The Forty-sixth Sedra
16-22 Av 5781
FROM THE TORAH
In Sedra Eykev, Moses emphasizes the linkage between Israel’s future settlement in Canaan, as promised by the Eternal, and the people’s faithfulness to the Mitzvah, as commanded by Him. The relationship is expressed as a covenant between the God of all and the particular people that He has chosen to replace the incumbent nations of Canaan. All of the signs and wonders witnessed in the wilderness by what is now the older generation have been intended to train it to acknowledge God’s role as Provider of instruction and discipline. Although Israel has shown itself to be “stiff-necked” in its response to God’s demand for exclusive allegiance, Moses remains the people’s champion for survival and God’s for success. The people’s survival in the Land as a reward for obedience is expressed succinctly in Deuteronomy 11:13-21, the second and third paragraphs from the end of this Summary; they constitute the second portion of the Shema.
Blessings Promised and Earned
CONSEQUENCE OF OBEDIENCE
Because (Eykev) you heed and obey these statutes, the Eternal your God will uphold for you the covenant and the lovingkindness that He swore to your fathers. He will love you and bless you with abundance. He will bless the fruit of your womb, the fruit of your soil, your grain and wine and oil, and the offspring of your herds and flocks, upon the Land that He promised your fathers to give to you. You shall be most blessed of peoples. None of you shall be barren, neither man nor woman, nor your livestock. The Eternal will ward off from you all sickness; and all of the terrible diseases of Egypt which you have known—He will not plague you with them but will put them upon all of your enemies.
DISPOSSESS THE INCUMBENTS
You shall consume all of the peoples that the Eternal your God delivers to you. Show them no mercy; fall not into the trap of serving their gods. If you wonder in your heart how you would be able to dispossess many nations, fear not but remember what the Eternal your God did to Pharaoh and all of Egypt! All of the proofs that you have seen, the signs and wonders, the strong hand and the outstretched arm, by which the Eternal your God brought you out, thus will He do to all of the peoples before whom you are in fear. He will send a plague of hornets against them until every last one of them is lost and able to hide no more. Do not stand in dread of them, because the Eternal your God is in your midst, a great and awesome God!
The Eternal your God shall remove these nations from before you gradually. You will not be allowed to destroy them quickly, so that wild beasts are not able to multiply against you. The Eternal your God will deliver the nations to you and cause them to be overwhelmed and destroyed. He will deliver their kings into your hand, and you will wipe out their name from under heaven. Burn the sculptured images of their gods in fire and avoid the temptation of keeping their silver and their gold for yourself, lest you become ensnared by it, as it is an abomination to the Eternal your God. Let no abomination enter your house, or you, like it, will be zealously destroyed. Rather, reject it as abominable and abhorrent.
FORTY YEARS’ PATH OF DISCIPLINE
Observe all of the Mitzvah which I command you this day, in order that you may live and increase and possess the Land which the Eternal promised to your fathers. Remember all of the forty years’ path of affliction upon which the Eternal has conducted you: it has been for the purpose of testing your will to observe His commandments. He afflicted you with hunger and then fed you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had ever known, in order to make you know that “man lives not by bread alone, but on whatever the Eternal shall decree shall man live” (Deuteronomy 8:3). Throughout those forty years, your clothing did not wear out from upon you, nor did your foot swell. Know in your heart that the Eternal your God disciplines you as a father disciplines his son. So shall you observe His commandments, to walk in His ways and to fear Him.
For the Eternal your God is bringing you to a good land—a land of rivers, springs and fountains, flowing in plain and hill—a land of wheat and barley, of vine and fig and pomegranate, a land of olive oil and honey (Deuteronomy 8:8)—a land in which food will not be scarce, in which you will lack nothing—a land whose rocks are iron and from whose hills you shall mine copper. “You will have enough to eat and reason to bless the Eternal your God for the good land which He has given to you” (Deuteronomy 8:10).
Take care not to forget what the Eternal your God has done for you, lest you fail to observe His commandments and His ordinances and His statutes, which I enjoin upon you this day, lest you eat to satiety, build fine houses and occupy them, lest your herds and flocks increase, lest your silver and gold increase, lest all that you have increase, and you arrogantly overlook the Eternal your God, who is bringing you out from the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage! It is He who has been conducting you through this great, awesome wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions, a parched land with no water but which He extracts for you from the flinty rock. It is He who has been feeding you manna in the wilderness, unknown to your fathers, in order to test you through affliction and to benefit you in the end, lest you imagine that your own strong and mighty hand has achieved this prosperity. Know instead that the Eternal your God is the Source of your power to prosper, in order to fulfill His covenantal promise to your fathers as valid today.
