It will be when you enter the Land that G-d… (Devarim 26:1)
This week’s parshah begins simply enough, with the mitzvah of bikurim, the mitzvah to bring one’s first fruits up to the Temple as part of a thanksgiving ceremony to G-d. On the heels of this is a recounting of the journey of the Jewish people from oppression to freedom, a confession regarding the taking of tithes from the produce of the Land, and a reminder that G-d and Israel are inseparable.
Then, comes the second and final set of blessings and curses (the first set was given in Parashas Bechukosai), which all of a sudden renders the previous section out of place. For, the previous parshah ended with the mitzvah to remember what Amalek did to the Jewish people on our way out of Egypt, and as Rashi says:
Amalek is a ‘punishing strap’ for Israel, always ready for punishment. (Rashi, Bamidbar 21:1)
In other words, if, G-d forbid, the Jewish people need to undergo any aspect of the curses enumerated in this week’s parshah, Amalek is bound to be involved in the process in one way or another. If so, then why separate the parshah of Amalek from the parshah of the curses with a section about living in Eretz Yisroel?
For the Vilna Gaon, this was not a question because he saw the connection between last week’s parshah and this week’s parshah:
“Regarding himself, our teacher found his name alluded to in the posuk [containing the words] “evven shlaimah v’tzedek” (“a perfect and righteous stone,” Devarim 25:15); the head-letters of which (aleph-bais-nun) allude to ‘Eliyahu ben’Š”
In other words, the ‘alpeh’ of ‘evven’ is the first letter of ‘Eliyahu,’ and the ‘bais-nun’ of ‘evven’ spell the word ‘ben’ (son of). The letters of ‘shlaimah’ can also be pronounced:
“…’Shlomo’ (the name of his father was Shlomo Zalman).”
Thus, “evven shlaimah” was an allusion to the Vilna Gaon himself, Eliyahu ben Shlomo. This posuk appears in the parshah that corresponds to the one hundred year period in which the Gaon lived, since Sefer Devarim is considered to correspond to the sixth millennium, one parshah for each one hundred years. (Nitzavim and Vayailech are usually read together each year.)
“The next verse is about eradicating Amalek, and immediately after that is written, ‘It will be when you enter the Land,’ that is, [during the time of] ‘Kibbutz Golios’ (Ingathering of the Exiles).” (Kol HaTor, Chapter 3:5)
Which, of course, is the main thrust against Amalek, which is why he fights so vehemently against aliyah (see the Shem M’Shmuel, Balak), either by stopping the process whenever and wherever he can, or through physical and/or spiritual intimidation. The reason of which will be the subject of the next d’var Torah, b’ezras Hashem.
It will be when you enter the Land that G-d, your G-d, gives you as an INHERITANCE, and you POSSESS it, and DWELL in it… (Devarim 26:1)
All reasons, excuses, and rationalizations aside, here is what holds back aliyah to Eretz Yisroel, and as we shall soon see, redemption itself. The Vilna Gaon said:
“ŠIf it is/was possible to bring 600,000 Jews AT ONE TIME [to INHERIT Eretz Yisroel], it would have to be done immediately, because this number is a great and perfect strength to neutralize the Sitra Achra (opposing angel) at the gates of Jerusalem. As a result, THE REDEMPTION WOULD BE COMPLETED IMMEDIATELY ‘with the clouds of Heaven’ (Sanhedrin 98a). (Kol HaTor, Chapter 1:5)
That is, b’achishenah (early) as the Talmud reveals:
Rebi Alexandri said: Rebi Yehoshua ben Levi raised the following contradiction: It is written, “I, the Lord, will hasten (achishenah) it in its time (bittah)” (Yeshayahu 60:22). “Hasten” and “in its time” contradict each other. [Rather, G-d is saying that,] “If they merit it, I will hasten it, and if they do not, then only at the appointed time.” Rebi Alexandri said: Rebi Yehoshua ben Levi raised the following contradiction: It says, “Behold like the clouds of Heaven came one like the son of man” (Daniel 7:13). It is also written, “Lowly and riding upon a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9). If they merit it, he will arrive with the clouds of Heaven, but if they do not merit it, he will come upon a donkey.
