It says in our parasha, “It shall be, when Hashem brings you to the land of the Canaanites as He promised you and your forefathers, and He gives it to you… ” (13:11). Rashi there comments, “It should be in your eyes as if He gave it to you that day, and it should not be in your eyes as a family inheritance.” This pasuk must be studied in light of what we are promised and informed towards the beginning of Yetziat Mitzrayim: “I will bring you to the land that I raised My hand [on oath] to give to Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov; and I will give it to you as an inheritance – I am Hashem.” Meaning, the land is, in fact, promised to the people as a family inheritance, and not as a brand new gift. Why, then, does the pasuk in our parasha emphasize that God gives us the land specifically as a gift, given to us each day anew?
It would seem that the two pesukim and promises relate to two different situations of Am Yisrael. In order to understand the two situations, one must first analyze the process of Am Yisrael’s creation as it occurs in the beginning of Sefer Shemot. Parshiyot Shemot and Vaera deal with the preparation for Am Yisrael’s creation, with the help of the ten plagues, whereas Bo and Beshalach speak of the creation itself. The plagues not only serve as a means of punishment or method of coercing the Egyptians to set Benei Yisrael free, but bear positive, intrinsic significance, as well. The makkot demonstrate Benei Yisrael’s singularity, their separation from the impurity of the pagan nations; through the plagues, the Almighty’s existence and providence over the world, which sets apart Am Yisrael, becomes apparent. The pinnacle of God’s revelation occurs with Am Yisrael’s distinction during makkat bekhorot. Quantitatively, the splitting of the sea was perhaps a greater miracle; through makat bekhorot, however, Hashem’s power is expressed in terms of the awareness of the individuals and the control He exerted over large numbers of human beings. There is no doubt that the purpose of the plagues was not only Benei Yisrael’s release from Egypt; after all, even a single plague would suffice to free the nation. But Hashem delayed the effects of the plagues and withheld from Pharaoh the ability to surrender, in order to engender within Am Yisrael an awareness of Him. For this purpose, Pharaoh’s free choice was suspended; since the unfolding process was geared towards the entire nation, consideration was not given to the individual, and Pharaoh’s free choice was taken from him. The plagues did not unfold suddenly, all at once, nor was there only one, single plague. Instead, God brought ten plagues upon the Egyptians, gradually, over the course of a considerable amount of time. Just as the plagues developed gradually, so was the world created in gradual increments. Nothing prevented the Almighty from creating the world with a single utterance. What prevented Him from doing so was only the limited capacity of humanity to absorb; suddenness brings people to a point of crisis that they cannot withstand. The plagues, too, did not descend upon Egyptall at once. Nor did Hashem begin with the most severe plague. He rather delivered them slowly, one stage at a time, and the collapse of Egyptand birth of Am Yisrael was gradually manifest. But alongside this gradual process there is also a fast-paced process, a sudden, drastic leap. Benei Yisrael left Egyptquickly. This rapidity comes to demonstrate that no connection exists whatsoever between the impurity of Egyptand the sanctity of Yisrael; one cannot link the two together. As Am Yisrael is redeemed from Egypt, alongside the gradual processes of the nation’s separation from Egyptthrough the plagues, there is also a process of drastic transformation which reflects the complete break from Egyptand the completely new reality of Yisrael’s emergence. After this separation comes the beginning of Am Yisrael’s creation.
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This explains what happened in between the two pesukim with which we began. The first promise, of the “inheritance” of the land, was given when Benei Yisrael were in a situation of “shortness of spirit and harsh labor” (6:9). The second promise, by contrast, was said after Yetziat Mitzrayim, and it relates to the future, to the moment of redemption and entry into the land. If a penniless, distraught and oppressed adult suddenly learns that a huge fortune will soon come to him as an inheritance, this news will undoubtedly give him encouragement and lift his spirits. It will give him the strength to continue and press forward. For a young person, by contrast, who faces the challenges of development and struggles to progress, news of a large inheritance will lead him to laxity and apathy, as he will assume that once the inheritance comes to him, he will no longer have to exert effort or take initiative. It is therefore preferable to urge him not to rely solely on his inheritance, but rather to develop his own strengths and talents.
In the midst of their suffering under the Egyptian bondage, Benei Yisrael needed to hear of the “inheritance” of the land in order to receive encouragement and reassurance. For this purpose God gave them the first promise – “I will give it you as an inheritance.” After Yetziat Mitzrayim, however, as Benei Yisrael prepared to enter the land, the need arose to emphasize that “it should not be in your eyes as a family inheritance,” but rather as a direct gift, which they must know how to receive and earn through their own merits, and through the merit of their conduct for which the land is given to them for all time. Today, too, when we have again received Eretz Yisrael, everyone must make a personal effort to deserve Eretz Yisrael through his lifestyle and conduct, and we mustn’t view it as merely an “inheritance.”