FORGET NOT THE ETERNAL
If you should indeed forget the Eternal your God and come to worship other gods, then I must warn you that you shall surely perish. Your fate will be as the nations that the Eternal is destroying before you, for failing to obey the Eternal your God!
Hear, O Israel: You are crossing the Jordan this day in order to dispossess nations greater and mightier than you, large cities fortified to the sky, a people of giant stature, whom you have not confronted before but about whom you have heard that they are invincible. Know this day that the Eternal your God, crossing before you, a consuming fire, will destroy them. He will subdue them before you, so that you may dispossess them and wipe them out quickly, as He has promised you. But do not think that all of this is happening because of your own righteousness; rather, it is because of the wickedness of those nations, which the Eternal is dispossessing from before you, and in order for the Eternal to uphold his promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob!
IDOLATRY AT HOREB
Far from righteous yourselves, you are a stiff-necked people. Surely you recall how you angered the Eternal your God in the wilderness. Since you left Egypt you have defied the Eternal! At Horeb you provoked the Eternal to the point where He was ready to destroy you (cf. Exodus 31:18ff.). I had gone up the mountain to receive the stone tablets, tablets of the covenant which the Eternal made with you, and I remained in the mountain for forty days and forty nights, eating no food and drinking no water, and the Eternal gave me the two tablets of stone. Engraved upon them, by the finger of God, was an accordance with all of the words that the Eternal spoke to you in the mountain from amidst the fire on the day of assembly.
But when, at the end of the forty days and forty nights, the Eternal gave me the two tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant, the Eternal bid me descend immediately, “for your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt, has acted perversely, quickly abandoning the way I commanded them, making for themselves a molten image” (Deuteronomy 9:12)! The Eternal described you to me as a “stiff-necked people” (Deuteronomy 9:13) and told me, “Don’t try to restrain Me, I shall destroy them and blot out their name from under heaven, and I shall make you into a nation mightier and greater” (Deuteronomy 9:14) than they!
So I turned and descended as the mountain was burning with fire, the two tablets of the covenant upon my two hands, and I saw for myself that you were sinning against the Eternal your God. You had made for yourselves a molten calf! Indeed you quickly abandoned the way that the Eternal had commanded you. Grasping the tablets, I cast them from my hands and shattered them before your eyes. I took the sin you had made in the form of the calf and burned it in fire. I crushed it and ground it thoroughly into a fine dust, which I threw into the wadi that comes down from the mountain.
Other places where you angered the Eternal were Taverah (cf. Numbers 11:1-3), Massah (cf. Exodus 17:1-7), and Kivrot-Hata’avah (cf. Numbers 11:33-35). Also at Kadesh Barneya, whence the Eternal dispatched you, “Go up and possess the Land which I have given to you!” (cf. Numbers 13:1ff.), you defied the word of the Eternal your God, you did not have faith in Him, and you did not obey Him.
You have provoked the Eternal for as long as I have known you!
MOSES PRAYS ON BEHALF OF ISRAEL AND AARON
But I threw myself before the Eternal for forty days and forty nights as before, abstaining from food and water, over the sin of your evil infuriating behavior in the sight of the Eternal, for I was in fear of the Eternal’s anger against you, that it might lead to His destroying you. I also prayed for the sake of Aaron for the same reason (cf. Exodus 32:1-25).
When I threw myself before the Eternal those forty days and forty nights, I prayed: Lord God, destroy not Your people, Your inheritance, whom You redeemed in Your greatness, whom You brought out of Egypt with a strong hand! Remember Your servants—Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—and attend not to the evil, sinful stubbornness of this people, lest they say in the country from which You took them that the Eternal lacks the ability to fulfill His promise to bring them to the Land, or out of His hatred for them did He bring them out in order to cause their death in the wilderness. They are Your people, Your inheritance, whom You brought out in Your great strength and with Your outstretched arm! The Eternal heeded me that time also. He did not persist to destroy you. (Cf. Exodus 32:26-35)
SECOND SET OF TABLETS
Then the Eternal directed me to carve out, myself, two tablets of stone like the first ones (cf. Exodus 31:18; 34:1-4), to ascend to Him on the mountain, and to make an ark of wood. He would inscribe on those tablets the same words of the Ten Commandments that He had written upon the first set of tablets, the same words that He had spoken on the mountain from amidst the fire on the day of assembly (cf. Exodus 19:16ff.). So I made an ark of acacia wood and carved out the two tablets of stone like the first ones. I carried the tablets up the mountain in my hand. After He inscribed the tablets, the Eternal returned them to me. I then came down from the mountain and put the tablets in the ark, where they are, as the Eternal commanded me.
SEPARATION OF LEVI
At that time the Eternal separated the tribe of Levi to bear the Ark of the Covenant of the Eternal, to stand before Him to minister to Him, and to bless in His name, to this day. That is why the Levites have no share and inheritance with their brothers. The Eternal is their inheritance, as the Eternal your God promised them.
