By Rav Yonatan Udren
As we read Sefer Devarim, we can tangibly feel Moshe’s unrequited longing for Israel.
But why does Moshe long for Israel? Is it as the Talmud asks, that he only wants to taste the fruits of the Land?!
To frame the question a different way, what is the unique spiritual nature of Israel? Is there only a historical significance to the Land, or is there something more?
The Talmud teaches that Moshe’s longing for Israel is based on a desire to do more mitzvot. A large number of the mitzvot in the Torah are only applicable in Israel. This is true for Jews today; one’s mitzvah count increases exponentially by simply living a Torah life in Israel.
Rav Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin, known by the acronym the Netziv, explains Moshe’s longings for Israel in a different manner. For Moshe, arriving in Israel provides the greatest opportunity to disseminate Torah. There is no wisdom like the wisdom of Israel; therefore Moshe’s lamentations are an acknowledgment of his pain that he will never teach the wisdom of the Land of Israel.
The greatest natural resource that Israel has to offer the world today is knowledge of Hashem; the Land is filled with wisdom, as the Talmud itself testifies: the air in Israel makes one wise. As we ponder the greater goals of the State of Israel, and our individual work in it, we must remember that the endeavor of illuminating Hashem’s Torah bears its greatest fruits here.