4 The city was broad and large, the people in it were few, and houses were not yet built.
v’-ha-EER ra-kha-VAT ya-DA-yim ug-do-LAH v’-ha-AM m’-AT b’-to-KHAH v’-AYN ba-TEEM b’-nu-YIM
ד וְהָעִיר רַחֲבַת יָדַיִם וּגְדוֹלָה וְהָעָם מְעַט בְּתוֹכָהּ וְאֵין בָּתִּים בְּנוּיִם׃
7:4 The city was broad and large, the people in it were few
There must be a proper proportion between a city’s size and its population. Nechemya is concerned that since too few people were living in Yerushalayim, it would be difficult to defend, even though it was surrounded by a wall. He therefore looks for more people to inhabit the city. Conversely, if the borders of a city encompass too small an area, it will become overcrowded. This was the case in the 1850s when, in a miraculous reversal of Nechemya’s time, Yerushalayim became so full of inhabitants that it was necessary to expand and build new neighborhoods outside the Old City walls, beginning with the neighborhood of Mishkenot Sha’ananim in 1860. As a land, however, the Land of Israel will always have room to contain her children. Also named Eretz Hatzvi, ‘The Land of the Gazelle,’ the Talmud (Ketubot 112a) states that just as a gazelle’s hide stretches according to need, so too the Land of Israel will stretch to sustain any number of its people. Furthermore, King Solomon writes “my beloved is like a gazelle” (Song of Songs 2:9), inferring that just as a gazelle finds its way home from the ends of the world, so too will the dispersed Jews return. And when they do, Eretz Yisrael will contain them all.