RESUMPTION AND RESTORATION
The Eternal bid me resume my position at the head of your march: Enter and possess the Land which I promised to their fathers to give to them. (Cf. Exodus 33:1-6) The Children of Israel marched from the Wells of the Children of Ya’akan to Moserah (cf. Numbers 33:31). There Aaron died and was buried, and Elazar his son took over as Kohen in his stead (cf. Numbers 20:22-29). From there they marched to Gudgod, and from Gudgod to Yotvath, land of running wadis (cf. Numbers 33:32-33).
THE ETERNAL HAS CHOSEN YOU
Now, O Israel, what does the Eternal your God ask of you? Only to fear Him, to walk in His ways, to love Him, to serve Him with all of your heart and with all of your soul, and to keep His commandments which I enjoin upon you this day for your benefit! His are the heavens and the heavens of heavens, the earth and all that is therein. Yet the Eternal loved your fathers in particular and has chosen you, their offspring, from among all of the peoples, to this very day. Therefore you must circumcise the foreskin of your heart and not stiffen your neck anymore! For the Eternal your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, mighty and awesome God, who shows no favor and takes no bribe, who upholds justice for the orphan and widow, who loves the stranger and provides him with food and raiment—thus shall you shall love the stranger, for strangers were you in the land of Egypt.
Hold Him in awe, worship Him, cleave to Him, swear by His name. He is worthy of your praise, your God who performed for you these great and awesome deeds which your eyes have seen. Your fathers went down to Egypt, seventy in number; now the Eternal your God has made you as numerous as the stars of heaven! You yourselves, not your children, have known and seen how the Eternal your God teaches and disciplines: His greatness, His strong hand, His outstretched arm, His signs and His acts in Egypt upon Pharaoh and all of his country, the Egyptian army, its horses and chariots that He inundated in the Sea of Reeds when they pursued you and the Eternal destroyed them, to this day, all that He has done for you in the wilderness until your arriving at this point, what He did to Dathan and Aviram, sons of Eliav, son of Reuben, when the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them, their households and their tents, and all who stood with them in the midst of all Israel.
THE LAND IS YOUR REWARD
Keep all of the Mitzvah which I command you this day, loving the Eternal your God, keeping His charge—His statutes, His ordinances and His commandments—for all time, in order that you may be strong enough to enter and possess the land to which you are crossing, and that you may long endure on the land which the Eternal swore to your fathers to give to them and to their offspring, a land flowing with milk and honey! For it is not like the land of Egypt which you left, which is cultivated like a garden. Rather it is a land of mountains and valleys which drinks its water from the rain of heaven, attended by the Eternal your God constantly, from the beginning of the year to its end.
If you do indeed heed His commandments, which I enjoin upon you this day, to love the Eternal your God, and to serve Him with all of your heart and with all of your soul, then I shall provide rain for your land in its season, early and late, so that you may gather in your grain, your wine, and your oil, and I will provide grass in the field for your cattle, so that you shall eat and be satisfied. Only be careful that your heart not go astray and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them. For then the anger of the Eternal shall flare up against you, and He will close up the heavens and there will be no rain, and the land will not yield its produce, and you will quickly perish from upon the good land which the Eternal is giving to you.
Place these, My words, upon your heart and upon your soul, bind them for a sign upon your hand, and let them be for frontlets between your eyes. Teach your children to speak of them when you sit in your house, when you walk on the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. Write them upon the doorposts of your house and upon your gates. Then many shall be your days and the days of your children upon the land which the Eternal has sworn to your fathers to give to them, as many as the days of heaven over the earth.
So, if you keep all of this Mitzvah which I command you to observe—to love the Eternal your God, to walk in all of His ways, and to cleave to Him—then the Eternal will dispossess all of these nations from before you, nations greater and mightier than you. Every place on which your foot shall tread will be yours: from the wilderness and the Lebanon, from the Euphrates River, as far as the farthest sea, shall be your territory. No one will stand in your way. The Eternal your God will put fear of you over all of the earth upon which you tread, as He has promised you.
FROM THE PROPHETS
Second Haftarah of Consolation
The Eternal has forsaken me!
Will a woman forget her nursing child
or fail to have compassion
for the child of her womb?
Even if they should forget,
I will not forget you.
I will never forget your walls.
While your destroyers now leave you,
your children rush back to you;
you may clothe yourself with them
as with ornaments of a bride.
Your places once wrecked and desolate
will now be so crowded
with the children of your bereavement,
that they will ask you
to find them a place to dwell,
and you will wonder:
How did I acquire all of these?
Where were they
when I was left alone?
Thus says the Lord God:
I shall signal the nations with My hand,
and they shall bring your sons in their bosom
and carry your daughters upon their shoulder.
