God, Not Balfour, Gave Israel to the Jews
President Donald Trump is the most pro-Israel president in history, and proved it again with his precedent-setting peace initiative. The plan recognizes that Israel will never compromise on the indivisibility of its capital in Jerusalem and that the Jewish people have a legitimate claim to Judea and Samaria. The plan also prioritizes Israel’s security needs.
But I want to focus on a question the plan brings into sharp focus: who gave Israel to the Jews? Do the Jewish people have Israel as a grant from the United Nations, the United States, and the great powers? Or is it bequeathed to the Jewish people by divine right?
The very first comment by Rashi on the Torah says that all of the book of Genesis is superfluous. The haunting stories of Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac, Jacob’s love of Rachel, Joseph’s colorful dreams, and the Jewish people’s move to Egypt — it’s all extraneous. He says the Torah should have started with the first commandment, to bless the new moon and declare new lunar months, found about a third into the book of Exodus.
So why does the book of Genesis exist? For one reason. To teach us that God created the world. The earth belongs to Him. He gives it to whom he sees fit. And he gave a tiny sliver of land in the Middle East to the Jews as an eternal inheritance. It’s called Israel. And, Rashi adds, the time will come when the nations of the world will tell the Jews you have no home. You belong nowhere. Not in France. Not in Germany. Not in England. And certainly not in Israel. Perhaps you Jews belong on the moon. And at that time, the Jews will show the world the book of Genesis along with its declaration that God created all the earth and parceled out the lands to those who were fit in His eyes. And He gave Israel to the Jews. For all eternity.
This Rashi interpretation is 1,000 years old. The Talmud upon which it’s based is 2,500 years old. How utterly prophetic. The Jews today are accused of stealing Israel from the Arabs, a people who came to the land only after the Jews were expelled by the Romans.
It amazes me that the Arabs can speak with such conviction of their holy places and their divine rights. Catholics can speak of the Vatican belonging to them as an eternal city, even though it is merely 100 acres carved out of the city of Rome. Yet we Jews feel that such arguments of divine right and religious connection lack sophistication in the world of modern politics.
Donald Trump is the best friend Israel has ever had in the Oval Office. Likewise, the United States is Israel’s stalwart friend and ally. But Israel is not given to the Jewish people by the most powerful man in the world, nor by the world’s mightiest nation — but by a source infinitely more powerful.
Our evangelical brethren understand this argument much more than the Jews. To them, the Bible is a land deed that dare not be questioned. The president’s plan to allow Israel to annex the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria is precedent-setting and is a recognition of the divine right of the Jewish people to the land. Judea and Samaria is the region where 80 percent of all Biblical events occurred. They are intrinsically connected to Jewish identity.
The coming weeks will see the gradual unfolding of the Trump peace plan, whether it is realistic, and how it is embraced by Israel and the world. But one thing is certain. It’s focus on Israel in general, and Judea and Samaria in particular, finally puts the lie to the European argument that the Jews essentially have no home and any land given to the Jews is a byproduct of the Balfour Declaration or some other act of European benevolence. Rather, Israel was gifted to the Jews by God as an eternal inheritance that no power on earth can undo.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, whom The Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” is the international best-selling author of 33 books, including the upcoming Holocaust Holiday: One Family’s Descent into Genocide Memory Hell. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @RabbiShmuley.