If only the children of Reuvain and the children of Gad had known all of this. However, instead it says:
The children of Reuvain and the children of Gad had abundant livestock – very great. They saw the land of Ya’azer and the land of Gilad and behold – the place was a place for livestock. The children of Gad and the children of Reuvain came and said to Moshe and Elazar the Kohen, and to the leaders of the assembly, saying, “Ataros, and Divon, and Ya’azer, and Nimrah, and Cheshbon, and Elaleh, and Sevam, and Nevo, and Be’on – the land that G-d smote before the assembly of Israel – it is a land for livestock, and your servants have livestock.” They said, “If we have found favor in your eyes, let this land be given to your servants as a heritage; do not bring us across the Jordan.”, “We shall not return to our homes until the Children of Israel will have inherited – every man his inheritance – for WE SHALL NOT INHERIT WITH THEM across the Jordan and beyond, for our inheritance has come to us on the east bank of the Jordan.” (Bamidbar 32:1-19)
To which the Midrash says:
‘Likewise, there were two wealthy people in the world, one from Israel and one from the nations of the world. Korach was from Israel and Haman was from the nations of the world, and both were lost. Why? Because their gifts were not from The Holy One, Blessed is He, but seized. It was similar with the people of Gad and Reuvain who were wealthy with large herds. They valued them much and as a result they settled outside of Israel. Therefore, they were the first to be exiled of all the tribes, as it says, “They exiled Reuvain, Gad, and the half-tribe of Menashe” (I Divrei HaYamim 5:26). What caused this? They separated themselves from their brothers because of their property. How do we know this? It says, “There was a lot of cattle belonging to the people of Reuvain'” (Bamidbar 32:1). (Bamidbar Rabbah 22:7)
In other words, when Assyria came and attacked the Jewish people in the year 3205 (555 BCE), the first of the ten tribes to be exiled were the tribes of Gad, Reuvain, and Menashe (a half-tribe), because they chose exile over Eretz Yisroel. Thus, when they made their request to live in ‘Chutz L’Aretz,’ they had not known that they had set in motion the very first exile from the land – 717 years before it actually came about – and therefore, all subsequent exiles until Moshiach finally comes and antiquates the concept of exile once-and-for-all.
Powerful, very powerful, especially when one considers that the gematria of “I will inherit” (aleph-yud-raish-shin-nun-heh) is equal to “Moshiach Ben Yosef,” as the Vilna Gaon points out.
Perhaps, even more powerful is that, coincidentally – and we do NOT believe in coincidences (Chullin 7b) – encoded in the text of the request of Reuvain and Gad are the words ‘Kibbutz Golios’ (Ingathering of the Exiles) and the word ‘achishenah’ (hasten), the specific term the prophet used to describe the early arrival of the Final Redemption. And, as if to round things off, the latter ‘code’ uses a skip of twenty-five letters, the number that represents the supernal light with which G-d made creation, and with which, Kabbalah teaches, He will also bring the Final Redemption.
Too good to be true? No one understands the words of the Vilna Gaon, the subject of the next vort, b’ezras Hashem Yisborach.
It will be when you enter the Land that G-d, your G-d, gives you as an inheritance, and you possess it, and dwell in it, that you will take of the first fruit of the ground that you bring in from your Land that G-d, your G-d gives you. (Devarim 26:1)
“[It] is written, ‘It will be when you enter the Land,’ that is, [during the time of] ‘Kibbutz Golios’ (Ingathering of the Exiles).” This is similar to the posuk, ‘When you shall come to the Land and you shall plantŠ’ (Vayikra 19:23); i.e., in order to fulfill those mitzvos that depend upon the Land. Thus, Chazal have said that Kibbutz Golios depends upon ‘Birchas HaShanim’ (Megillah 17b).” (Kol HaTor, Chapter 3:5)
When analyzing the order of the blessings of the Shemonah Esrai, the Talmud asks why the blessing regarding the ingathering of the exiles follows the blessing of ‘Birchas HaShanim,’ which implores G-d to make the produce of Eretz Yisroel bountiful. The Talmud answers itself with the following posuk about the time of redemption:
“But you, O mountains of Israel, will give forth your branch and bear your fruit for My people, Israel, for they are soon to come.” (Yechezkel 36:8)
Thus, according to the prophet, Eretz Yisroel will first begin to yield produce once again, after being desolate for so many centuries, after which Kibbutz Golios can, and will begin. Therefore, the brochah about Kibbutz Golios follows the brochah about the produce of Eretz Yisroel.
In fact, such physical success is a function of the period of time referred to as ‘Moshiach Ben Yosef’:
“The two moshiachs (Moshiach Ben Yosef and Moshiach Ben Dovid) of each generation are the miraculous abilities that strengthen the Jewish people’s ability to survive, invigorating them each day of exile; the miracles help them throughout the ‘footsteps’ of Moshiach. Moshiach Ben Yosef is the miraculous ability to survive and be strong physically, whereas Moshiach Ben Dovid is that miraculous ability for Israel to survive spiritually, in general and in particular.” (Kol HaTor, Chapter 2:1)
Elsewhere, the Gaon explains:
“They enhance the survival and salvation of Israel in every generation through the sparks of their souls that are within the righteous people who are actively involved in the salvation of Israel and the preparation for redemption, until the Final Redemption. At that time, both moshiachs ‘the wood of YosefŠ and the wood of Yehudah’ (Yechezkel 37:19), will become one, and the eternal Moshiach will be revealed.” (Chazon Tzion, p. 69)
Yosef himself was associated with the blessing of fertility (Rashi, Bereishis 49:25), a concept associated with both fruits of the land and fruits of the womb in this week’s parshah:
Blessed you shall be in the city and blessed you shall be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb, and the fruit of the groundŠ (Devarim 28:3-4)
So, now that we have found a deeper meaning to the first section of this week’s parshah, we still require additional information to use it as a bridge between the ‘curse’ of last week’s parshah, and the curses of this week’s parshah. For some, the connection might already be obvious. For others, it might be too painful to make. Therefore, we will let Rav Yechezkel HaLevi Levenstein, zt”l, famed Moshgiach Ruchani of the Mir Yeshivah of Poland prior to World War II, and of the Mir Yeshivah (Jerusalem) and Ponovezh Yeshivah (B’nei Brak) after the war, says it in his own words.
