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Parashat Chayei Sarah - Whose Hebron is it, anyway? – Rav Binyamin Ze'ev Kahane

(Plus added background-article from the writings of Rabbi Meir Kahane: "Who stole Eretz Yisrael?")

“And Avraham weighed to Ephron the silver...” (Gen. 23:16). Rabbi Yehuda Bar Simon said: It is one of the three places where the nations of the world would not be able to deceive Israel by claiming: You are thieves (since it was acquired with money). The Cave of the Patriarchs, as it is written: 'And Avraham weighed to Ephron the silver...'; The Temple Mount, as it is written, 'So David gave to Ornan for the place six hundred shekels of gold coins by weight'; Joseph's Tomb, as it is written, and he (Yaakov) bought the parcel of ground ... at the hand of the children of Hamor, the father of Shechem (Bereshit Rabbah, 89).

Three questions arise from the above Midrash: 1.) And on the rest of the Land of Israel the gentiles can say that we are robbers? 2.) What does it mean, “they will not be able”? We see that they are quite able and even successful in undermining our claim to those three places. Indeed, precisely those three places are where they concentrate their struggle! 3.) On the verse in Psalms (111:6), “The power of His works has He declared to His people in giving them the heritage of the nations”, Rashi writes: “so that the nations will not be able to say you are robbers when you conquer the seven nations”. And so, we see that Rashi says that on all of Israel “they cannot say” that we are thieves!

The Torah knew that when the gentile would rise up against the Jewish “thieves” and “occupiers”, certain Jews may doubt the justice of their cause due to all kind of guilt feelings. Perhaps the gentile is right that we stole his land? Perhaps he has an ethical argument? And so the sages come to tell us: Look, there are three places that even according to simple logic the gentile cannot open his mouth about, for they were purchased with money. And in any case, this justified claim makes no impression on them. On the contrary, it is precisely in these three places where they center their struggle against us! What does this teach us? That it isn't justice or ethics which motivates them, nor is it a dispute over property that can be resolved. Rather, it is a national-religious struggle!

Now the sages come and explain: Just as you know that in these three places their claims are not justified, by the same token you should not get excited about the rest of their claims on other parts of the land of Israel, since “the entire world belongs to the Holy One, Blessed Be He, He created it and gave it to whomever it was right in His eyes, of His own will He gave it to them and of His own will He took it from them and gave it to us!” (Rashi on the beginning of Genesis). This now explains Rashi in the aforementioned Psalm, that “the nations of the world won't be able to say you are robbers”. Not that they “won't be able to say” it. On the contrary, they'll say it all the time. But the “won't be able to” is not directed to the gentile, but rather to the ears of the Jews! That they must know that G-d gave us the Land, with an obligation to conquer and to expel. And so it is said: “The power of His works He has declared to His people in giving them the heritage of the nations” - the answer is intended for “His people”. The gentiles are not being addressed here, either because they will not listen anyway, or perhaps it simply is not important what they think.

Hebron, Shechem, and the Temple Mount [...] have become symbols of the Arab-Israeli struggle in the land of Israel. Indeed, the battle for the Land of Israel has reached its climax, and those three locations which the “gentile won't be able” to contest, are, in fact, the most hotly contested.

Excerpted by Tzipora Liron-Pinner from the commentary on Chayei Sarah in “The writings of Rav Binyamin Ze'ev Kahane. HY”D”

[Please read also this]:

Background: Who stole Eretz Yisrael? - From the writings of Rabbi Meir Kahane

G-d is Creator of the universe and Owner and Master of the earth and all that it contains: “The earth is the L-rd's, and the fullness thereof” (Ps. 24:1). He gave Eretz Yisrael to the Jewish People as their land, to enable them to fulfill their mission of building a state and society in accordance with the laws and foundations of the Holy Torah: “He gave them the lands of nations; they inherited people's toils, that they might keep His statutes and observe His laws” (Ps. 105:44-45). As far as Eretz Yisrael, no apologies or justifications are necessary. The Jewish People came to the land where the seven nations dwelled and took it from them by decree of the Owner, G-d. G-d uprooted the nations who dwelled there and brought in His chosen people, Israel, because the land is His and does not belong to those who lived there as occupants.

