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לימוד תורה

Preserving the National Consciousness and Mind Engineering

Rabbi Eliezer Shenvald

The Parasha in the everyday life – Parashat Ki Tavoh – 5780

Our Parsha begins with the Commandment of the Bikurim. (The First-fruits or Bikurim were a sacrificial gift brought up to the altar). Bringing the first-fruits to the Temple was not done casually. It was accompanied by another Mitzvah:

וּבָאתָ֙ אֶל־הַכֹּהֵ֔ן אֲשֶׁ֥ר יִהְיֶ֖ה בַּיָּמִ֣ים הָהֵ֑ם וְאָמַרְתָּ֣ אֵלָ֗יו הִגַּ֤דְתִּי הַיּוֹם֙ לַה' אֱלֹקיךָ כִּי־בָ֙אתִי֙ אֶל־הָאָ֔רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֨ר נִשְׁבַּ֧ע ה' לַאֲבֹתֵ֖ינוּ לָ֥תֶת לָֽנוּ׃

"You shall go to the priest in charge at that time and say to him, “I acknowledge this day before Hashem your G-d that I have entered the land that Hashem swore to our fathers to assign us.” (Devarim 26:3)

The person bringing the first-fruits thanks G-d for the fruits and the inheritance of the land:

שבאתי מארץ אחרת אל זאת הארץ. אשר נשכע ה' לאבותינו לתת לנו וכו'. ולפיכך אני חגר שבאתי אל הארץ לתושב - בכח מתנתו הבאתי הבכורים הראוים לנותן קרקע במתנה או באריסות:

"That I have come to this land from another country, as when G’d had said “I gave this land to you and to your descendants after you.” Seeing that G-d had sworn this oath at the time, I consider myself though apparently an outsider, a stranger, as if I am a permanent resident thanks to His gift, and this is why I have brought these choice fruit that it is incumbent upon anyone who has received the land as either a gift or even as a tenant to present to the real owner of the land in recognition of His largesse." (Sforno ibid)

מקרא ביכורים)* -A man who is growing fruits has to bring his first fruit to the Temple and eat them there. When he brings the fruit, that man has to say a certain Tefila and this is the מקרא ביכורים).

In the מקרא ביכורים there is an historical overview of the major milestones in the history of Am Israel, and of the existential challenges it had to face along the way. The basic facts on which our existence is founded:

וְעָנִ֨יתָ וְאָמַרְתָּ֜ לִפְנֵ֣י ה' אֱלֹקיךָ אֲרַמִּי֙ אֹבֵ֣ד אָבִ֔י וַיֵּ֣רֶד מִצְרַ֔יְמָה וַיָּ֥גָר שָׁ֖ם בִּמְתֵ֣י מְעָ֑ט וַֽיְהִי־שָׁ֕ם לְג֥וֹי גָּד֖וֹל עָצ֥וּם וָרָֽב׃ וַיָּרֵ֧עוּ אֹתָ֛נוּ הַמִּצְרִ֖ים וַיְעַנּ֑וּנוּ וַיִּתְּנ֥וּ עָלֵ֖ינוּ עֲבֹדָ֥ה קָשָֽׁה׃ וַנִּצְעַ֕ק אֶל ה' אֱלֹקי אֲבֹתֵ֑ינוּ וַיִּשְׁמַ֤ע ה֙' אֶת־קֹלֵ֔נוּ וַיַּ֧רְא אֶת־עָנְיֵ֛נוּ וְאֶת־עֲמָלֵ֖נוּ וְאֶת־לַחֲצֵֽנוּ׃ וַיּוֹצִאֵ֤נוּ ה֙' מִמִּצְרַ֔יִם בְּיָ֤ד חֲזָקָה֙ וּבִזְרֹ֣עַ נְטוּיָ֔ה וּבְמֹרָ֖א גָּדֹ֑ל וּבְאֹת֖וֹת וּבְמֹפְתִֽים׃ וַיְבִאֵ֖נוּ אֶל־הַמָּק֣וֹם הַזֶּ֑ה וַיִּתֶּן־לָ֙נוּ֙ אֶת־הָאָ֣רֶץ הַזֹּ֔את אֶ֛רֶץ זָבַ֥ת חָלָ֖ב וּדְבָֽשׁ׃

"You shall then recite as follows before Hashem your G-d: “My father was a fugitive Aramean. He went down to Egypt with meager numbers and sojourned there; but there he became a great and very populous nation. The Egyptians dealt harshly with us and oppressed us; they imposed heavy labor upon us. We cried to Hashem, the G-d of our fathers, and Hashem heard our plea and saw our plight, our misery, and our oppression. Hashem freed us from Egypt by a mighty hand, by an outstretched arm and awesome power, and by signs and portents.

He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey." (ibid 5-9)

Yaakov Avinu who went down to Padan Aram to build his home and had to deal with Laban, the enslaving in Egypt and hard labor, the Exodus from Egypt and arrival into the Land of Israel. In this statement there is an expression of gratitude to G-d:  ואמרת אליו- שֶׁאֵינְךָ כְּפוּי טוֹבָה /And say unto him- that you are not ungrateful" (Rashi ibid).

Thank you for the miraculous existence of the people of Israel, and for the gift of the land and its crops.

ויספר חסדיו יתברך עלינו ועל כל עם ישראל דרך כלל

"and he recount His kindnesses, may He be blessed, upon us and upon the people of Israel, more generally. (Sefer HaChinukh Mitzva 606)

In this way, this statement preserves and refreshes the national consciousness: Where did we come from, what is our uniqueness and destiny, what is the miracle of our existence, and what is our special connection to the Land of Israel, not only as a platform for national existence but as a land promised by G-d and as a gift from heaven.

"Now he looks back to the days of Bereshit, of the people of Israel, emphasizing the historical facts that testify to the end of all generations that at the founding of Jewish national existence, only the will of G-d and His almighty power acted; no other factor participated in the creation of Jewish nationalism" ( Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch ibid).

This is a response to the erosion of national consciousness caused over the years. Which causes the existing to be taken for granted.

In contrast to national consciousness based on true, ancient historical facts, which need to be preserved, in recent times a reverse trend is emerging, even intensifying. Intensive activity for ' mind engineering'. Officials want to 'engineer the consciousness' of the public. Factors that use the media controlled by them manipulatively, try to change the public consciousness. In contrast to 'true facts that produce consciousness', the 'mind engineers' seek to 'produce' and refine 'facts' according to the agenda that person or group is interested in promoting. The methods are not new.

The techniques for 'mind engineering' are well known. But the tools that have been renewed are powerful and influential. With the help of public relations advisors, media consultants and "spinmeisters", they try to brain wash by repeating the 'message' and 'facts' many times even if they are not necessarily true, until they are absorbed by the public.

Using techniques as taking things out of context, headlines that do not necessarily reflect the content of the report, creating spins and fake news, that will serve as a lever for a conscious campaign. Inflating numbers to intensify the scope of a rally - the number of protest participants, making a big fuzz over a minor event, using false superlatives, connecting an image, seemingly innocent, to an accusation (such as: Netanyahu descends and ascends from the submarines), all to fit the agenda.

However, it seems that the public is already 'buying' it less. It became suspicious of media reporting and became much more critical and in search of information from social media. Surveys show a boomerang effect – The more use of techniques of ‘mind engineering ' by various agencies, the more the public loses confidence in them.

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