"We conquered all his [Og’s] cities…sixty cities [including] all the territory of Og’s royal palace…." (Deut. 3:4)

In the original account of the conquest of Bashan [Num. 21:33-35] the royal palace is not mentioned. Only in the book of Deuteronomy, whose theme is the physical and spiritual transition into the Land of Israel, does this detail become significant. This is because the Land of Israel, relative to the rest of the world, is "the royal palace," i.e. G‑d’s home on earth. When the Jewish people conquered this area, they transformed it from the region of the non-Jewish king’s palace into part of the palace of the true King - G‑d.

...the Land of Israel...is "the royal palace"...

Still, the Talmudic sages differ over whether olive oil from this region – which is considered second in quality only to oil produced in the Teko'a region of the Land of Israel – may be used for the Temple service. (See Menachot 8:3) According to one opinion, only oil produced in the Land of Israel proper possesses the requisite holiness for use in the Temple. According to the other opinion, the acquired holiness of the parts of Transjordan that were conquered (and thereby sanctified) by the Jewish people suffices to qualify it for Temple use.

On a deeper level, this discussion concerns the degree to which a person can abnegate his selfhood in the face of G‑d’s reality when he is outside the Land of Israel.

Oil allegorically signifies the attribute of selflessness (bitul), since it is produced by crushing olives and is consumed in lamps that produce light. Light is necessary for vision, and the soul’s inner vision (i.e. perception) is its ability to expand its conceptual horizons by receiving new insight. The prerequisite for new insight (chachmah) is selflessness, since a self-satisfied and self-assured individual will not admit that his present way of looking at the world is lacking anything. Thus, just as the consumption of oil antecedes sight, selflessness antecedes insight.

We cannot achieve absolute selflessness on our own, since any level of consciousness we can achieve on our own is our own accomplishment and therefore an expression of our selfhood. Only when graced by a revelatory experience that sweeps us up into transcendent awareness can we lose ourselves completely. All we can achieve on our own is relative selflessness, a lesser state of egocentricity than we evinced previously.

...the holiness of the Land of Israel is intrinsic whereas that of Transjordan is acquired...

Thus, since the holiness of the Land of Israel is intrinsic whereas that of Transjordan is acquired, it follows that only the Land of Israel is conducive to achieving absolute selflessness and true dissolution of the ego in awareness of G‑d.

The dissenting opinion agrees that the degree of holiness attainable in Transjordan cannot compare to the intrinsic holiness of the Holy Land. However, inasmuch as G‑d assented to the request of the tribes of Reuben and Gad and gave them this land, it also possesses a degree of intrinsic holiness and can therefore assist a person in attaining virtual selflessness.

Adapted from Likutei Sichot, vol. 24, pp. 20-24
© 2001 Chabad of California/www.LAchumash.org