28.8.08

from http://www.facebook.com/topic.php?uid=24067468479&topic=5409

BS"D

This week's Torah portion, Re'ei, teaches us the laws of the IrHanidachat. An Ir Hanidachat is a city where the majority of thegrown men actively involve in idol worship. Once it has beenestablished that a city has fallen into this category, the entirefamilies of the sinners are put to death by beheading and allpossessions of both sinners and non sinners are burned publicly.Then the entire city needs to be destroyed never to be rebuilt.There is an opinion in the Talmud that such a city never existed andnever will exist but that the sole purpose of the Torah teaching usthe laws of Ir Hanidachat is to increase the merit of Torah studyfor those who learn about it.Therefore let's take a closer look at some of the laws.HUMAN JUDGES VERSUS THE HEAVENLY JUDGEIn general repentance only affects a verdict made in the heavenlycourt. Once someone has sinned and a rabbinical court issued averdict, repentance doesn't help to change that. G-d will onlyforgive that person after he receives his earthly punishment.The simple reason for this difference is that human judges do notread minds. Maybe the sinner truly feels remorse for his misdeed,but it may be that the worry about undergoing his punishment spurshis claims of repentance.G-d on the other hand knows what goes on in people's minds andhearts. If He sees that someone truly repented, He can forgive himfor his sins.RAMBAM'S RULINGThe Rambam rules that if the sinners in an Ir Hanidachat repentbefore the verdict has been executed, it can be overturned. If partof the city repents and the non-sinners regain their majoritystatus, the city will be spared.According to the above rule that only heavenly punishments can becancelled, this law of the Rambam needs to be clarified.The Kesef Mishna offers the following explanation.In order for a court to punish someone, he needs to be warned aboutthe severity of the sin before he does it. This needs to be done bytwo kosher witnesses.The Ir Hanidachat does not have a specific warning. Each individualneeds to be warned that idol worship is a sin. In order for anindividual to be punished for idol worship a warning will suffice.But the Ir Hanidachat status and its consequences is a result of acombination of many individuals deciding to sin. Therefore, since nowarning can be issued to an Ir Hanidachat, the verdict can berevoked if enough people repent to make the sinners a minority.Our original question however still remains. Although we understandthat there is a difference between individuals and a city, whichallows room for changing a verdict, we still don't have a goodreason to say that in this case human judges know if the repentanceis sincere.The Tsofnat Paneach explains that Rambam never meant to say that theactual sinners can get off the hook by proclaiming they repentedafter the verdict has been issued.The sin of an Ir Hanidachat is so severe that even the innocentwives and children of the sinners are put to death. In addition, allthe physical belongings of all inhabitants are publicly burned asmentioned above. Rambam's rule applies to the women and children andthe belongings. If the husbands claim to have repented they lose thestatus of an Ir Hanidachat thereby saving their families andeveryone's possessions. They themselves will still be put to deathfor their earlier actions.This explanation still has the same problem as before though.If the rule is that human judges can not change a verdict based on asinner's claimed repentance, why is this case different. At the endof the day we still change the status of the city as a result ofthe `repentance'.THE SOURCE OF RAMBAM'S RULINGWhat does the Rambam base his ruling on?According to the Tsofnat Paneach this can be learned from the cityof Sedom. The city that was destroyed by Hashem in the times ofAvraham.Although we all know the stories about the wicked characters of thesodomites, this was not enough of a reason to kill them all. Oursages explain that the reason why the city was destroyed is becauseof idol worship, thereby rendering it an Ir Hanidachat.On the verse which tells us that Hashem says He is going to take alook to see what really is going on in Sedom, the Targumtranslates/explains "if they repent I will not punish them"This teaches us that it is possible for an Ir Hanidachat to repentand change its status.The Talmud Yerushalmi teaches us another law based on the Sedomstory. Avraham's nephew Lot was considered righteous enough to besaved. His belongings had to stay behind though and they weredestroyed together with the entire city. From here we know that eventhe belongings of the righteous in an Ir Hanidachat have to beburned.LAWS BEFORE THE TORAH WAS GIVENThese two teachings we learn from Sedom are very interesting andmake good speech material. There is however a slight problem.We have a rule that we do not derive any laws from occurrences thattook place before the Torah was given even when they are mentionedin the Torah. For instance we do not circumcise our children becauseAvraham was instructed to do so. His descendents till the Torah wasgiven on Mt. Sinai did so because of that instruction. We do itbecause we were given a mitzvah to be circumcised on the 8th day.The action is the same, the commandment a different one.Since the story of the destruction of Sedom took place long beforethe Torah was given, how to we derive laws from it?UPGRADE OR DOWNGRADE?Another rule.Torah law knows four types of capital punishment. When someone isfound guilty of several sins punishable by different types of death,the law is that he is given the most severe type of punishment.Idol worship is punishable by death by stoning which is considered aharsh death.The sinners in an Ir Hanidachat are put to death by beheading. Thisis a relatively smooth procedure. Much less painful, emotionally adphysically, than stoning.Based on the rule that when one deserves various death types he isgiven the harshest one, it would follow that the inhabitants of anIr Hanidachat should be stoned.In general this law needs clarification. We said that if a city doesnot have a majority of sinners, everyone gets convicted to death bystoning. Once there is a majority this becomes the lesser punishmentof