Parshas Devorim 5757 - '97
Outline # 46
Ramban states that the fifth book of the Torah was addressed to the new generation, who would be entering the Land. He notes that there are some new mitzvos here, not previously discussed, even though all the commandments were given earlier. Ramban offers two suggestions as to why these mitzvos have not been discussed previously: 1. Perhaps these mitzvos would only be obligatory upon arrival in the Land, and 2. those laws which were not so common, were only mentioned at the end of the forty years in the desert.
Several commentaries challenge the Ramban's statements, notably the Radbaz and Abarvanel. See Kli Chemdah, where these issues are discussed at length.
One of the difficulties raised: What do these additional commandments have to do with the Land? There is a rule that laws dealing with land, i.e. agricultural rulings, are generally only in Eretz Yisrael. However, the new laws here include marriage and divorce and various other laws that have nothing to do with agriculture!
However, Ramban stated his opinion previously, especially in parshas Acharei. The Forefathers only considered themselves obligated in mitzvos in the Holy Land. For this reason, Ramban explained, Yaakov was able to marry two sisters in the Diaspora, but upon his entrance into Eretz Yisrael, Rochel died.
Rav Elchanan Wassermann explained: There are two aspects of the mitzvos. 1. The reason for the mitzvah. 2. The legal requirement. The Patriarchs lived before the Torah was legally binding. Therefore, they only kept the commandments because they perceived the reason; the reasons only applied in Eretz Yisrael. Once the Torah was commanded at Sinai, there is a legal obligation to keep the commandments which is not dependent on locale. (Kovetz Shiurim, end of Kidushin).
Rambam wrote in Mishnah Torah: Before the Torah, a man and a woman would meet, they would go home and become man and wife. Once the Torah was given, it commanded us to behave in a more civilized manner, with a marriage ceremony, called Kidushin -- "sanctification."
Before Torah, the marriage was more of a convenience. Marriages could be made quickly, and dissolved quickly. The formal procedures of Kidushin -- marriage -- and Gitin -- divorce -- add structure, security, and, indeed -- sanctity -- to the family.
Rav Chayim of Brisk (quoted in Moadim Uzmanim) described Yaakov's marriage of two sisters. Certain relationships are prohibited because of incest, that is, the partner is already a relative. Certain relationships, however, are only forbidden because of the marriage agreement. For example, two sisters: the marriage of each sister would have been acceptable, but once one sister is married to a man, the second sister becomes prohibited because of her sister's previous marriage.
It is only the formal institution of the Kidushin -- marriage -- that prevents a man from having a relationship with two sisters. Yaakov did not yet have the institution of Kidushin -- marriage -- before the Torah was commanded. The laws of the Torah were not yet in effect. Even if the Forefathers kept the concept of the mitzvos, the legal procedures did not yet take effect; that is, marriage and divorce had no technical applications as yet. (In fact, Rashi in Chayei Sarah, and Da'as Zekeinim in Vayeisheiv, state that the marriage ceremony was held by the Patriarchs and Yaakov's sons. It is only that the full legal consequences had no meaning as yet.)
How fascinating that Ramban, at the beginning of our discussion, associated Kidushin with entrance into Eretz Yisrael, the Holy Land. Only when the Jewish People came into the Land, did the Torah institute the sanctification of marriage. The Holy status of the Holy People, first became fully operative in the Holy Land.
The Ninth of Av -- The Loss of Sanctity
We have struggled for centuries to maintain dignity and sanctity, without the holiness of the Holy Land. Our Prophets and Teachers have helped us to keep the picture of our Forefathers and Sages before us. Yet, the breakdown of the basic institutions of family life is apparent. Relationships are taken lightly. Commitments are not made, or if they are made, remain lip service.
Our services, too, remain lip services, but not the service of the heart, tefilah -- prayer. Oh yes, we have the Holy Land -- but it is not so Holy. We use it for political, social gains, but not for its holy purpose. Even the cries of "Save the Holy Land" are often politically twisted. We need a fresh infusion of Kedushah -- Sanctity -- and a renewed appreciation of the ancient institutions of the Holy People in the Holy Land.
Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
1 Babbin Court
Spring Valley, NY 10977
Text Copyright © '97 Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein and Project Genesis, Inc.
Copyright © '97 Project Genesis, Inc.email@example.com
3600 Crondall Lane, Suite 106
Owings Mills, MD 21117
Last Revision: January 27, '97