Indeed, Moshe wanted to enter Eretz Yisrael more than anything else in the world. But why? What caused him to have such a great desire? Was it because he wanted to taste the delicious fruit of the land, or was it because he was hungry for Israeli falafel? The answer to all these questions are just three words – WRONG WRONG WRONG!
So, what is the right answer?!
Well, just open the Talmud and we find the words of Rabbi Simla’i, who tells us that Moshe desired to enter Eretz Yisrael so he could fulfill those Mitzvos that could only be done in the Land of Israel, such as Shemitah, Terumah and Ma’aser.
(BTW: Have you ever heard of Rabbi Simla’i? He was the very first one who let us know that there are 613 Mitzvos in the Torah. Without him, we may have never known! As the “Mitzvah Rabbi” it makes perfect sense that he would be the one who would tell us that Moshe Rabbeinu wanted to enter Eretz Yisrael… to do… you guessed it… Mitzvos!)
Come to think of it, it’s quite possible that if Moshe Rabbeinu would have stepped into Eretz Yisrael, he would have kissed its stones, just like the great Talmudic Sage Rabbi Abba did when he reached the port of Eretz Yisrael! Or perhaps, he would have rolled in its dust, just like Rabbi Chiya did!
And there’s more: When Moshe reveals his great desire to his people, the message is clear. It’s as if he is telling them, “You are sooooo fortunate to make it to Eretz Yisrael, the Holy Land. So listen to all I will be telling you, here in the Book of Devarim. LIVE IT and LOVE IT!”
Indeed, Eretz Yisrael is holy. It’s important. It’s something that everyone should desire. It’s a beautiful land, a gift from HaShem… it’s our birthright!
The ever-creative Rabbi Yitzchak Abarbanel (1437-1508) from Spain, offered two more explanations for Moshe’s great desire to enter Eretz Yisrael.
We now have 3 reasons, one from Rabbi Simila’i and two from the Abarbanel. Which one is correct?
All of them!
The Rambam writes in his famous Book of Jewish Law:
The great Torah scholars would kiss the borders of Eretz Yisrael, and embrace its stones, and roll in its dust…
Mishneh Torah, Book of Judges, Laws of Kings and Their Wars, 5:10
Hold on! What kind of law is that? Why does the Rambam write this in his book of Jewish law? Also, does this mean it’s a law that we must kiss the stones of Israel or roll in its dust?
Absolutely not. No such law. However, it seems that Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon is teaching us the same lesson his namesake, Moshe Rabbeinu, taught his people, “It is not enough to live in Israel; we must LOVE THE LAND!”