beheading!Let's say a city has 100 people of which 50 worship idols. Oneperson is debating whether to join his righteous neighbors or hisidolatrous neighbors. Finally the sinners win him over to theirside. By doing so he lessens their punishment!!INDIVIDUALS VERSUS COMMUNITIESThis seems to indicate that an Ir Hanidachat is not a collection ofindividual sinners but rather a new entity. An Ir Hanidachat. Thiscity needs to be dealt with in a certain way. Every sinner livingthere is killed by the sword and all its possessions are burned. Ifthe sinner would retain his original identity, his upgrade to IrHanidachat member would have to lead to a more severe punishment.By looking at all the members of the Ir Hanidachat as people livingin a doomed city, this problem is resolved.It also explains why the innocent women and children are killed.This does not come as a result of an action they did, because theydid not sin. It is a result of them living in a city of which allwomen and children need to be put to death. The same applies to thepossessions of the righteous people of the Ir Hanidachat.The city is doomed. The righteous people living there are notconsidered part of the doomed city. Their belongings are. Thereforethey survive but their belongings don'tWhere do we know this difference from?That we derive from the story of Sedom.Sedom doesn't teach us the law that we burn the material possessionsof the non-sinners. It teaches us that it is considered part of thecity. For if not Hashem would not have destroyed it.In other words, the law that we destroy an Ir Hanidachat is based onwhat we were told on Mt Sinai. What is considered part of the citywe learn from an earlier story. This is not a contradiction to therule that we do not base a law on something that happened before theTorah was given. The law is written in the Torah as a mitzvah. Wherethis law does not apply we derive from a story that took placeearlier.Similarly when the Rambam ruled that repentance would help in thecase of an Ir Hanidachat he did not rule that they were changingtheir punishment. That would contradict the law that once a verdicthas been issued it can not be changed. Rather it allows the sinnersto change the status of the city they live in. That this willimpact the type of punishment they will receive as well as the fateof their wives and children and the physical belongings of therighteous people does not matter.They do not change their individual punishment, they change theirstatus from `individual' to `member of a city that deservescollective punishment'.That this is possible we also derive from the Sedom story asmentioned before. Here too we do not teach a law but rather clarifywhat is considered a doomed city.That a city with a population of which the majority worships idolsis doomed is written as a mitzvah. That this majority status doesnot apply when people repent we learn from a story that took placebefore the Torah was given.HUMAN JUDGES VERSUS THE HEAVENLY JUDGE #2Our first question still remains though.How do the human judges know that some people truly repented,thereby changing the status of the city?Maybe we should redefine the reason why repentance only works forspiritual punishments meted out by the heavenly court but not forverdicts issued by human courts.The reason why a human judge can only rule based on what he seeswith his own physical eyes is because he only punishes for physicaldeeds.The heavenly court punishes for thoughts and feelings too, so theyhave to know what goes on inside the heart and mind of the sinnerand later repentant.When a human judge finds out that someone performed an action ofidol worship, denying G-d's existence, he needs to punish thatperson with the appropriate punishment regardless of the sinnersintentions. Intentions are not his territory.INDIVIDUALS VERSUS COMMUNITIES #2The upgrade to Ir Hanidachat status is different.Only Jewish people are considered a Tzibur, a community. When tenJews gather they form a minyan. This minyan can be comprised of allkinds of people. The word tzibur is an acronym for the wordsTzadikim,Benonim,Reshaim. Righteous,average and wicked people. Theyare all one because they all have a neshama, a spark of G-d, inside.Since G-d is One all Jews are also one. They form a community. Notonly the soul is Jewish, the entire person is. The perfectlyrighteous is obviously tuned in to his souls messages. But even theaverage person and the sinner are still called Jewish. In the caseof the Ir Hanidachat we even extend this G-dly communal bond to alltheir possessions.How can this G-dly connection be expressed in case of denial of G-dsuch as the Ir Hanidachat?A computer will never rebel against its programmer. It may stopfunctioning if there is a technical problem but it will neverperform actions it wasn't programmed to do.G-d is more than a computer programmer. He is omnipotent. He is sopowerful that he can even create a being that He allows to rebelagainst Him. The power to sin is a G-dly one.Therefore even in the case of an Ir Hanidachat we apply the G-dlypower that unites all Jews to upgrade them to a community of sinnerswith all consequences thereof.This explains why repentance can be accepted by human judges in thiscase.In general G-d gave the judgment of inner feelings to the heavenlycourt and the judgment of physical actions to a human court. Thehuman judge is not required to take anything past the physical deedinto consideration regardless of his ability to read minds.Although the sinner may claim he repented this is not enough torectify his sin. His sin was performed on an outward level with hisphysical body so it needs to be punished with a physical punishment.The Ir Hanidachat status is established by an inner power. That theoutward appearance is affected by this is also a result of thisinner power as opposed to a regular individual sinner who sins withhis outer appearance only.So as soon as the sinners declare that they repent, they indicatethat they did not sin with this inner power that renders them acommunity and they return to the status of individual sinners forwhich the human judge can give a rectifying punishment.May reading about Teshuva inspire us to do Teshuva so we can meritthe coming of Moshiach now.
Reply to DaasReport

