi, the “Land of the Deer”. The Talmud in Gittin 57a explains this to mean that just as the hide of the deer has the capacity to encompass its body, but shrinks when separated from its flesh, so too can the Land of Israel miraculously expand to encompass all its rightful inhabitants, but shrinks in their absence. Problem solved!

But that’s not all! The Sages teach us that the more holy a place is in the Land of Israel, the more it transcends the laws of nature - and the less space it occupies, as we shall now illustrate:

In Pirkei Avos (Ethics of the Fathers) 5:7 the Mishnah states that ten miracles were performed for our ancestors in the Holy Temple and Jerusalem. The tenth miracle listed there is that no man ever said to his friend, “There is insufficient space for me to stay overnight in Jerusalem.” Though throngs of people came to Jerusalem, especially for the Festivals, miraculously there were sufficient accommodations for them all.

As we enter the Holy Temple itself, we see yet another example of transcending space. The Sages teach in Pirkei Avos (ibid) that another miracle was that “the people stood crowded together, yet prostrated themselves in ample space”. Throngs of pilgrims gathered in the Temple Courtyard on the Festivals and Yom Kippur, filling it to capacity. Yet miraculously, though there was barely enough room for so many to stand, each person had ample room to prostrate himself (bow down) and confess his sins on Yom Kippur or to recite private prayers on the Festivals without being overheard by his neighbor.

The highest level of transcending space in Eretz Yisrael manifested itself in the Kodesh HaKodoshim (the “Holy of Holies”), the holiest place on earth.

The Rabbis stated in Yoma 21a that “the place of the Ark did not take up any space”. This means as follows: The centerpiece of the Holy Temple was the Ark, which contained the Luchos (Tablets) and which occupied the most honored place in the Holy of Holies. The Ark had a defined measurement: 2.5 cubits by 2.5 cubits square. Yet the place of the Ark presented no measurements. The Holy of Holies was 20 cubits across, yet if you measured the Holy of Holies on one side of the ark, it would measure 10 cubits, and if you measured from the other side, it would also measure 10 cubits. The Ark miraculously took up no space.

[Twilight Zone music …]

So now do you understand why I am not worried about the Jewish people “fitting in” to the tiny Land of Israel when the Messiah arrives? Eretz Yisrael is different than all other lands. It is a supernatural land that transcends nature – as I hope we merit to witness one day soon.

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