Parshas Eikev

VOLUME 67 NUMBER 3
July 26, 2013
AV 19, 5773
PARSHAS EIKEV
Candle-lighting Time: Between 6:48pm and 8:00pm

 

FYI

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Shocked and Horrified

Rabbi Leban

We were shocked and horrified that spring when the yard at our new house sprouted nothing but dandelions and thistles. It was by far the ugliest lawn in our uniformly manicured neighborhood. It took most of the summer and a lot of professionally applied chemicals, but we eventually achieved a furry, socially acceptable carpet of deep emerald green.

Then the rain stopped falling. Our lovely new lawn quickly deteriorated into a balding, light brown scruff. We responded by bumping up the sprinkler cycles until the children’s fingers turned into prunes and mold starting growing behind their ears. And it worked. Eventually the color returned. I am expecting the water bill of the century, but at least the grass is green.

In this week’s parsha, as Moshe is giving the Jewish People his About-To-Enter-The-Land-Of-Israel speech, he contrasts the land of Egypt that they left forty years prior, to the Land of Israel, where they were soon to arrive. In Egypt, agriculture was made possible by the Nile which overflowed regularly each year, and provided year ‘round water for those industrious enough to carry it to the fields. In the Land of Israel, however, there would be no Nile. The only water the plants would get would be rainwater, if and when it fell.

Is this Moshe the Horticulturist, Moshe the Meteorologist or Moshe the Cartographer? Is there really such a significant difference between the Nile and the rainwater? Why does he need to tell them this Trivial Pursuit tidbit about international water sources in the middle of his climactic Exodus pep-talk?

Elsewhere in this week’s parsha we are commanded to make a blessing after we eat bread, better known as Birchas Hamazon. Loosely translated, the verses say, “Eat, be satisfied, and thank God for the good Land He gave you, because if you don’t, you’ll forget about God who took you out of Egypt.” It seems that Egypt is associated with the idea of forgetting about God, whereas the Land of Israel is associated with thanking God. Why?

Do you think a fish is appreciative of the water he lives in? Or similarly, did you ever stop and feel thankful about the air? It’s freely available, never runs out and costs bupkas. Why would you say thank you?

Kosher sushi, on the other hand, is worth being appreciative of. It doesn’t grow on trees, it doesn’t make you fleishig and it’s delicious. An unfortunately rare treat. That’s worth thanking about.

Moshe wasn’t giving the Jewish People a Middle Eastern geology lesson. He wasn’t even telling them that the Land of Israel’s agriculture was going to be more difficult. He was telling them the greatest single attribute of the Promised Land—there wasn’t a constant source of water, either it rained or it didn’t.

How is that a positive attribute? Because if something is constantly and freely available, it ceases to be a reason to say thank you. Something that is more scarce, on the other hand, is a reason for thanks. Therefore, the fact that water only comes to the Land of Israel when it rains is good—whenever it comes it will be a reason for us to thank God for sending it. The Land of Israel is a place where our relationship with God is able to reach the greatest heights. Where His eyes are upon it from the beginning to the end of the year. We want to live there for this reason only—we want to connect with our Creator as fully as possible.

 

Fighting, Jewish Style

Rabbi Nussbaum

Moshe begins inspiring the nation and preparing them for the battles that they will face against the enemy when they enter Israel. Although the people are outnumbered, outgunned and out maneuvered, nonetheless, they will still merit a resounding victory. What is their secret? The Torah says that Hashem will precede them into battle and He will crush their enemies. The Aramaic translation of Yonasan ben Uziel adds to the plain meaning of the Torah and adds that the Divine Presence of Hashem will advance in front of the Jewish army and destroy anything that is a danger to the nation. The Torah further states that Hashem is an all consuming fire and therefore he will obliterate anything and everything that is a barrier to the advance of the Jewish people. What is meant that there will be a fire that will destroy the enemy?

The Midrash explains that the two poles that were used to transport the Aron that contained the Tablets upon which were written the Ten Commandments shot out two beams of fire that indeed incinerated the armies of those nations that fought against us. Although this took place thousands of years before the advent of laser beams, these two powerful rays of destruction emitted from the Aron obviously had proportional destructive capability and therefore we were able to easily trounce those forces that opposed us. The Midrash adds that the Levi’im who transferred the Aron from camp to camp were subject to this hazard that the Aron contained within it this extremely potent radiation that obliterated the enemy forces and posed a danger to all that came within close proximity to the Aron.

Perhaps we need to question why these deadly emissions radiated from the poles that supported the Aron. Since this was obviously a supernatural event performed by Hashem it could have occurred in any myriad ways. We may suggest that the Aron housed the Tablets and therefore symbolized the supremacy of Torah in our nation. We are truly a nation of the Book as we are referred to by the nations of the world and it is absolutely true. Our lives are influenced and shaped by Torah principles and even in death the last words uttered by a Jew are an affirmation of his allegiance to Hashem, the Shema. What do the poles indicate; they simply are tools to transport the Aron from place to place? However, we do know that the Torah prohibits the removal of these poles and if one should do so, he has transgressed and is liable to receive lashes for his contravention of the Torah.

Chofetz Chaim was wont to explain that these poles illustrated the innate connection between Torah and those who hoist it and keep it aloft. Without support, the Torah lacks a concrete foundation upon which to stand. But this goes much further. The foundation upon which Torah stands is not only those who support it financially, those who observe the Torah must be a source of inspiration and spur others to also commit themselves to the ideals and objectives which the Torah advocates. Additionally, this does not apply only to those who study Torah and are the educators and leaders of our communities, but each and every individual has the responsibility to promote Torah principles and goals in every which way possible. Every action that we exert must be utilized to its fullest in order to evolve Torah distinction and primacy amongst our nation. Those very beams of light that so many years ago served to eliminate those forces which opposed Torah must be again instituted to give Torah credence and acceptance amongst us in order that we will become stronger and more effective in our aim to fashion heaven on earth.

 

A Question for the Rabbis

“Any place that your feet will tread I have given to you…” (Deuteronomy11:24) According to the Sages this verse tells us that even places outside “Israel proper” that are conquered by the Jewish people will become holy (not equal to, but similar to, the land of Israel) and the agricultural laws of the land of Israel will apply to those areas (Nachmanides ad loc). Rabbi Eliezer Yehuda Waldenberg was asked if areas conquered by the IDF in our times would now have the sanctity of Israel with all its accompanying laws. In a lengthy responsa, Rabbi Waldenberg replies that indeed places like the Golan Heights, once they are conquered by the Jewish people, now have a measure of the sanctity of the Land of Israel “proper” and one must treat the produce with the same laws as the produce of the Land of Israel (Responsa Tzitz Eliezer 10:1).

 

BYTE FOR SHABBOS

The Torah states that when we adhere to, observe and perform the mitzvos, we merit tremendous rewards. These are three components that we must be aware of. Firstly, we must accept in our hearts the obligations that we as Jews need to perform. Secondly, we must be motivated to execute on them. Thirdly, if we accomplish the first two, we will have the drive and Divine assistance to carry out them out.

S’FAS EMES

 Joke of the Week

Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.

The early bird might get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.

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