25.8.08

B"H

This talkback is first published under: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3584656,00.html # 58 "This land isn't Israel" by Yair Lapid:


I have Medinat Yehuda T-shirts and car flags. Buy one for 30 shekelim or any combination of 5 for 150. :-)

22.8.08

Parshat Eikev by Daniel Pinner

B"H

Parshat Eikev:
The Shema as Declaration of Faith

“It will be if you diligently hearken to My mitzvot which I command you today, to love Hashem your G-d and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul, that I will give the rain of your Land in its appropriate season – the first rains and the last rains. And you will gather in your grain and your wine and your oil, and I will give grass in your field for your animals, and you will eat and be satisfied. Guard yourselves, lest your heart be tempted, and you turn away and serve other gods and bow down to them; for then Hashem’s fury will be upon you, and He will close up the heaven so that there will be no rain, and the earth will not give its produce, and you will be destroyed swiftly from upon the good Land which Hashem gives you. And you shall place these words of Mine on your heart and on your soul, and you shall tie them as a sign on your arm and they shall be an adornment between your eyes. And you shall teach them to your sons, speaking of them while you are dwelling in your home, and while you are walking along the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up; and you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, in order that your days and your children’s days be prolonged on the Land which Hashem swore to your fathers to give them, as the days of heaven above the earth” (Deuteronomy 11:13-21, the second paragraph of the Shema).

These are surely among the most familiar words for any Jew, anywhere in the world, any time in history. The echo of Shema Yisra’el… will resonate in the soul even of the Jew who is the furthest removed from Torah. These are the first words that a Jew learns to utter in prayer at his mother’s breast; and these are the last words that a Jew says as he is about to leave this world.

But for too many of us, these words are so familiar that we recite them twice every day as a reflex action, with no conscious thought, without delving into what G-d is really telling us here.