Kings shall be your foster fathers,
and their queens, your nursing mothers.
They shall bow down to you
with their face to the ground
and lick the dust of your feet.
Thus shall you know
that I am the Eternal,
as those who wait for Me
shall not be ashamed.
Shall the captive be recovered from the mighty?
Thus says the Eternal:
The captive of the mighty
shall indeed be taken back,
and I will argue your case
against the one who argues with you.
I shall make your oppressors
eat their own flesh
and drink their own blood.
All flesh shall know
that I the Eternal
am your Savior.
Thus says the Eternal:
Where is the bill of divorcement for your mother,
by which I have sent her away?
To which of My creditors
have I sold you?
Behold, for your iniquities
were you sold,
and for your transgressions
was your mother sent away!
Now that I have come,
why am I ignored?
Do you think Me powerless to redeem?
Behold, at My rebuke
I can dry up the sea!
The Lord God has given me
the tongue of the learned
and has opened my ear.
I have given my back
to those who attack me
and have not hidden my face
from shame and spitting.
The Lord God will help me;
I know that I shall not be ashamed.
My Justifier is near;
whoever would contend with me,
let us stand up together!
Whoever would do me harm
will wear away like a garment
which a moth will eat.
Whoever among you fears the Eternal
and obeys His servant,
even though he walk in darkness,
may trust in the Name of the Eternal
and depend upon his God.
Listen to Me, you who seek righteousness,
look to the rock from which you were hewn,
look to Abraham your father
and to Sarah who bore you:
I called him as one
and blessed him
to become many.
The Eternal comforts Zion;
He will turn her wilderness
to be like Eden.
Joy and gladness will be found in her,
thanksgiving and the sound of song.
FROM TALMUD AND MIDRASH
Deuteronomy Rabbah 3:3
Faithfulness Human and Divine
Sedra Eykev opens:
“Because (Eykev) you heed and keep these statutes…”
Consider what is written above these words
at the end of the preceding sedra:
“Know that the Eternal your God
is the faithful God…”
The Rabbis teach: From the faithfulness of flesh and blood can you know the faithfulness of the Holy One, blessed be He.
Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair lived in a southern town. Some men, who had come there to do business, happened to have two seahs of barley, which they entrusted to him. Later they forgot about their barley. But Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair sowed the barley every year and collected their produce in a granary. Seven years went by, and these colleagues finally returned to recover their deposit. Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair recognized them and said to them, “Come and receive what you have accumulated!” “Because you heed and keep these statutes…” (Deuteronomy 7:12), “know that the Eternal your God is the faithful God…” (ibid. 7:9-11). From the faithfulness of flesh and blood do you know the faithfulness of the Holy One, blessed be He!
Rabbi Shimon ben Shetach purchased an ass from an Arab. When his students went to fetch it, they discovered that a gem was tied around its neck. They reported their rabbi’s good fortune to him with a proverb: “The blessing of the Eternal makes one wealthy” (Proverbs 10:22)! Rabbi Shimon ben Shetach said to them: An ass I purchased, not a precious gem! He went and personally returned the gem to the Arab. Of him the Arab said, “Blessed is the Eternal, the God of Shimon ben Shetach!” From the faithfulness of flesh and blood do you know the faithfulness of the Holy One, blessed be He.
He is faithful to pay Israel their reward for observing the commandments—thus: “So shall you keep the Mitzvah…” (Deuteronomy 7:11), and “Because you heed and keep these statutes…, the Eternal your God shall keep the Covenant for you…” (Deuteronomy 7:12)—I faithfully pay you your reward!
Deuteronomy Rabbah 3:4
“…The Eternal your God will keep for you
the covenant and the lovingkindness
that He swore to your fathers.”
How will they be “kept?”
Said Rabbi Samuel bar Nachman: All that Israel enjoys in this world is from the power of the blessings of Balaam (cf. Numbers 23:4-24:25). But the blessings invoked by the Patriarchs are kept (preserved) for their descendants for the future world.
Rabbi Chelbo compared the blessings of Balaam to an orphan who grew up in the home of foster parents who provided him with food and clothing and taught him a trade. The child might calculate the value of these provisions as a kind of allowance which he would have to pay back eventually. But instead, his foster parents say to him: Consider whatever you eat or wear to be compensation for the barrel of water that you filled for me, for the tree that you cut down for me, nothing separate that you owe us now. It is the same for all that Israel consumes in this world: compensation for the sufferings that have afflicted them.
But there is other compensation for Israel which is secured and preserved for the future world, the product of Patriarchal blessings which the Eternal “will keep for you, the covenant and the lovingkindness that He swore to your Fathers” (Deuteronomy 7:12)!
