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Torah Dialogue: Eikev

08/05/2020 01:45:30 PM


Rabbi Edward Davis

SHABBAT SHALOM. Today is 18 Av 5780.

EIKEV   Deuteronomy 7:12
Compiled by Rabbi Edward Davis (RED)

1.    In the beginning of Parshat Eikev, the Torah describes the Promised Land as a fabulous, endowed country, blessed with water, fruit, and grain, mines with copper and iron. The fact that the Torah does not mention citrus fruit is not a concern. We see today that the land has some beautiful fruit that is not mentioned, and this is of no concern because the fruits that are mentioned are better for you. The Abravanel has an interesting comment when he quotes a doctor who stated that these Biblical foods mentioned here are the prime foods which will heal any disease. He adds that Eretz Yisrael is a special country that does not require anything to be imported from outside the country. [Two thousand years ago, Israel was exporting olive oil to Rome, which had not yet become an olive producer. Imagine shopping in a Roman market place and seeing Israeli olive oil at the turn of the millennia. The Jews were proud! But it allowed the Romans to get to know the land of Israel well enough to invade it and conquer it very soon thereafter.] (RED)

2.     Some countries have grain but lack money, and others have money but have little grain. The Abravanel mentions that in his time Venice and Barcelona have much money but very little grain. But Eretz Yisrael lacks nothing. It has food plus mines that will provide copper and iron. We know from the Biblical text what construction was like in Egypt: they made bricks from straw and used the bricks to construct homes and storage facilities. In Eretz Yisrael they were able to use metal in their construction, making buildings stronger. According to the Ramban’s interpretation of the Targum Yerushalmi, the Torah praises Eretz Yisrael for having quarries of large granite rocks, from which they will be able to build houses, walls, and guard towers. Not having gold and silver in the Land was not seen as a deficiency, as they are luxuries and not necessities.

3.     In Eretz Yisrael there are no rivers to water the fields as there are in Egypt. Egypt relies heavily on the Nile for their water source. Israel is dependent on rain as the primary watering source for its agriculture. This is obviously to teach the people to be dependent on the Almighty for its water. The second paragraph of the Shema (also in this Parsha) specifically states and links rainfall to our obedience to Hashem’s Torah. The Biblical narrative discusses the water issue in the Land. Digging for water was prevalent throughout the land, as the rainwater collected in underground wells. Water in Yerushalayim was an essential issue. We see this when Scripture describes to us that King Chizkiyahu rechanneled the Gichon to be the main fresh water supply to the Old. City of Yerushalayim. (II Divrei HaYamim 32:30).

4.     A further blessing in the Torah: the Oznayim LaTorah states that it is known that doctors tell us to cut down on the eating of bread, as it is fattening. (The Oznayim LaTorah, Rav Sorotzkin, wrote this in the middle of the 20th century.) This is not true of the bread of Eretz Yisrael. This bread has no ill effects on the body. One is able to eat it even without cutting down. Rav Sorotzkin lived in Eretz Yisrael, but I read his comment in disbelief. I do not believe in the powers of nature taking a vacation in Israel. I believe rather in the comments of the Sefat Emmet, that there is a special dimension in eating in Israel. Usually, when one eats too much, he becomes engrossed in materialism, but this is not true for the bread in Eretz Yisrael. There is no cause for concern; one can eat in Eretz Yisrael without becoming engrossed in materialism. (RED)

5.     The source for the Mitzvah of Bensching, saying the Grace after Meals, is in this Parshah when the Torah says: You shall eat, be satisfied, and bless the Lord your God on the Land which Hashem gives to you (8:10). This is a Mitzvah not  dependent upon the Land of Israel. The latter part of the verse is a blessing to us and not part of the commandment (Torah Temimah). Bensching is like other Mitzvot that are on our personal bodies regardless of where we are living. (I believe there is a mistake in a Rashi in the second paragraph of the Shema where he says that Tephilin and Mezuzah are not Mitzvot that are incumbent upon Jews living outside of Eretz Yisrael. I saw in a Sefer that the original text had a Hebrew abbreviation, T”uM, which was interpreted as Tephilin and Mezuzah. But it really should be interpreted as Terumah and Maaser, since blessing Hashem for the food and benefitting our bodies is not dependent on where we eat, it of course is an obligation everywhere.

6.     “Remember and Do Not Forget...” (9:7). What is the difference between the two verbs, remember and don’t forget? In the Midrash (beginning of Bechukotai) it says that remembering is done orally, it must be articulated. Do not forget is limited to what is in your heart. I understand that Remembering the Shabbat is performed every Friday evening when I say Kiddush. Remembering what Amalek did is performed once a year when we read Parshat Amalek before Purim. I guess the other four Biblical mandated “Remembers” are fulfilled with the public reading of the Torah, also once a year. In most Siddurim, after the daily Shacharit, is a list of the six items that we are required to remember. Kabbalistic Rabbis wrote that we should say these remembrances each day after morning prayers. I guess this is their source for this statement.

7.     The Torah says that Moshe Rabbeinu prayed to Hashem in defense of Bnei Yisrael in the aftermath of the sin of the Golden Calf for forty days and forty nights atop Mt. Sinai. The Talmud (Berachot 34a) states that once a Chazzan was very long in davening his Amidah, and the people complained to Rabbi Eliezer, and he replied that he wasn’t as long as Moshe when he prayed for forty days. On another occasion, a Chazzan was too fast, and Rabbi Eliezer said that he wasn’t as short as Moshe when he prayed for his sister before Hashem and said just five words. I guess the upshot is that the occasion should dictate the time it takes to pray. When the Jews exited Egypt and found themselves between the Sea and the oncoming Egyptians, Hashem told Moshe not to pray so much. Now is the time to move on. The occasion does indicate the time we spend in prayer. (RED)

ISAIAH  49:14

    In our haftorah, Isaiah suffers physical persecution, and perhaps it is necessary to experience this form of suffering in order for him to feel how God must feel when He is treated so poorly by people in this world.  So did Hoshea have to experience faithlessness in his marriage in order to feel the pain of the faithlessness practiced towards God. These prophets were strong and had unshakable trust in God; they endured the physical trials and the still harder mental ones.  Isaiah's opponents did the same thing to him that contemporary enemies do:  If you cannot refute the words of your opponent, raise suspicions about his personality.  Lashon Hara, evil talk, is extremely damaging and frequently not answerable.  To withstand these types of accusations requires tremendous inner strength.  (Hirsch)  On the modern scene, the nations of the world treat tiny Israel the way Isaiah's opponents treated him.  When possible, they attempt physical harm.  Furthermore, they raise moral and ethical accusations about Israel's conduct.  Somehow, other nations are permitted to act as immorally as they please.  Israel, on the other hand, is pressed and accused of all kinds of wrongs; moral, ethical, and physical. (RED)

Wed, October 28 2020 10 Cheshvan 5781