The very first words of the Mishnah discuss the correct time to say the Shema of the Evening Service: “From what time do we read the Shema of the Evening Service? – From the time that the Kohanim [Priests] enter [the Holy Temple] to eat of the terumah [the Priestly dues], until the end of the first watch, according to Rabbi Eliezer. And the Sages say, until midnight. Rabban Gamliel says: Until the first hint of dawn” (Berachot 1:1).
The question leaps out from this Mishnah: what is the connexion between reading the Shema and the Kohanim eating the terumah?

Perhaps a clue to the answer lies in the fact that Hazal selected these three passages from the Torah as the Shema because these 20 verses between them reiterate some of the most fundamental principles of Judaism: that G-d exists; that He is One, indivisible and unique; that it is fitting to pray to G-d, and only to G-d; that G-d knows all our thoughts and actions; that G-d rewards all those who obey His mitzvot and punishes all who transgress them; that the redemption will one day come (the phrase “…that your days and your children’s days be prolonged on the Land” is an oblique reference to the days of Mashiach and the eventual Resurrection of the dead – see Mekhilta de-Rabbi Yishma’el, Nezikin, end; Talmud, Sanhedrin 98a, and Rashi ad loc, s.v. lema’an yirbu yemeichem…).

So since the Shema is the quintessential Jewish proclamation of faith, it is inherently interconnected with the Holy Temple, whose very existence symbolises redemption and whose destruction epitomises exile. “It is good to give thanks to Hashem, and to sing praise to Your Name, O Most High; to speak in the morning of Your loving-kindness, and Your faith in the nights” says King David (Psalms 92:2-3). Morning – the bright sunshine of redemption, the time when the Holy Temple stands – is the time to speak of G-d’s loving-kindness. During the long, dark night of exile – when the Holy Temple lies in ruins, buried beneath the rubble of idolatry – it is impossible to see G-d’s loving-kindness. In the shadow of the Crusades, in the torture chambers of the Spanish Inquisition, in the blood-soaked fields of Chmielnitzki’s Poland, in the pogroms of Kishinev, in the hideous chambers of Auschwitz, it is impossible to see, or even to speak of, G-d’s loving-kindness. There, in the depths of exile, all we have is faith.

But in the bright morning of redemption, when we return home in freedom to our own Land, when we defeat our enemies who come to exterminate us – that is the time to speak of G-d’s loving-kindness.

And the Shema stands by us throughout: “you shall teach [these words] to your sons, speaking of them while you are dwelling in your home” – while you live in peace in your homeland, in Israel; “and while you are walking along the way” – wandering through exile, to the furthest corners of the earth; “and when you lie down” – when your time comes to return your soul to its Maker and to sleep in the dust, you will still keep the faith; “and when you rise up” – in the time of the Resurrection of the dead.

