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Vol. 5 No. 43
"Because the land that you are coming to possess, is not like Egypt... where you sow your seeds and water on foot, like a vegetable garden" (11:10).
Indeed not, explains the Ramban; Egypt is a flat land, and it can be conveniently watered by means of canals. Not so Eretz Yisroel, which is a land of mountains and valleys, which needs the rain to fall from the sky. And for that you need to pray constantly. For Eretz Yisroel is a thirsty land, which requires water all the year round. Consequently, if you transgress the will of Hashem and He fails to seek it with rain of goodwill, then it becomes a terrible land. One can no longer sow, nor will anything grow, nor will any vegetation appear on its mountainsides. All this, the Ramban continues, is clearly specified in the Parshah of 've'Hoyo im shomo'a' which follows: "Because if you will obey My mitzvos, then I will give rain in your land in its right time - always. But if you don't, then He will close the Heaven and there will be no rain, and you will perish quickly from the good land."
The essence of living in Eretz Yisroel is the fact that we live with G-d, that we are close to Him all the time. Consequently, we are constantly under His control, like children in their parental home. As a result, our well-being lies in our own hands. We are the ones to determine whether we have it good, and if so, just how good we have it. We decide by virtue of our deeds, and we can rest assured that if we are worthy, G-d will deliver, not only to us, but to the whole world, as the Ramban writes a little later: ‘Hashem seeks Eretz Yisroel, to see what it requires, and, once He does that, He seeks all the other lands at the same time’.
Before extolling Eretz Yisroel, the Torah has warned us "And you shall keep the mitzvos ... in order that you will be strong and will come and take possession of the land ... and in order that you will live long on the land that Hashem ... swore to your fathers ... a land flowing with milk and honey" (11:8-9).
Virtually all Hashem's blessings and His promises to reward us (nationally) for our good deeds, are closely connected with Eretz Yisroel, and so too, do all the Divine warnings of punishment culminate in the warning that we will be expelled from the land. It is as if our very existence as a nation is central to living in Eretz Yisroel, and indeed it is. That the punishments always culminate with our expulsion from Eretz Yisroel - as is the case in the Parshah of "ve'hoyo im shomo'a" - is due to the fact that Hashem has sworn that He will not destroy us, and when total destruction is not possible, then the destruction of national security is the ultimate calamity - exile.
That being the case, the strength of our national identity lies in being united in Eretz Yisroel, and that explains why G-d's blessings are invariably tied-up with the land.
We have already referred to the connection between Eretz Yisroel and the mitzvos, even to the extent that 'keeping the mitzvos is more than just a condition of living in Eretz Yisroel - it is its goal'.
The bond between Eretz Yisroel and Torah is far from superficial. If anything, the two fit together like a hand in a glove. This would explain why Eretz Yisroel and Torah are both referred to as "Moroshoh" (a legacy) - in Sh'mos 6:8 and Devorim 33:4, respectively. Perhaps the most stunning proof for this lies in Rashi (11:18) who quoting a Sifri, writes ' "And you shall place these words of Mine" - also after you have gone into exile, mark yourselves with mitzvos, put on Tefillin, make Mezuzos, in order that they should not be new to you when you return'.
Hashem would never have commanded us to observe Torah and mitzvos in Chutz lo'Oretz. He did so only in order that, when we return to Eretz Yisroel with the advent of Moshiach, the mitzvos should not be new to us (like one educates a child to keep mitzvos before his bar-mitzvah). Strictly speaking, the Torah was meant for Eretz Yisroel and for Eretz Yisroel only.
Adapted from the Chofetz Chaim
Testing - Testing "He fed you manna in the desert... in order to afflict you, and in order to test you, so that He will be able to do good to you in the end" (8:16).
This means that when Hashem afflicted them, it was in order to test them. In fact, the root of the word 'le'nasos' is 'nes', which also means to elevate - like 've'so nes' (and hoist a flag) which we say in the amidah.
The two are really one and the same, explains the Chofetz Chayim, because it is through divine tests that a Jew grows (a good example of this is the Akeidoh). Indeed, the Midrash writes that before Hashem elevates a person, He first tests him.
Anyone who suffers for the sake of Hashem, grows through that suffering, as Chazal say in B'rochos (5a) 'G-d gave Yisroel three gifts, each of them with suffering: Torah, Eretz Yisroel and the World to Come'.
The Chofetz Chayim explains that these three things are so precious that, unlike other purchases that one can obtain cheaply, their price (in terms of suffering) must be paid in full - as Chazal have said in Pirkei Ovos (5:26) 'The reward for Torah-study, Eretz Yisrael and the World to Come is commensurate with the pain'.