Rabbi Chiya, however, related “the covenant and the lovingkindness” (Deuteronomy 7:12) to this world. Said Rabbi Chiya: Israel is in possession of three good qualities; they are chaste, merciful, and bestowers of kindness, in this world. Whence chaste? “In order that the fear of Him might be upon your face, so that you do not sin” (Exodus 20:17)! Whence merciful? “He will show you compassion and make you merciful” (Deuteronomy 13:18)! Whence bestowers of kindness? “He will keep for you the covenant and the lovingkindness” (Deuteronomy 7:12)!
Deuteronomy Rabbah 3:5
Offspring of Soil and Womb
The Eternal your God “will love you and bless you with abundance.
He will bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your soil…
upon the Land that He promised your Fathers to give to you.”
Why does he juxtapose “fruit of your womb” and “fruit of your soil?”
The Holy One, blessed be He, is comparing human offspring to produce of the Land:
Just as the fruit of your soil will grow in abundance and strength, so will your offspring.
Matnot Kehunah (16th cent.): Just as the fruit of your soil is set apart and protected,
so shall your offspring be set apart and protected from any destructive affliction.
Just as no sin or iniquity resides in the fruit of your soil,
so shall the fruit of your womb be free of sin and iniquity.
Just as your young trees are sanctified
through the rejection of their early fruit (orlah) (cf. Leviticus 19:23-25),
so are your newborn sanctified
through the rejection of their foreskin (orlah)
by circumcision (cf. Genesis 17:9-14).
Rabbi Judah bar Simon taught: Why is “fruit of your womb” juxtaposed to “fruit of your soil?” Because the fruit of your soil will atone for the fruit of your womb “upon the Land that He promised your Fathers to give to you” (ibid.). Whence do we derive this? From the final words of the final poem Ha’azinu (Deuteronomy 32:43) of Moses to Israel:
“Cry out, O nations, for His People,
as He avenges the blood of His servants,
turning vengeance upon His foes,
and securing the atonement
of His Land, of His People,”
“And His Land will secure atonement for His People!”
Deuteronomy Rabbah 3:10
“Moses took the scroll of the covenant
and read it in the hearing of the people,
and they said:
‘All that the Eternal has spoken
we will do and we will hearken!’”
“Hear, O Israel:
You are crossing the Jordan this day…
at Horeb you provoked the Eternal…
making…a molten image…“
When Moses said, “Hear, O Israel: You are crossing the Jordan this day…” (Deuteronomy 9:1), he was about to narrate in review their idolatry at Horeb (cf. Deuteronomy 9:6-29). But why did he begin, “Hear, O Israel?” The Rabbis say that it may be compared to a king who betrothed his wife with two jewels. Later she lost one of them. The king said to her: You have lost one, take good care of the second!
Thus the Holy One, blessed be He, sanctified Israel receiving their dual pledge, “We will do and we will hearken” (Exodus 24:7)! They lost “We will do…” when they made the calf (cf. Exodus 32:1ff.). So Moses said to them: You have lost “We will do…”; take good care of “…We will hearken!” Thus: “Hear (Hearken!), O Israel” because “at Horeb you made…a molten image” (Deuteronomy 9:1ff.)!
Deuteronomy Rabbah 3:11
“Hear, O Israel:
You are crossing the Jordan this day…
at Horeb you provoked the Eternal…
making…a molten image…“
Moses was saying to them: When you cross the Jordan, it will be time for a change. Let not your attitude then be as it was in the wilderness, when you sinned and I begged mercy on your behalf! When you made that calf and the Holy One, blessed be He, wanted to destroy you, I had to act to defend you!
How Moses justified his defense of Israel in the past:
Even though Moses was informed by the Eternal that Israel had sinned, and he came down from heaven at the command of the Eternal with the tablets in his hand, he did not shatter them until he saw the idol with his own eyes, as was said, “As he drew near to the camp, he saw the idol…” (Exodus 32:19). It was just then that “Moses became angry and cast the tablets from his hands” (Ibid.)! The Holy One, blessed be He, said to him: Moses, did you not believe Me that they made a calf for themselves? As I told you already in the mountain, “They have departed quickly from the way that I commanded them…” (Exodus 32:8)!
The Rabbis teach: Against those words spoken by the Holy One, blessed be He, “that I commanded them,” Moses devised a strategy of how to acquit Israel. He said to Him, “Master of the universe, I was commanded; have I transgressed the commandment? They were not commanded and so they did not know!” The Holy One, blessed be He, said to him (in disbelief), “Moses, they were not commanded?” Moses said to Him, “No!” Moses continued: “What did You say on Sinai? Did You say, ‘I, the Eternal, am your (plural) God?’ No! You said only, ‘I, the Eternal, am your (singular) God’ (Exodus 20:2)! Did You say, ‘You (plural) shall have no other gods?’ No! You said only, ‘You (singular) shall have no other gods’ (Exodus 20:3)! Only I was commanded; they were not commanded!” Therefore Moses could pray, “O Lord God, do not destroy Your people, Your inheritance…” (Deuteronomy 9:26)!