So this is the connexion between reciting the Shema and the Temple sacrifice. Start to proclaim faith in G-d “from the time that the Kohanim [Priests] enter [the Holy Temple] to eat of the terumah [the Priestly dues]” – which is the time of sunset, the end of the daylight of freedom, the very end of independence, immediately before the onset of the night of exile, while the Holy Temple is – just about – still standing.
And continue with this faith “until the end of the first watch, according to Rabbi Eliezer”.
The night was divided into three watches; Rabbi Eliezer’s declaration of faith endures for the first third of the night. Whenever the Talmud quotes Rabbi Eliezer without defining which Rabbi Eliezer, it always refers to Rabbi Eliezer ben Horkanos, the son-in-law of Rabban Gamliel the Elder. And Rabbi Eliezer ben Horkanos, known as Rabbi Eliezer the Great, was the rabbi and mentor of Rabbi Akiva (Jerusalem Talmud, Pesachim 6:3) – the great leader and visionary who tried, with his legendary general, Shimon Bar Kochba, to bring the redemption. He failed – a tragic, magnificent failure – a failure that included an unprecedented victory against the Roman Empire, a military victory that no other nation in the world would ever match, a victory that would restore Jewish sovereignty to Israel for three years. Rabbi Eliezer was the man who, with his friend and colleague Rabbi Yehoshua ben Hananya, smuggled Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai out of Jerusalem during the destruction of the Holy Temple (Gittin 56a) in a desperate attempt to salvage something from the wreckage wrought by the Romans. Rabbi Eliezer, who saw the Holy Temple in its final days, who lived through its destruction, and was so connected with the redemption but failed to actualise it, accompanies us for the first third of the long night of exile.
“And the Sages say, until midnight” – the Sages support us for the first half of the night.
“Rabban Gamliel says: Until the first hint of dawn” – Rabban Gamliel still stands by our side, accompanying us throughout the long, wearying night of exile. Whenever the Talmud quotes Rabban Gamliel without further definition, it always refers to Rabban Gamliel II, the grandson of Rabban Gamliel the Elder. Rabban Gamliel II was the grandfather of Rabbi Yehudah the Nasi (“Prince” – i.e. head of the Sanhedrin), who redacted the Mishnah. Rabban Gamliel II was appointed Nasi about two years after the destruction of the Holy Temple (Tosafot to Shabbat 54b, s.v. Hava me’aser). His father, Rabban Shimon, was murdered in Kiddush Hashem by the Romans (Sotah 48b and Sanhedrin 11a with Rashi ad loc); Rabban Gamliel named his son Shimon after his father. It was Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai who selected Rabban Gamliel as Nasi, because Rabban Gamliel was the direct male-line descendant of Hillel, who was in turn a direct descendant of King David (Jerusalem Talmud, Ta’anit 4:2). Hence he represented – and still represents – the unbroken link from before the destruction of the Holy Temple, from before the onset of the night of exile, to the sunrise of the final redemption.
The dispute as to the correct time to recite the Shema is between Rabbi Eliezer and Rabban Gamliel; and there is a halachic principle that in every dispute between Rabbi Eliezer and Rabban Gamliel, the halachah always follows Rabban Gamliel. We have been saying the Shema – declaring our faith in Hashem throughout the horrifyingly long and wearying night of exile, until – in the words of Rabban Gamliel – “until the first hint of dawn”. The dawn has already broken, and the time of morning has come to speak of Hashem’s loving-kindness.
The second Mishnah continues: “From what time do we read the Shema of the Morning Service? – From the time that one can distinguish between techelet and white” (Berachot 1:2). “There is no Torah like the Torah of the Land of Israel” (Leviticus Rabbah 13:5; Yalkut Shimoni, Bereishit 22), because Torah learnt in the Land of Israel is the Torah of redemption, whereas Torah learnt elsewhere is Torah of exile. That is why Rabbi Zeira, when he made Aliyah from Babylon, fasted one hundred fasts to forget all the Torah he had learnt in Babylon (Ketuvot 112a, Bava Metzi’a 85a). And just as the Torah of Eretz Yisra’el is incomparably greater than the Torah of exile, so too is the Shema of redemption incomparably greater than the Shema of exile.
The dawn has begun to break, and we are poised on the verge of reciting, after 2,000 years, the Shema of the Morning of Redemption. And the recital of the Shema is inextricably intertwined with the service of the Holy Temple: as long as it has not been rebuilt, all our service is defective. “Every generation in whose days the Holy Temple is not rebuilt is considered as though they had destroyed it” (Jerusalem Talmud, Yoma 1:1). Harsh words indeed! Why should a generation be considered as though they had destroyed the Holy Temple just because it had not been rebuilt in their days? The Midrash explains: “What is the reason? – Because they had not repented” (Yalkut Shimoni, Psalms 886). Had our generation – we personally – done true teshuva, then the Holy Temple would already have been rebuilt.
We have nurtured this faith for thousands of years, while we walked along the way in a hundred countries of exile. And now we are to speak of this faith while we are once again dwelling in our home in the Land of Israel. The time has long since come for us all do genuine teshuva, to proclaim the Shema of complete faith, to proclaim the Shema of the morning of redemption, to put the long night of exile behind us, and to allow the sunlight of Mashiach to burst forth over the rebuilt Holy Temple, from there to illuminate Zion and the whole of Israel, “in order that your days and your children’s days be prolonged on the Land which Hashem swore to your fathers to give them, as the days of heaven above the earth”.
SHABBAT SHALOM

