The Holiness of the Land
The first of this week's two parshiyot give us a stark warning. First the Torah tells us: "Like the practice of the land of Egypt, in which you dwelled, you shall not do, and like the practice of the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you, you shall not do, and you shall not follow their statutes" (Shemot 18:3).
Essentially, God is saying that if behave like the Egyptians, then there was no point in Him taking us out of Egypt, while if we behave like the Canaanites, than then there is no point in Him driving the Canaanites out of the Land.
Then there is a long list of immoral actions, both sexual and social, which we can assume was standard practice in both Egypt and Canaan, followed by a warning as to the consequences:
"You shall not defile yourselves by any of these things, for the nations, whom I am sending away from before you, have defiled themselves with all these things... And let the land not vomit you out for having defiled it, as it vomited out the nation that preceded you" (ibid 24-28).
It is interesting to note that the Torah states that it is the actual Land, not God, that spits the people out. The Land itself that cannot tolerate immorality and the Land does not discriminate according to race. It makes no difference whether one is a Canaanite or an Israelite, the Land cannot simply stomach it.
Indeed, the Bible brings two examples of major evil perpetuated by the inhabitants, which resulted in them being eradicated. The first episode is that of the people of Sedom and Amora (see Bereshit 18:20-19-28). The second is an almost identical incident, this time however, perpetrated by members of the tribe of Bimymin (See Shoftim 19-20). They were also doomed.
The prophet Amos once said: "Are you not like the children of the Cushites to Me, O children of Israel? says the Lord. Did I not bring Israel up from the land of Egypt, and the Philistines from Caphtor and Aram from Kir?" (Amos 9:7).
The prophet is saying that God loves all nations, but judges them according to their behavior. God did miracles for both Philistines and Aram. They are both His nations as well. And Israel too, is on the same level as Cush.
Israel does not have a free pass for God's affections. Our rights to the Land of Israel are based on our behavior. If we forget that and betray our mission, well then the Land will tolerate us and we will be lost to it once more.
Last year's Sedra Short on Parshat Acharei-Kedoshim entitled: "Rebuking One's Neighbor" appears at http://parshablog.blogspot.com/2008/05/parshat-kedoshim-rebuking-ones-neighbor.html
Another Sedra Short on Parshat Acharei-Kedoshim entitled: "Molech Worship" appears at http://parshablog.blogspot.com/2007/04/parshat-achrei-kedoshim-molech-worship.html
Another Sedra Short on Parshat Acharei-Kedoshim entitled: "The Gathering" appears at http://parshablog.blogspot.com/2006/05/parshat-acharei-kedoshim-gathering.html