Now Moses seeks Israel’s defense of him:
Said Rabbi Chiya bar Abba: Now that there was no corner of heaven left where Moses had not prostrated himself in entreaty for Israel, he thought: What the mind believes, the mouth will tell! Therefore, when they prepared to cross the Jordan, Moses reminded them of all that he had done in their defense:
“Thus I fell down before the Eternal
for forty days and forty nights…”
For he hoped that they would seek mercy for him so that he could enter the Land with them. What is the meaning of “You are crossing…” (Deuteronomy 9:1)? The Eternal had said to Moses, “See the Land with your eyes, but you will not cross this Jordan” (Deuteronomy 3:27)! Said Rabbi Tanchuma: Moses was throwing himself down before Israel and saying to them, “You are crossing, but I am not crossing,” giving them an opening to seek mercy for him—but they did not understand.
Moses accepts his role:
Since they did not understand, he determined: Then I shall command them for their sake alone (not mine), that they be diligent in the honor of their Father who is in heaven, as was said: “Now, O Israel, what does the Eternal your God ask of you? Only to fear Him, to walk in His ways, to love Him, to serve Him with all of your heart and with all of your soul, and to keep His commandments which I enjoin upon you this day for your benefit” (Deuteronomy 10:12-13)!
Deuteronomy Rabbah 3:12
The Fee of our Betrothal
“At that time
the Eternal said to me:
Carve out, yourself,
two tablets of stones
like the first ones…”
Halacha: When a man betrothes a woman, who is supposed to pay for the writing of the kiddushin (the betrothal document)?
Thus taught the Sages: The consent of both bride and bridegroom is required for the writing of the documents of erusin (betrothal) and nissuin (marriage), and the bridegroom pays the fee.
From whom do we learn this? From the Holy One, blessed be He, when He betrothed Israel at Sinai, as is written, “The Eternal said to Moses: Go to the people and sanctify (betroth) them…” (Exodus 19:10)! And who wrote the document of betrothal? Moses! Whence? It was said: “Moses wrote this Torah” (Deuteronomy 31:9)! And what fee did the Holy One, blessed be He, pay him? The radiance of his face, as is written, “When Moses came down from Mount Sinai…, the skin of his face was radiant…” (Exodus 34:29). When did that occur? “…When He spoke with him” (Ibid.)!
Said Resh Lakish: The parchment of the Torah that was given to Moses was of white fire with black fire written upon it, sealed with fire and bound with fire, and as he was writing it, he would wipe the reed in his hair, thereby acquiring the radiance of his face.
Rabbi Samuel bar Nachman said: From the tablets, as they were handed to him, he acquired the radiance of his face.
But when Israel worshipped the idol, Moses took the tablets and shattered them. Said the Holy One, blessed be He: When you arranged them for Israel, I gave you your fee, the radiance of your face. But now that you have broken the tablets? Rabbi Isaac cited the teaching of our Rabbis: If a cask is broken, the person delivering it is responsible for the loss. Said the Holy One, blessed be He, to Moses: You were the middleman between Me and My children, you broke it, you replace it. Whence do we have this? Thus is written: “At that time the Eternal said to me, ‘Carve out, yourself, two tablets of stones like the first ones…’” (Deuteronomy 10:1; cf. Exodus 34:1)!
Deuteronomy Rabbah 3:13
“A time to…”
“There is a time to cast stones
and a time to gather stones…”
What is the meaning of “a time to cast stones?” There is a time for the Roman oppressor Hadrian, may his bones be ground, to go up and scatter the stones of the Temple.
And “a time to gather stones?” A time for the Holy One, blessed be He, to rebuild it. Whence do we have it? From the prophet: “The Eternal God says: I have set a foundation stone in Zion, a beautiful cornerstone set firmly; let the one who is faithful not be hasty. It shall be measured in justice and weighed in righteousness; let hail sweep away the accumulation of deceit and water inundate its nest” (Isaiah 28:16-17). “The Eternal comforts Zion; He comforts all of her ruins; He will turn her wilderness to be like Eden” (Isaiah 51:3).
Another interpretation, by the Rabbis, of “a time to cast stones”: It speaks of Moses, for whom it was time to cast the tablets, as is written, “It came to pass, when he drew near to the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing; Moses became angry and cast the tablets from his hands, shattering them at the foot of the mountain” (Exodus 32:19)!
And “a time to gather stones?” The time arrived for Moses to restore them to Israel, as was said, “Carve out, yourself (Moses), two tablets of stones” (Deuteronomy 10:1)!