18.8.08

"Medinat Yehuda" Tees

B"H

Heart-warming "Medinat Yehuda" or "Torah State" T-Shirts and car flags (with the menorah in the middle) are now available from this sender or call 054 681 4640 from Israel, +972546814640 from outside of Israel.
Please diffuse this message to your Jewish relatives, friends, mailing lists and blogs. As Arab murderers like Kuntar keep walking out from prison unharmed, the emphasis is on "unharmed", "Never Again" is happening right now, under our very noses. So, let's act now and in a generally visible, public way.
Ariel Ben Yochanan (Andras Bereny)Kfar Tapuah, Efraim44829 Israel
Find Me On Facebook:http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=805815075
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15.8.08

Parshat Va'Eschanan - G-d's Peace Plan For The Jewish People

B"H

Parshat Va'Eschanan - G-d's Peace Plan For The Jewish People

Deut
7:1
When God your Lord brings you to the land you are entering, so that you can occupy it, He will uproot many nations before you - the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizites, Hivites and Yebusites - seven nations more numerous and powerful than you are.
7:2
When God your Lord places them at your disposal and you defeat them, you must utterly destroy them, not making any treaty with them or giving them any consideration.
7:3
Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons, and do not take their daughters for your sons.
7:4
[If you do], they will lead your children away from Me, causing them to worship other gods. God will then display His anger against you, and you will quickly be destroyed.
7:5
What you must do to them is tear down their altars, break their sacred pillars, cut down their Asherah trees, and burn their idols in fire.
7:6
You are a nation consecrated to God your Lord. God your Lord chose you to be His special people among all the nations on the face of the earth.
7:7
It was not because you had greater numbers than all the other nations that God embraced you and chose you; you are among the smallest of all the nations.
7:8
It was because of God's love for you, and because He was keeping the oath that He made to your fathers. God therefore brought you out with a mighty hand, liberating you from the slave house, [and] from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
7:9
You must realize that God your Lord is the Supreme Being. He is the faithful God, who keeps in mind [His] covenant and love for a thousand generations when it comes to those who love Him and keep His commandments.
7:10
But He pays back His enemies to their face to destroy them. He does not delay the payment that He gives His enemies to their face.
7:11
So safeguard the mandate, the rules and laws that I am teaching you today, so that you will keep them.
Rewards for Obedience

12.8.08

"Splitting" water. Is it possible or a hoax?

B"H

See the video and decide for yourself. I say it's a hoax. Why do I think so? Because of what's written on the side of the "water-powered" car: a lie (at the begining of part two - second video).





Israel at the olympics

B"H

The whole idea of partecipating in an olympics is Hellenistic per definition. If Jews understood the meaning of what is Jewish, they stayed at home, building the Temple.

- First published at
http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3580682,00.html, talkback # 5

5.8.08

If we do not open our eyes

B"H

If we do not open our eyes by Ariel Ben Yochanan

You close your piece Moshe by saying: "If we do not open our eyes and reject these Christian groups and their money, we will all pay the price".Agreed! So, let me say to you and to your followers this: if we don't open our eyes and reject your attempt to siphon good Jewish energies to prop up your Likud fraction and by doing so a party-system that has nothing to do with Jewish tradition and with Jewish values and with the Jewish Law, if we don't reject your using us to support a Hellenistic system, than yes, we will all pay a heavy price. Where does the Torah tell us to divide ourselves into part-ies and elect ourselves a knesset of Jews and Arabs that sits in the morning and sits in the evening to give us laws that may or may not respect the Torah? Where in the Talmud you read about a "prime minister"? Come on Moshe, how can you call your movement "Jewish" and build Hellas with it?
With other words, if you don't recognize that what we need is institutional discontinuity, instead of the "democrtic change" you are proposing, you will not turn the State of the Jews into a Jewish State. the best you'll achieve is to turn the State of the Jews into a State of Feiglin. Should honest Jews want this? I bieleve not. Why? Because it is just another lie that has nothing to do with the State the Torah wants us to build. Democracy may be good for America, for the nations. The Jews are told to do something else. We are given three national mitzvot upon entering the Land: to appoint a king, to annihilate Amalek's seed and to build the Temple. There is no mention of "prime minister" and "knesset" and "likud" and "party". Stop confusing the Jewish People, Moshe!

