“Today we are slaves, and the land that You gave our fathers to enjoy its fruit and bounty—here we are slaves on it!” NEHEMIAH 9:36 (The Israel Bible™)
This chapter speaks of Hashem’s (God’s) original promise to Avraham (Abraham) to grant the Land of Israel to his descendants as an inheritance. It then continues with an overview of history, including the exodus from Egypt, the years in the desert, the acquisition of the Land of Israel and the many trials and tribulations that were the plight of the Israelites for many centuries. One might assume that Hashem gave the land to the People of Israel so that they could rest in it at ease, and yet this verse states that in fact “we are slaves on it.” The Land of Israel is not just a homeland or national territory. It is a tool, a vehicle through which the people can fulfill their ultimate purpose: To serve God and serve as a light unto the nations – a mission requiring much hard work.