As R. Yehoshua of Sachnin said in the name of R. Levi (Bereshit Rabbah, 1:2): “He declared to His people the power of His works, in giving them the lands of the nations” (Ps. 111:6): Why did G-d reveal to Israel what was created on the first and second days of Creation? [I.e., why did the Torah relate the entire Creation narrative when it should have concentrated on Torah law?] It was because of the nations of the world, lest they curse Israel and say, “What a nation of pillagers you are!” Israel can respond, “Are you yourselves not pillagers? Surely it says, 'The Kaftorim came from Kaftor and annihilated the Avvim, occupying their territories' (Deut. 2:23).” I.e., you and all the nations who claim that we, Israel, are pillagers, are hypocrites. After all, many nations took lands from nations who lived on them without any right or pretext for doing so. [Consider also America, Australia...] For example, the Kaftorim annihilated the Avvim and occupied their land. See Deut. 2 for further examples of nations who pillaged other nations and took their lands.

The point seems to be that before Israel respond to the nations with the main answer, they advance a side argument, namely: How can you and the Canaanites attempt to pose as innocent? After all, Eretz Yisrael was given to the descendants of Shem, and the Canaanites, descendants of Ham, took it from them. As Rashi wrote regarding the verse, “The Canaanites were then in the Land” (Gen. 12:6): “The Canaanites were gradually conquering Eretz Yisrael from Shem's descendants, for it had fallen to Shem's portion, when Noach divided up the earth amongst his sons.”

Afterwards comes the main argument: The world and all it contains were created by G-d and belong to Him. He is the Owner, and He gives to whomever He wishes and takes from whomever He wishes. He chose Israel to be His chosen people, His supreme, treasured nation, and He gave them the Land to be theirs and not the Canaanites'. It likewise says (Deut. 6:10-11): To give you great, flourishing cities that you did not build. You will also have houses filled with all good things that you did not put there, finished cisterns that you did not quarry, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant. You shall eat and be satisfied. [As Rabbi Kahane further explains in Peirush HaMaccabee on Shemot, Chapter 1]: And there, in the Land of Israel, they inherited houses full of good things(Nehemiah 9:25), just as G-d had promised to give them houses filled with every type of good, which you did not fill (Deuteronomy 6:11) – you did not fill these houses, rather you captured them already filled with good. (Incidentally, this also teaches that everything that the Gentiles built and acquired when the Jews were not in Israel, they acquired illegally – in fact, by theft – because the land does not belong to them. Thus it is permitted to repossess their lands; only such property as they acquired under Jewish sovereignty is truly theirs.)

Clearly, just as G-d supervises the world and builds houses for the Jews in the Land of Israel in spite of the Gentiles and their anger, so too, when the Jews sin (!), His supervision works against THEM: They will build houses, but will not dwell in them…the great day of Hashem is near (Zephaniah 1:13-14).[...] “For the children of Israel are slaves to Me, they are My slaves, whom I have taken out of the land of Egypt – I am Hashem, your G-d.” (Lev. 25:55) – This last verse was rendered [in Aramaic] by Targum Yonatan: “The children of Israel are Mine – slaves to My Torah.” NO ONE ON EARTH IS FREE! The children of Israel are not free, but slaves to Him and His Torah. Being such, how can we possibly own property? Surely, whatever a slave acquires, belongs to His master [...].

A Jew must realize that everything – the world, punishment, even he himself – is under G-d's exclusive domain [...]. IT IS A MITZVAH AND DUTY UPON EVERY JEW TO LIVE IN ERETZ YISRAEL, and a chilul Hashem when Israel lives outside of it. NO NON-JEW HAS THE SLIGHTEST RIGHT TO OWNERSHIP OVER THE LAND, and any non-Jew who denies G-d's mastery and the ownership of His people Israel over the whole Land is rebelling against G-d, denying G-d's sovereignty on earth and profaning G-d's name. He has one fate – to leave the Land or to die.

Compiled by Tzipora Liron-Pinner from “The Jewish Idea” and “Peirush HaMaccabee on Shemot” of Rabbi Meir Kahane, HY”D