This comment was first published at http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/8152 #2 and #4

1.8.08

Parshat Mas'ei by Daniel Pinner

B"H

Parashat Mas’ei:
After the wandering

“Hashem spoke to Moshe in the plains of Moab, by the Jordan at Jericho, saying: Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them: When you cross the Jordan into the Land of Canaan, you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the Land before you; and you shall destroy all their houses of worship, and all their metal idols shall you destroy; and all their high altars shall you demolish. And you will inherit the Land and will dwell in it; because it is to you that I have given the Land to inherit. And you will settle the Land as an inheritance, dividing it up by lot among your families – to the greater you will give a greater inheritance, and to the smaller you will give a smaller inheritance. Wherever it turns out for him, there will his lot be; you will settle your inheritance by your fathers’ tribes. But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the Land before you, then those of them whom you leave will become thistles in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they will harass you on the Land wherein you dwell. And it will happen that what I planned to do to them, I will do to you” (Numbers 33:50-56).

Our Parashah opens by recapping the entire desert trek from Egypt to the threshold of Israel: “They journeyed from Rameses in the first month, on the fifteenth of the first month; the day after the Pesach-sacrifice, the Children of Israel left” (33:3). The subsequent forty-seven verses detail the forty-two journeys (or stages of the journey) to this site, on the banks of the River Jordan, facing Jericho. Now, in the final few weeks before returning to the Land of Israel, in the final few weeks before the forty-year long desert trek is over, in the final few weeks of Moshe’s life, the Torah sees fit to recount all forty-two stations along the way. As the Midrash so movingly allegorises, “Throughout those forty years that you were in the desert, I ensured that you had nothing to flee from; rather, I cast down all your enemies before you just by being with you. And more than this – the place was full of snakes and fiery serpents and scorpions, as the Torah (Deuteronomy 8:15) says, ‘snakes and fiery serpents and scorpions’; yet I did not allow any of these to harm you. And thus G-d told Moshe: Write down the journeys that Israel made in the desert, so that they may know what miracles I wrought for them… This is like a king whose son was ill; he took him to a distant place to cure him, and on their return journey, the father started recounting all their journeys, saying: Here we slept, here we cooled ourselves, here you felt pains in your head. Thus did G-d tell Moshe: Recount for them all the places wherein they angered Me” (Numbers Rabbah 23:1-3; Tanchuma, Mas’ei 1-3).

And immediately following this, G-d commands us how to behave when we enter the Land, barely more than a month in the future: “When you cross the Jordan into the Land of Canaan, you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the Land before you; and you shall destroy all their houses of worship, and all their metal idols shall you destroy; and all their high altars shall you demolish”. At this juncture – on the threshold of redemption – the preciousness of the Land of Israel, and how we are to live in it, had to be instilled in this generation that had been born and brought up in the desert. And commensurate with this comes the stark warning: “But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the Land before you, then those of them whom you leave will become thistles in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they will harass you on the Land wherein you dwell”.

The Ohr ha-Chayyim (Rabbi Chayyim ben Attar, Morocco and Jerusalem 1696-1743), gives a crucial insight, chilling in its incisiveness. On the words “…you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the Land before you,” he expounds: “Since the Torah (Deuteronomy 20:16) commands, concerning the seven Canaanite nations, that ‘you shall not allow any soul to remain alive,’ it is apparent that here the Torah speaks of other nations than those seven Canaanite nations who were here then. So the Torah is precise in its wording, specifying that we are to ‘drive out all the inhabitants of the Land’ – saying that this applies even to those inhabitants who are not of the seven Canaanite nations”.

And he gives the reason for expelling all the inhabitants when commenting on the words “they will harass you on the Land wherein you dwell”: “Not only will they cling to that part of the Land that you did not merit to conquer; but even in those parts of the Land that you did merit to conquer and wherein you dwell they will harass you, saying: Get up, get out from our midst”. Little wonder that the Ohr ha-Chayyim is reputed to have written his commentary with Ruach ha-Kodesh (“divine inspiration”)! Two and a half centuries ago, he already warned us of precisely what is happening in Israel today. You may live in part of the Land of Israel – but if you allow the inhabitants to remain in Shechem, their suicide terrorists will blow you apart at the hitch-hiking station in Jewish-inhabited French Hill in Jerusalem; if you allow them to remain in Tulkarem, they will massacre you in the Park Hotel in the Jewish city of Netanya; if you allow them to live in Jebel Mukhabber, they will crush you to death in Jaffa Street in the heart of Jerusalem.

