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לימוד תורה

Recognize the right - to praise and take responsibility

Parasha and its implementation – Va’etchanan - Rabbi Eliezer Shenvald - 5779

Parashat Va’etchanan opens with the plea of ​​Moshe Rabbeinu to G-d to enter Eretz Yisrael: "

וָאֶתְחַנַּ֖ן אֶל־ה' בָּעֵ֥ת הַהִ֖וא לֵאמֹֽר׃…. אֶעְבְּרָה־נָּ֗א וְאֶרְאֶה֙ אֶת־הָאָ֣רֶץ הַטּוֹבָ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֖ר בְּעֵ֣בֶר הַיַּרְדֵּ֑ן הָהָ֥ר הַטּ֛וֹב הַזֶּ֖ה וְהַלְּבָנֽוֹן׃

I pleaded with Hashem at that time, saying… Let me, I pray, cross over and see the good land on the other side of the Jordan, that good hill country, and the Lebanon.” (Devarim 3:23-25)

Sages explained that Moshe prayed for this to Hashem 515 times: "And where did Moshe pray five hundred and fifteen times? It was said: "And pleaded" וָאֶתְחַנַּ֖ן and in Gimatriya the word Vaetchanan is worth 515 (Dvarim Rabbah 11: 11).

Even after five hundred and fifteen prayers, Moshe was not merited to enter Eretz Israel, only to look at it from afar, and he is commanded to appoint Joshua, the one who will bring the people of Israel into the land:

וְצַ֥ו אֶת־יְהוֹשֻׁ֖עַ וְחַזְּקֵ֣הוּ וְאַמְּצֵ֑הוּ כִּי־ה֣וּא יַעֲבֹ֗ר לִפְנֵי֙ הָעָ֣ם הַזֶּ֔ה וְהוּא֙ יַנְחִ֣יל אוֹתָ֔ם אֶת־הָאָ֖רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֥ר תִּרְאֶֽה׃

“Give Joshua his instructions, and imbue him with strength and courage, for he shall go across at the head of this people, and he shall allot to them the land that you may only see.” (Ibid 28)

What can we learn from our Parasha, after Tish’a BeAv, this year, in the midst of an election campaign that includes the distinction of separating one from another, the mutual defamation to the point of inciting hatred?

It is hard to imagine the intense situation of five hundred and fifteen prayers, but it just shows how precious and important it was to Moshe the entry into Eretz Israel! Not because of any personal and material need, but purely of a moral value:

דרש רבי שמלאי מפני מה נתאוה משה רבינו ליכנס לא"י וכי לאכול מפריה הוא צריך או לשבוע מטובה הוא צריך אלא כך אמר משה הרבה מצות נצטוו ישראל ואין מתקיימין אלא בא"י אכנס אני לארץ כדי שיתקיימו כולן על ידי

"Rabbi Samlai taught: For what reason did Moses our teacher greatly desire to enter Eretz Yisrael? Did he need to eat of its produce, or did he need to satisfy himself from its goodness? Rather, this is what Moses said: Many mitzvot were commanded to the Jewish people, and some of them can be fulfilled only in Eretz Yisrael, so I will enter the land in order that they can all be fulfilled by me". (Sotah 14a), and yet Moshe was not granted to go.

Eretz Yisrael is a good and precious gift given to us by Hashem:

תניא רבי שמעון בן יוחאי אומר שלש מתנות טובות נתן הקדוש ברוך הוא לישראל וכולן לא נתנן אלא על ידי יסורין אלו הן תורה וארץ ישראל והעולם הבא

"Additionally, it was taught in a baraita with regard to affliction: Rabbi Shimon ben Yoḥai says: The Holy One, Blessed be He, gave Israel three precious gifts, all of which were given only by means of suffering, which purified Israel so that they may merit to receive them. These gifts are: Torah, Eretz Yisrael, and the World-to-Come". (Berakhot 5a). Moshe Rabbeinu was not allowed to enter Eretz Yisrael and receive this gift in full.

The Guemara brings a story in Ketubot 112a:

רבי זירא כי הוה סליק לא"י לא אשכח מברא למעבר נקט במצרא וקעבר אמר ליה ההוא צדוקי עמא פזיזא דקדמיתו פומייכו לאודנייכו אכתי בפזיזותייכו קיימיתו אמר ליה דוכתא דמשה ואהרן לא זכו לה אנא מי יימר דזכינא לה:

  • § “When Rabbi Zeira ascended to Eretz Yisrael he could not find a ferry to cross the Jordan River. He took hold of a rope that was strung across as a makeshift bridge and crossed the Jordan. A certain Sadducee said to him: Hasty people who put your mouths before your ears, when you said at the time of the giving of the Torah: “We will do” before “we will hear” (Exodus 24:7), you remain hasty to this day. Why couldn’t you wait a little longer to cross the river on a ferry? Rabbi Zeira said to him: This is a place where Moses and Aaron did not merit entering; who is to say that I will merit seeing this land? I hurried across before anything might occur to prevent my entrance into Eretz Yisrael”.

Now, in our generation, we have received the gift of the land. We have been privileged to be part of the State of Israel's rebirth and unimaginable development.

I have learned a lot of things and I am still learning from my father, my teacher, Rabbi Moshe Shenvald, (may he live to 120!) A Holocaust survivor, a bereaved father, born in the generation of the founders and builders of the state and the religious educational system.

During the three-week mourning period, he took some people and some of his grandchildren to Yad Vashem. And in the visitors book he wrote words of faith and praise to Hashem about the merit of being saved and seeing the building of the land and the unification of Jerusalem. Many of his family were not as lucky. He fully understands the size of the gift and the responsibility to keep it safe. We were born into the reality of the existence of the state of Israel, free in our homeland. Even if we were forced to fight for its existence, sometimes, we still take it for granted; we do not know another reality and it is hard to compare. We must learn and appreciate the great gift Hashem has given us. We have “merited” what neither Moshe and Aaron did not, nor our forefathers in the long generations of exile and suffering. However, we must take responsibility and keep guard of this gift.

The Sages pointed out about the words of the Torah:

אלו דברי תורה שקשין לקנותן ככלי זהב וכלי פז ונוחין לאבדן ככלי זכוכית

"This is referring to words of Torah, which are as difficult to acquire as gilded vessels and vessels of fine gold but are as easy to lose as glass vessels”. (Chagigah 15a).

State, sovereignty and political independence are also fragile achievements. They are hard to buy as a 'gold vessel' and easy to lose as a 'glass vessel'. On the 9th of Av, we mourned the loss two thousand years ago. About what we did to ourselves more than what our enemies did to us.

Did we learn the lesson?! That we can't act like it is steel and we have an 'insurance certificate' for in existence. We must all take responsibility for its existence, not to stretch the rope more than enough.

Especially during an election period. Ideological debates - Yes, incitement between one and the other’s party - No!

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