Don't Forget Torah
"And it shall be, if you forget" (8:19). It is better, says the Gemoro in Temurah (14) that Torah should be nullified than that it should be forgotten. This seems to be in keeping with another Chazal (Yerushalmi Chagigah 1-7) 'If only it was Me that they had forsaken, but that they had guarded (remembered - studied) My Torah; the light that it contains would have brought them back.' As long as Yisrael study Torah, even if they do not keep it, its light will bring them back.
The Chofetz Chayim explains the Gemoro in Temurah like this: It is preferable by far that Yisroel are forced to stop learning Torah, than that they simply become lax - and forget it. Why is that? Because when the gentiles persecute them and issue decrees against them forbidding them to study, one tends to fight back. In those countries where the Yeshivos were closed down, one would find clandestine groups studying in the cellars and in underground hide-outs - and by hook or by crook, Torah flourished and grew, in spite of all the efforts to stamp it out. But when there is ignorance, then the flame of Torah slowly dies out. Nobody cares, because ignorance breeds contempt, and eventually they are satisfied that they can read the Haftorah and recite Kadish. That, they believe, is the essence of Judaism. (The Chofetz Chayim said this in his time; today, one can be a 'good Jew' on less than that). It is precisely because of the terrible consequences of Torah being forgotten, that Moshe assures us that in fact, Torah will never be completely forgotten by Klal Yisroel (Devorim 31:21).
And if such are the dangers of forgetting, imagine how profitable is the continued study of Torah, and ensuring that Torah is remembered.
At the beginning of this century, when the Russian government ordered the Volozhiner Yeshivah to introduce two hours of secular-studies daily into the Yeshivah curriculum, failing which they would close down the Yeshivah, Reb Chaim Velozhiner, founder and Rosh Yeshivah, loathe to take such a weighty decision upon his own shoulders, called a meeting of the leading Torah-sages of the time. The majority of the sages were for choosing the better of the two evils, and including the secular studies in the curriculum. But that was not the opinion of the Gaon, Rebbi Yosef Dov Halevi (the Brisker Rov), whose opinion was finally adopted. He declared (with tears in his eyes): "It is true that we are obligated to strengthen Torah and to fortify it, to raise disciples, and to hand it over to the next generation, but that is only on condition that we use the methods that our ancestors have bequeathed to us. To transmit Torah by means of new-fangled methods - that is not our responsibility. We must withdraw and let the one who gave us the Torah come and do as He sees fit.
The Chofetz Chayim explained the wisdom and foresight of the Brisker Rov's decision. Imagine, he said, had they undertaken to accept the ultimatum of the Russian government, to introduce just two hours of secular studies into the Yeshivah curriculum. You know how the Yetzer ho'Ra works; the two hours would soon have become four, and the four, six - until finally, he may have graciously left two hours of Torah-study for the Yeshivah-bochrim. But now that they had arrived at the decision that there could be no compromise when it came to Torah-study, that is how it remained; sadly the Volozhiner Yeshivah (the first of the modern type Yeshivahs) closed down, but, like a blocked up water-fountain, Torah found other places over Lithuania and Poland where it could sprout and flourish, as pure and unadulterated as it was given to us.
It is about decisions such as this one that Chazal said in Shabbos (87a) in connection with Moshe's smashing of the Luchos "which you broke" - thank you for breaking them (because sometimes) the nullification of Torah is its fulfillment!
Earlier, we connected the possuk of Shema with the Ovos, and it is interesting to note that, as the Ba'al ha'Turim points out, the letters of 've'Ohavto' spell 'ho'Ovos', since they were the epitome, not only of loving Hashem, but of loving Him with all their hearts, with all their souls and with all that they had. He adds that "be'chol levovcho" (with all your heart) refers to Avrohom, of whom it is written 'And You found his heart faithful before You’; "u've'chol nafshecho" (and with all your soul) to Yitzchok, who gave up his life for Hashem, at the Akeidoh; "u've'chol me'odecho" (and with all that you have) refers to Ya'akov, who said 'And whatever You give to me, I will give one tenth to You'.
The Ramban explains the meaning of love, as opposed to fear.
Quoting a Sifri, he writes that someone who learns in order to be called a Chochom, to be a Rosh Yeshivah, to live long or to merit life in the World to Come, is not in fact fulfilling the mitzvah of loving Hashem. What he is fulfilling is the mitzvah of fearing Him, for he is afraid of what he will lose if he does not learn.
Loving Hashem means to perform the mitzvos, only because Hashem ordained them (and all the more so if it is in order to put them into practice) - and this is generally known as 'lishmoh'. Clearly, after believing in Hashem, the Torah considers the most important thing to be loving Him, since loving is the source of goodwill, without which G-d-worship is both meaningless and improbable.