And this is a particularly grim example of the principle of measure-for-measure: our disloyalty to the Land inevitably brings the Land’s disloyalty upon us. The Ohr ha-Chayyim continues: “the word al (‘on,’ in the phrase ‘they will harass you on the Land’) means ‘because of,’ as in the verse ‘because (“al”) you did not sanctify Me’ (Deuteronomy 32:51)”. That is to say, the Ohr ha-Chayyim renders this verse: “If you do not drive out the inhabitants of the Land before you, then those of them whom you leave will become thistles in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they will harass you because of the Land”. We will be harassed, massacred, blown apart, because of the Land to which we are disloyal.

Or, in the telegraphically brief, but oh-so-insightful comment of Rashi: “‘And you will settle the Land as an inheritance’ – you will disinherit it from its inhabitants, and then you will dwell in it, you will be able to exist in it. And if not, you will not be able to exist in it”.

All this gives a particularly poignant understanding to the Ramban’s commentary: “‘You will inherit the Land and will dwell in it,’ because to you have I given the Land to inherit. In my opinion, this is a positive commandment – He commands them to dwell in the Land and to inherit it, because He gave it to them, and they are not to despise G-d’s portion. And those who consider going to conquer Shinar [modern day Iraq] or Assyria [modern-day Iran/northern Turkey] or any other countries and living there are transgressing G-d’s command” (Commentary to verse 53).
Central to this is the command that “you shall destroy all their houses of worship, and all their metal idols shall you destroy; and all their high altars shall you demolish” (Numbers 33:52). For “houses of worship,” the Torah here uses the word maskiyotam. There are slightly differing opinions regarding the precise meaning of the word maskit (though all agree that it is something used in idol worship). Both the Targum Onkelos and the Targum Yonatan render “their houses of worship,” using the Aramaic phrase beit sig’dat’hon, from the root seged (“to bow in worship”). (The parallel Arabic root is sajid [“to bow in worship”], giving the Arabic word masjid [“place of worship,” hence “mosque”].)
Rashi amplifies that the word maskiyotam is to be understood “according to the Targum – their houses of worship, which are given this name because [the idolaters] would cover [sakhakh, the root of maskit] the ground with a floor of marble stones, upon which they would bow down with hands and feet outstretched”.

This is the most fundamental issue of the struggle between the Nation of Israel and all other nations who occupy the Land of Israel: it is the conflict between the G-d of Israel and the false gods of those nations, and as such it is the essence of Kiddush Hashem (“sanctification of the Name of G-d”). For the houses of worship of the inhabitants of the Land to remain – even when they themselves have been vanquished – entails their false gods to remain; the destruction of their houses of worship by the people of Israel at the command of the G-d of Israel is the essence of the might and the supremacy of the G-d of Israel.

Immediately following this command, the Torah defines the borders of Israel (34:1-12), and then how to apportion the Land among the twelve tribes (34:13-35:15) including the six cities of refuge, leading very naturally to the definition of how the cities of refuge are to be governed (35:16-32). The reason that the Torah defines Israel’s borders is, as Rashi (commentary to 34:2, based on Gittin 8a-b) explains: “Because many of the Mitzvot apply within the Land and do not apply outside of the Land, it was necessary to write the borders of the surrounding edge, telling you that from inside these borders these Mitzvot apply”.

But even before knowing the precise borders of the Land, the Torah had to give us this most fundamental of precepts – more fundamental even than the other Mitzvot which are dependent upon the Land of Israel. Because as long as we allow the hostile inhabitants to remain in the Land, not only is our observance of all the Mitzvot inherently defective; our very existence throughout the Land is precarious.

And to understand this, we do not need the explanations and commentaries of Rashi, Ramban, or the Ohr ha-Chayyim; we need look no further than tomorrow morning’s newspaper headlines.
SHABBAT SHALOM