Deuteronomy Rabbah 3:16
two tablets of stones…”
Why two? The Rabbis answer—said the Holy One, blessed be He: These tablets provide testimony between Me and My children, corresponding to two witnesses.
Or not as two disinterested witnesses but as two interested parties: one a friend of the Holy One, blessed be He, and one a friend of Israel, corresponding to the “best men” of bridegroom and bride who see to the respective interests of each at their wedding.
Or corresponding to the bridegroom and bride themselves.
Or corresponding to heaven and earth.
Or corresponding to this world and the world to come.
Sifre Deuteronomy 40
The land which you are crossing the Jordan to possess is:
“A land which the Eternal your God attends;
the eyes of the Eternal your God
are upon it constantly…”
But is it the only land which He attends? Does He not attend all lands, as was said, “He provides rain even on uninhabited land, on wilderness where no man is” (Job 38:26)! “He saturates the desolate wasteland and gives grass the opportunity to sprout” (Ibid., 27)! What then can we learn from, “A land which the Eternal your God attends…?”
A similar question may be asked of, “The Guardian of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps” (Psalms 121:4)! But is He the Guardian of Israel alone? Is He not the Guardian of all, as was said, “In His hand is the soul of every living thing and the spirit of all flesh” (Job 12:10)! What then can we learn from: “The Guardian of Israel…?”
Similarly, when Solomon dedicated the Temple he had built, the Eternal promised him, “My eyes and My heart shall ever be there” (I Kings 9:3). But did the prophet not say, “The eyes of the Eternal range over all the earth” (Zechariah 4:10)! and “The eyes of the Eternal are every place, observing the evil and the good (Proverbs 15:3)! What are we to learn from: “My eyes and My heart shall ever be there?” Also, what are we to learn from the end of the verse, “The voice of the Eternal convulses wilderness; the Eternal convulses the wilderness of Kadesh” (Psalms 29:8)?
Talmud Ta’anit 10a
Our Rabbis taught: The Land of Israel was created first, and the rest of the world followed, as was said, “He had not yet made land, or other places” (Proverbs 8:26)! He Himself waters the Land of Israel, while the rest of the world is watered by an angel, as was said: “He delivers water upon the face of the Land, and sends water upon the face of other places” (Job 5:10)! The Land of Israel enjoys the primary waters of rain, while the rest of the world receives the drippings, as was said, “He delivers water upon the face of the Land, and sends water upon the face of other places” (Ibid.)! The Land of Israel drinks first, while the rest of the world drinks last, as was said: “He delivers water upon the face of the Land, and (then) sends water upon the face of other places” (Ibid.)!
Sifre Deuteronomy 40
It is as if to say that by attending to the Land of Israel and the Children of Israel,
by virtue of that attention He attends to all of the lands and all of the peoples.
“You will have enough to eat
and reason to bless the Eternal your God
for the good Land which He has given to you.”
Rabbi Isaac taught on this verse:
How fortunate are we, Israel, that the Holy One, blessed be He, has chosen to bring us near to Him, from among all peoples. Because of Israel, He then satisfies all of the world with food…! But now that Israel is in exile, the rest of the world take a double portion. At a time when Israel will be in its holy Land, food will come down to us from above, and we will give a portion of it to the idolatrous peoples. But for now, the situation is reversed.
This may be likened to a king who arranges meals for all of his household. As long as they obey his will, they eat with the king and share his food, while the leftovers are thrown to the dogs. When the members of his household fail to obey the king’s will, then he gives the food to the dogs and for the members of his household leaves only the bones.
Thus it is for Israel. Whenever Israel obeys the will of their Master, they eat at the king’s table all of the meal that is prepared for them. With pleasure they share the leftovers with the idolators. But when Israel fails to obey the will of their Master, they go into exile, the meal is given to the dogs, and there are only leftovers for Israel. In the words of the prophet, “The Eternal says: Thus shall the Children of Israel eat their bread, defiled, among the nations…” (Ezekiel 4:13), eating the disgusting remnants. Woe to the son of the king who sits in expectation at the table of a servant, hoping to eat the leftovers of the servant’s table!
Yerushalmi Shevi’it 4:3
Mishnah: Israelites should greet gentiles—out of a desire for peace.
Gemara: “Let all the haters of Zion be ashamed and fall back…the passersby not saying, ‘May the blessing of the Eternal be upon you; we bless you in the Name of the Eternal’” (Psalms 129:5-8). The “passersby” are the nations of the world—so called because they pass away from the world— who do not say to Israel, “May the blessing of the Eternal be upon you.”
But what does Israel say nonetheless? Israel says to the nations of the world, “We bless you in the Name of the Eternal!” We bless you even though you do not appreciate that all of the blessings that come into the world are because of us, so that you will not say to us: Come and receive some of these blessings. Moreover you impose harsh burdens upon us!
