Parashat Re'eh: Why did Moshe Rabbenu Desire so Strongly to enter Eretz Yisrael?

[Sichot Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah – Parashat Re'eh]

Moshe Rabbenu yearned to enter Eretz Yisrael. Our Rabbis ask in the Gemara (Sotah 14a): "Why did Moshe desire to enter Eretz Yisrael? Was it to eat the fruit, or to be satiated from its goodness?!

The Tur (Orach Chayim 208) cites a version of the blessing recited after eating the fruits of "The Seven Species," as follows: "Ve-Nochal Mi-Piryah Ve-Nisba Mi-Tuva - we shall eat from its fruit and be satiated from its goodness." The Tur objects, based on the above Gemara, because this version stresses the fruit of Eretz Yisrael, rather than the Land, from which it comes. And it is the Land that we must covet, so that we may fulfill the Mitzvot which are linked to it (The Torah Temimah on Devarim 3:25 also raises this issue). The Bach (ibid. and in Mishnah Berurah #50) shudders at the Tur's opinion, vehemently stressing that one must understand the sanctity of the fruits of Eretz Yisrael: The Divine Presence rests its holiness over the entire Land of Israel. The mountain, the hills, and the even fruits of Eretz Yisrael are imbued with the Divine Presence! The Chatam Sofer also refers to the fruit of Eretz Yisrael as "its holy fruits" (Chidushei Chatam Sofer on Sukka 36a).

The Gemara explains why Moshe Rabbenu desired so much to enter Israel: "Rather he said: Israel has been commanded many Mitzvot, and they can only be fulfilled in Eretz Israel. I wish to enter the Land so that all of them will be fulfilled through me." We must understand what Moshe Rabbenu is saying. Some people are not accurate in their reading of Chazal’s words, and deduce from here that the importance of Eretz Yisrael is not inherent but comes from its unique Mitzvot: Shemita, Terumot and Ma'asrot, etc. Maran Ha-Rav Kook explains in the last chapter of the introduction to "Shabbat Ha-Aretz" that the Land is not holy on account of the Mitzvot. On the contrary, the Mitzvot are a product of the holiness of the Land. The Land is in and of itself holy. There is a halachic expression: "Mitzvot dependent on the Land." The Mitzvot are dependent on the Land, i.e. the holiness of the Land. There is no such opposite expression of the "Land dependent on the Mitzvot." It does not exist, not in the Torah, not in Chazal, not in the Rishonim and not in the Acharonim. Fortunate are we who possess the holiness of the Land, and from it, the Mitzvot.

If so, how do we understand the Gemara's statement about Moshe Rabbenu? Answer: The "goodness" which he desired is not in the physical sense but in the spiritual sense! Usually people understand Moshe Rabbenu's words in the Gemara to mean: "I wish to enter the Land so that I will be able to fulfill all of the Mitzvot there," but that is not what the words say. This is an error. He was not concern about himself as an individual. Rather he understood the holiness of the Land, and its ability to perfect the Mitzvot. Moshe Rabbenu therefore desired to lead the Nation of Israel into Eretz Yisrael in order to attain this supreme spiritual level of fulfilling the Mitzvot there.