The Torah divides the loving of Hashem into three parts: 1) 'With all one's heart' - which Chazal explain to mean with both parts of the heart, the Yeitzer Tov and the Yeitzer ho'Ra; 2) 'With all one's soul' (or life) - so that one is willing even to give up one's life for Him; and 3) 'With all one's money,' or with whatever situation G-d lands him with. A Jew can perform good deeds and mitzvos all day long - he can even learn all day - but if his motivation is purely personal, or if he performs those acts without any motivation at all, then he may possibly have performed a mitzvah, but he cannot consider himself to be one who loves Hashem, since love is an emotion, and no amount of deeds can compensate a lack of emotion, any more than extra emotions can compensate a lack of deeds. It is no different, in fact, than with human relationships, where actions can sometimes act as the catalyst which makes love come alive, but it is impossible to replace it.
And the Torah is also telling us that we should love Hashem with our evil inclination, both to suppress the urge to sin because of that love, and to use our evil inclinations for the good, to harness our urges and desires and to direct them towards positive ends, much in the same way as Dovid ha'Melech harnessed his natural inclination to kill, by killing the enemies of Hashem. And so we must put our inherent bad traits to good use, to be too lazy to sin, jealous of those who possess more Torah-knowledge than we do, and proud of our Jewish heritage.
History of the World ( Part 44)
(Adapted from the Seder Ha'doros)
Shalmaneser rules over Assyria (which will later become Bovel).
Yoel ben P'suel receives the Torah from Michoh. Some say that P'suel is none other than Shmuel ha'Novi. The Beis-Din consists of Nachum, Chavakuk, and the Cohen Godol is Soroyoh.
Hoshei'a ben Eiloh, King of Yisroel, rebels against Shalmaneser, in the twelfth year of the reign of Ochoz king of Yehudah.
Chizkiyah, son of Ochoz, rules over Yehudah in the third year of the reign of Hoshei'a ben Eiloh (who was king by name only, during the first eight years of his reign. In fact, he enjoyed only the limited powers of a Shofet). He is twenty-five at the time of his coronation. Neriyah is the Cohen Godol; Hoshei'a, Amos and Michoh are the prophets.
In the days of Chizkiyah, there is not a man, woman or child in the whole of Yisroel who is not expert in the laws of tum'ah and taharah. Chizkiyah hides the book of cures (written by Odom ho'Rishon).
Shalmaneser attacks Shomron, capital of the ten tribes. He conquers it three years later.
Shomron (Samaria) falls to Shalmaneser, King of Assyria, and the ten tribes are exiled to Assyria, Lachlach and Chovor.
Sancheriv rules over Assyria.
He imports Kutim to live in Shomron. After they suffer a plague of lions because they continue to serve idols there (and Eretz Yisroel does not tolerate idolatry), he sends two Cohanim - Rebbi Dustai b'Rebbi Yanai and Rebbi Sabaya - to teach them the Torah of Yisroel. Sancheriv conquers 190 countries, all of whom he moves from one place to the other, to discourage them from rebelling.
He also attacks and captures part of Yehudah and the entire tribe of Shim’on, but he is forced to abandon them in mod-journey, when he, in turn, is attacked by Tarhokeh, Kinf of Kush. Hashem hides them behind the Dark Mountains. This is the fourth phase of exile that Yisroel has suffered: 1. Zevulun and Naftoli; 2. Re’uven, Gad and half of Menasheh; 3. The ten tribes; 4. Shim’on and part of Yehudah.
Shmayah and Avtalyon are direct descendents of Sancheiriv. They convert to Judaism and rise to the leadership of the Sanhedrin.
Sancheriv attacks Yehudah and besieges Yerusholayim. His entire army is struck down when they hear the Angels singing. 185,000 generals die with all their soldiers.
Par'oh, king of Egypt, and Tarhokeh, King of Kush, send armies to support Chizkiyoh, but Sancheriv overpowers them and ties them up. The following morning, Chizkiyoh has them all freed, and they return home to relate the incredible miracle that they just witnessed. It is during this period that Chizkiyoh becomes ill. Until then, nobody has ever recovered from an illness. However, he prays fervently to Hashem and is granted an extra fifteen years life. The down-fall of Sancheriv takes place on the third day of Chizkiyoh's illness.
Although the bodies of Sancheriv's soldiers are burnt, their clothes remain intact, because they are descendants of Shem (Medrash Tanchuma, according to Rabeinu Bachye, of Yefes) who covered their father's nakedness.
Only a handful of men return home, among them Sancheriv (who is killed the next day by his sons) and one of his generals, by the name of Nevuchadnetzar, who will later become King of Bovel.
Sancheriv's son, Asar Chadon, succeeds his father. Some say he is alias Merodach Bladen ben Bladen.
Menasheh, Chizkiyah's son, is born.
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