G-d will return you to Egypt in ships, on the road of which I said to you, “You shall never see it again!” (Devarim 28:68)
G-d forbid! Not only would it lead to extreme physical suffering for our people, but it would also result in extreme mental anguish, for it would represent the ultimate undoing of all the Jewish people for which they had been taken out of Egypt in the first place!
However, why Egypt, of all places? There are plenty of Jewish enemies out there capable of zealously playing the ‘punishing strap’ role of history! What is the middah-k’neged-middah (measure-for-measure) of going back to Egypt, that is, what cause do we have to create to bring about that kind of effect?
Says Rav Levenstein:
“The exodus from Egypt liberated only one out of every five Jews – and some say one out of every fifty – because all those who were bound to Egypt and did not want to depart died in the three days of darkness and were not privileged to leave. That is, only those who desired redemption with all their hearts were redeemed. The Final Redemption, likewise, depends, without exception, upon our yearningŠ Not only this, but the faith exhibited in Egypt had been only that: faith, since they had yet to receive Torah. They only had a tradition from the time of the holy Forefathers upon which to rely. However, we, who have merited to receive the entire Torah, how much more so are we obligated to strengthen ourselves without limit, and anyone who does not believe [in the coming of the redemption] will not merit to be there for his [Moshiach’s] coming.” (Ohr Yechezkel, Emunas HaGeulah, p. 288)
However, Rav Levenstein did not stop there regarding this matter. He also warned:
“The SMo”K (Sefer Mitzvos HaKatan) wrote in his explanation of the Positive Mitzvah of, ‘I am G-d, your G-d, Who took you out of Egypt,’ that it means one must know that the He Who created Heaven and Earth alone controls [the world] above and below. He adds,
This [mitzvah] is the basis for what the rabbis teach: After a person’s death, at the time of his judgment, they ask him, ‘Did you anticipate redemption?’ (Shabbos 31a). Where is this mitzvah written? Actually, it comes from this [same mitzvah], for just as, ‘I am G-d, your G-d, Who took you out of Egypt,’ means that we are expected to believe that G-d redeemed us from Egypt, it also means, ‘Just as I want you to believe that I took you out [from Egypt], I also want you to believe in Me, that I, G-d your G-d, will gather you in and redeem you in mercy a second time.’
According to what he (the SMo”K) has said, belief in the future redemption is part of our faith in, ‘I am G-d, your G-d,’ and thus it is included in the first of the Ten Commandments. However, if we examine ourselves, it seems as if we are very far from having faith in the future redemption. Occasionally we speak about G-d having made Heaven and Earth and that He directs creation. However, when it comes to the arrival of Moshiach and the resurrection of the dead, we are quiet, as if we are embarrassed to speak about them, as if we have given up [on such realities] altogether. However, the words of the SMo”K should arouse trembling in our hearts since they are part of the mitzvah of ‘I am G-d, your G-d.’ And, anyone who is not involved with in these matters will be far from having any true faithŠ And our prayers will only be lip service.” (Ohr Yechezkel, Emunas HaGeulah, 1960; p. 287)
That is just his introduction. He says more, much more – And, he was talking to the great Torah students of Ponovezh Yeshivah in 1960. If they needed such an awakening to the ultimate goals of the Jewish people then, how much more so do we, NOW, in our generation!
In two weeks, G-d willing, a new Jewish year will begin. When 5761 began, the new Intifadah began, and has intensified ever since. The world has changed more in one year, than in the previous decade. As the Torah warns:
Be careful that you do not forget G-d, your G-d, and not keep His commandments, judgments, and ordinances, which I command you this day. Otherwise, once you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built beautiful homes and occupy them; when your herds, your flocks, your silver, and your gold increase, and all that you have increases, then you will become very content, and will forget G-d, your G-d, who brought you out of Egypt, from the land of slavery. It was He who led you through the great and frightening desert, in which there are poisonous snakes and scorpions, and in which water is scarce. He brought you water from a solid rock, and gave you manna to eat while in the desert, something your fathers never experienced. He made life difficult in order to test you, which, in the end, was for your own good. You may think to yourself, “It was my efforts and abilities that made me successful. Remember: G-d, your G-d is the One who makes you successful, in order to fulfill the covenant about which He swore to your fathers. (Devarim 8:11-18)
On that day, G-d made a covenant with Avram, saying, “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the EuphratesŠ” (Bereishis 15:18-19)
No, not the United States, Canada, England, South Africa, but ERETZ YISROEL.
Have a great Shabbos,
K’siva u’chasimah tovah,