Forgive Me, Land of Israel: By Shmuel Sackett
Yom Kippur is just a few hours away and we must be ready – on that great and awesome day – to beg forgiveness from the Almighty. Our holy Rabbis have taught us that while our Father in Heaven wants to forgive and accept our genuine repentance, He only does that for sins between Man and G-d. For sins incurred between Man and Man, we must first apologize and beg forgiveness from the people we hurt. Only after receiving their forgiveness, will Hashem forgive us as well.
I would like to add a third group of sins; those committed between Man and Eretz Yisrael. It is my firm belief that we need to add these sins to our long list and make sure we verbally confess them to our Father, our King, on Yom Kippur.
As you know, when our ancestors were in the desert, they were far from perfect. The Torah relates many, many episodes where the Children of Israel complained and sinned. The Torah also lists their punishments – sometimes in graphic detail – and the number of Jews killed as a result. Yet, as bad as those sins were, they were confined to the specific time period of the 40 years in the desert. Hashem even forgave the horrible, unthinkable sin of the Golden Calf, where originally, Hashem said to Moshe; “Do not try to stop me when I unleash My wrath against them to destroy them” (Exodus 32:10) – yet, even that sin was forgiven – just 4 verses later; “G-d refrained from doing the evil that He planned for His people”. (32:14) Yes, many Jews were killed but as bad as it was, the punishment was focused and limited to only those directly involved. It did not extend beyond the time in the desert.
There is only one exception; one sin that was committed in the desert for which we are still being punished; The Sin of the Spies. I have always felt that one reason we don’t take that sin so seriously is because of its name…It sounds like a James Bond movie. Really, that sin – which gave us the yearly Tisha B’av and all the destruction that came with it – should be called The Gossip of the Land of Israel. That’s correct. We have been punished for the last 3,329 years because 10 people spoke poorly of Eretz Yisrael.
Forgiven for idol worship but not forgiven for talking negativly about Israel? That’s simply incredible! When I focused on that for a while my head started spinning. How many Jews have died throughout the years? How much suffering, how much pain, how many Tisha B’avs? And why? Because a few Jews said bad things about Israel!
Based on this, I came to the conclusion that we are still being punished for these sins because we never did Teshuva for them! Actually, the more I thought about it, the worse it got. We not only never did Teshuva… we are constantly repeating that same sin over and over again! I therefore decided that the reason for this is because we never realized that these sins are in their own category! In addition to the sins between Man and G-d, and between Man and his fellow Man, there’s actually a third group of sins between Man and Eretz Yisrael. Here is my list:
Forgive us Hashem for speaking poorly of Your wonderful Land.
Forgive us Hashem for thinking that You can only help us make a living in New York or Toronto but not in Netanya or Ashdod.
Forgive us Hashem for bashing the Israeli religious school system even though Israeli kids know more Tanach than any kid coming out of the finest Yeshiva in America and England.
Forgive us Hashem for running to Florida, Arizona and even Aruba on Pesach and not spending the holiday in Your holy city of Jerusalem.
Forgive us Hashem for giving millions of dollars to elect pro-Israel candidates in America, Australia and Canada but not giving even 1% of that money to elect strong candidates in Israel who would turn this country into a strong and proud Jewish state!
Forgive us Hashem for seeing Israel as a museum – recognizing only the past, but not the present and future.
Forgive us Hashem for sending our children to learn Torah in Israel for a year – and sometimes two – but never considering letting them live there.
Forgive us Hashem for not knowing Hebrew; the language of Eretz Yisrael and of our Nation.
Forgive us Hashem for lying to You when we say each Shabbat, during Mussaf; “Bring us up in gladness to our land and plant us within our boundaries” because we don’t really mean it.
Forgive us Hashem for not defending Your land, choosing to send us sons to university rather than the IDF.
Forgive us Hashem for not recognizing Your miracle and not thanking You with Hallel on Yom Ha’atzmaut, or even saying the prayer for the State of Israel on Shabbat.
And finally, forgive us Hashem for preferring to live outside Your Holy Land, making up all sorts of excuses. Yes, we are princes and princesses and You are our King – the King of Kings – Who has personally invited us to come inside the palace. But we have ignored Your pleas and remained outside.
Please, Hashem, forgive us for that… and this year bring us inside. Bring us home to Eretz Yisrael and forgive all the negative things we ever said about Your beautiful and special land.