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    Updated  September 10, 2001  
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September 28, 2001


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  the gift

 

THE GIFT
By: Terry Duffy

Imagine that a loved one, someone who loves you with all his heart, all
his soul, and all his might, gives you a very special gift. The monetary
value of the gift is unimportant. The specific event that was the occasion
of this gift is not important either. What is important is this particular
gift and the love that it represents.

A few months ago I asked a friend if I could borrow a certain book of
hers. I did not know that that particular book was a very special gift from
her beloved. The gift had become a symbol, in a sense, of their shared love.
She did lend me the book. I took exceptional care while reading it, and
returned it, unblemished, as quickly as I could.

When I asked my friend to lend me the book, she did not offer to give it
to me, which she might have done if it had held no particular interest to
her. Neither did she offer to let me use it in whatever way I wanted, say,
to cut pages out for my research. Making any marks on the paper, no matter
how light, were out of the question.

We humans are created in GD's image. Shouldn't we assume that GD feels
similarly about the special gifts He generously bestows upon us? Does not GD
want His gifts to His people, Israel, cherished in the same way that we
cherish gifts from our mere mortal loved ones?...

GD's most precious gift, the Torah, transcends time and space. GD's gift
of the Land of Israel to His people Israel likewise transcends the boundaries
of time. That Land is His gift to us for all time, whether we inhabit it in
whole or in part, or not at all. Even when we are banished from the Land, or
are in voluntary exile, the Land belongs to the children of Israel. If we
take care of the Land and act in accord with the Teachings of the Giver, then
the Land will flow with milk and honey. If we choose not to cherish the
gift, perhaps by giving parts of it away, GD will wait for us to return to
our senses. He will help us return to the Land. Our GD is a GD of infinite
patience and forgiveness, waiting for us to make ourselves complete, on His
land which is ours.

Ownership of the Land is at the center of issues of war and peace, but
peace is something that cannot be bought and cannot be traded. Peace is a
state of mind. How could the leveling of the Maon Farm, for example, cause
either side to surrender his guard and trust the other? At the persistent
demands of Arafat, hundreds and hundreds of Jewish police destroyed a very
tiny Jewish community, bulldozing its synagogue as well as its gardens and
homes, causing a Torah to be evacuated, and the residents, even young
children, to be dragged off, for the sake of peace!

I'll trade you one destroyed Jewish community for thirteen kilos of your
trust and peace of mind? No, I don't think so.

By wanting to believe that we can put our minds and hearts at peace by
performing acts of destruction on ourselves, by openly declaring war on
ourselves, who are we kidding? What kind of "peace" partner would even ask
that of us? No, the opposite of peace is not war; the opposite of peace is
fear. By attacking parts of our own community, as at Maon Farm, we spread
seeds of despair throughout the land. What kind of peace, then, are we
negotiating?

How, then, do we deal with disputes? Take one example from Bereshit XXI,
Vayera. Abimelech demanded a vow of Abraham in return for allowing Abraham
to live on his land. Abraham swore that he and his family would lead honest
and decent lives. Abraham never asked Abimelech to make the same vow.
Servants of Abimelech then seized a well of Abraham's. Rather than dwell on
the outrage, Abraham gave Abimelech a generous portion of sheep and cattle,
and Abraham and Abimelech sealed the deal. Abraham went further in
establishing a right to his own well for generations to come. In front of
all to witness, he added seven ewes to the already generous portion paid.
The conflict was resolved, not by giving away land, in small pieces or large.
Abraham gave of his personal property, not his land. Abraham knew GD's
ways. He trusted that GD would always provide what Abraham needed. So, to
resolve a dispute, Abraham dealt generously and paid and overpaid for
possession of his own well.

The message is clear. The Land of Israel is not negotiable. GD gave all
of the Land of Israel to the Jewish people in trust for all time. If we
bring merit by our six days of labor, then GD will deal kindly with us and
grant us our shabbos of peace. If we choose to destroy ourselves or others,
we bring upon ourselves fear and despair. Our actions determine our peace or
our punishment. How to negotiate disputes with our neighbors is part of
life. The Torah teaches that we must deal kindly and pay generously.

Whatever we pay, GD will provide. However, the Land of Israel is not part of
the payment package. We cannot give away any of GD's Land, our Land, ever.

 
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