Sifre Deuteronomy 41
Israel’s Love of the Eternal
“To love the Eternal your God…”
Lest you think: I am learning Torah in order to accumulate wealth or in order to be called rabbi or in order to receive the reward of the world to come—what do we learn from the words, “To love the Eternal your God?” Whatever you do, do it only out of love!
Exodus Rabbah 31:10
Sifre Deuteronomy 306:2
The Eternal’s Love of Israel
“Thus says the Eternal:
Where is the bill of divorcement for your mother,
by which I have sent her away?
To which of My creditors
have I sold you?
Behold, for your iniquities
were you sold,
and for your transgressions
was your mother sent away!”
When Israel was exiled from Jerusalem in irons, the nations of the world reasoned: The Holy One, blessed be He, desires not this nation, as was said, “They called them ‘rejected silver,’ as the Eternal has rejected them” (Jeremiah 6:30)! They were like some silver, which is smelted to create a vessel, and smelted again to create another vessel, and again over and over, until finally someone can crush it with his hand as it is no longer useful. Thus is Israel, they would say, a fossil nation, which the Holy One, blessed be He, has rejected!
Hearing this, the prophet approached the Holy One, blessed be He, and said to Him: Master of the universe, is it true that You have rejected Your children? “Have you rejected Judah? Are you disgusted with Zion? Why do You strike us down and beat us without respite?” (Jeremiah 14:19)
Compare this with one who beats his wife repeatedly. Her friend speaks to her husband: If it is your intention to be rid of her, then beat her until she dies, as he said, “If You truly despise us, then You would have raged against us until death [ad mavet instead of ad m’od]” (Lamentations 5:22)! Otherwise what do you achieve by merely beating her? His answer: Even if all of my palace is destroyed, I will not divorce my wife! Similarly, the Holy One, blessed be He, responds to the prophet: Even if I were to destroy My world, I would not divorce Israel!
“Thus says the Eternal:
If the laws of sun, moon, stars, and sea,
were ever annulled before Me…
or if the heavens above
and the foundations of the earth below
could ever be measured,
only then would I reject the offspring of Israel
for what they have done!”
And in order to maintain this commitment,
I have made a stipulation with them,
that in case they should sin,
the Temple will stand as their collateral,
as was said,
“I hereby establish My Mishkan (“Tabernacle”) in your midst,
so that I do not spurn you” (Leviticus 26:11)—
and which should be read:
“I hereby establish My Mashkon (“Security”) in your midst,
so that I do not reject you!”
Therefore you may understand that I “pledge” My “Tabernacle” to the other nations not out of any obligation to them, but it is only because of your sins that I “pledge” My Sanctuary to them! Indeed: “Where is the bill of divorcement for your mother, by which I have sent her away” (Isaiah 50:1)? I shall never divorce Israel! “To which of My creditors have I sold you” (ibid.)? I have not creditors! “Behold, for your iniquities were you sold, and for your transgressions was your mother sent away” (ibid.)!
In the future, the bride Israel shall say before the Holy One, blessed be He: Master of the universe, witnesses against me endure, as was said, “I call as witnesses against you this day the heavens and the earth…” (Deuteronomy 4:26). He answers her: But I shall remove them, as the prophet said, “Behold I am creating new heavens and a new earth” (Isaiah 65:17)! She says to Him: But Master of the universe, I recognize the very places where I committed the shame of idolatry, as the prophet said, “See what you were wont to do in the valley” (Jeremiah 2:23). He answers her: Look, I will remove those places, as the prophet said, “All of the valley shall be raised” (Isaiah 40:4)! She says to Him: But Master of the universe, my name will be identified with my shame. He answers her: I shall remove your shame, as the prophet said, “And you will be called by a new name” (Isaiah 62:2)! She says to Him: But Master of the universe, will my name still remind me of the name of the idol? He answers her: I shall remove that too, as the prophet said, “I will remove the names of the idols from her mouth” (Hosea 2:19a)! She says to Him: But Master of the universe, the members of my household will mention their names. He answers her: “And they will not be mentioned evermore by their name” (Hosea 2:19b)!
But the bride Israel will still worry: Master of the universe, You have written through the prophet, “If a man should send away his wife so that she leaves him and goes to another man, shall he return to her again? No, the Land would be defiled!” (Jeremiah 3:1; cf. Deuteronomy 24:1-4) He answers her: But note that I wrote, “He goes to another man!” and as the prophet said about Me, “I am God and not a man” (Hosea 11:9)! But besides that, are you divorced from Me, O House of Israel?
“Where is the bill of divorcement for your mother,
by which I have sent her away?
To which of My creditors
have I sold you?”
Copyright © 2021 Eric H. Hoffman