Abraham was seventy years old when He received G‑d's first assurance that his descendants would possess the Holy Land. An allusion to this is found in the verse, "He establishes the boundaries of the nations". (Deut. 32:8) In that verse Israel is contrasted with the other seventy nations. It is no accident that when Abraham's descendants moved to Egypt they numbered seventy, i.e. a counterweight to the seventy nations of the world. There they became refined through their bondage to the Egyptians. Abraham expressed the fear that his slave Eliezer would inherit from him…

When G‑d took them out of there they had been prepared to exchange bondage to the Egyptians for becoming servants of the Lord, as G‑d says: "For they are My servants>". (Lev. 25:42) G‑d instilled in the Israelites the feeling that they were slaves so as to make the transition to becoming G‑d's servants easier for them. This is also what G‑d had in mind in the first of the Ten Commandments which states: "I am the Lord your G‑d who has taken you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage", i.e. in order to become "My servants".

Abraham expressed the fear that his slave Eliezer would inherit from him. (Gen. 15:2) G‑d told him: "Not this one will inherit you, but someone who is your very own issue will inherit you" (Ibid. 15:3). The message was that a different servant, i.e. Israel "My servant" will inherit you. When the people rejected their status as servants of G‑d, they became slaves of the nations instead…

The reason that in the Torah the Holy Land is referred to as the "Land of Canaan" quite often even after the Jewish people took possession of it, is that Canaan was the first "slave". (see Gen. 9:25) The word "Canaan" also is derived from the Hebrew word "hachna'a",meaning "submission". The message to Israel in all this is that as long as they submit to the will of G‑d, the Land remains theirs. When the people rejected their status as servants of G‑d, they became slaves of the nations instead.

Our Sages tell us that there are three gifts that can be obtained only through [submission to] afflictions, and one of these three is the Land of Israel. As a nation, we have experienced closeness to G‑d when we first took over the Holy Land [i.e. received that gift]. Subsequently, G‑d expects more of us; when we disappoint His expectations we are dealt with as severely as a father deals with his son, since he has the son's rehabilitation at heart. Being punished for transgressions immediately after one has committed them is the greatest sign that one is beloved of G‑d. In such a situation it is an error to expect G‑d to employ His attribute of "bearing iniquity", suspending punishment for a while.… Anyone who resides in the Land of Israel is devoid of sins…

…When someone who resides in the Land of Israel experiences afflictions this is an expression of G‑d's love, seeing G‑d wishes him to be cleansed of his sins immediately and not to accumulate more sins by deeming himself in G‑d's good graces when there is no cause for this.

This is precisely what Rabbi Eleazar tells us in Talmud, when he states that anyone who resides in the Land of Israel is devoid of sins. (Ketubot 111) Anyone who is privileged to live in the Holy Land must constantly bear in mind that he is in the "Land of Canaan"; this will remind him of the need for servitude and submission.

When Noah said of his grandson Canaan "Canaan is cursed. He will be the slave of slaves to his brothers", (Gen. 9:25) we must ask ourselves why Noah did not simply say "Canaan will be cursed, etc." Although a simple explanation would be that Canaan had already been cursed, i.e. he was polluted by the original serpent to whom G‑d had said "you are cursed", we prefer to believe that Noah had something else in mind. In the future, the name "Canaan" will be associated with those who submit to the will of G‑d. This particular "Canaan" is distinguished by not being G‑d's servant, but by being a servant of others who are themselves only servants. The servants Noah had in mind are the Jewish people. Canaan is destined to become a slave of the Jewish people.

What we learn from all this is how careful we must be when we reside in a land that enjoys G‑d's daily personal supervision. We must conduct ourselves submissively vis a vis G‑d. King David expressed this sentiment when he said "I am merely a stranger in the Land (of Israel)", (Psalms 119:19) David considered himself as, at most, possessing the status of a stranger in that land.

[Translated and adapted by Eliyahu Munk.]