Shabbat Parashat Kedoshim| 5764
From the works of Hagaon Harav Shaul Yisraeli zt”l-The Torah and the Land - Part II - Condensed from Gaon Batorah U’vamidot, pg. 249-253
[We saw the midrash that had Moshe, not Yehoshua, led Bnei Yisrael into the Land, there would have been no destruction in Jewish history. Last week, we discussed the positive elements that Yehoshua incorporated into the initial conquest of Yericho. Now we will see what was lacking, and how it caused a reaction which enabled the destruction to take place.]
What was missing in Yehoshua’s efforts? Yehoshua was commanded in the beginning of his leadership, “The sefer Torah shall not move from your mouth and you shall deal with it day and night” (Yehoshua 1:8). While Yehoshua was busy on the practical elements of the conquest of Yericho, he neglected the fundamental condition for the achievements to survive, involvement in Torah study. Chazal (Megilla 3a) tell us that the angel who visited Yehoshua as the battle was in the making (Yehoshua 5) came to stress the importance of Torah study. Even if the days were to be filled with warfare, the nights were to be filled with Torah study. “Great is Torah study, because it enables action.” Without study, the physical and spiritual gains of action will weaken and disappear. “Torah protects and saves” (Sota 21). It brings a person into a spiritual state, almost like the world to come, putting worldly matters in their proper perspective. Otherwise, the physical matters entice the person, and he may be unable to conquer his inclinations. “If this disgusting one (the yetzer hara) meets up with you, drag him to the beit hamidrash” (Sukka 52).
Failure to put involvement in Torah study in the center of the initial conquest apparently caused the nation to lack the power to overcome the upcoming trials and circumstances. Eventually, they reached such a low point that they sinned the cardinal sins and were fit for the destruction of the beit hamikdash and the dominion by the nations over them.
The mishna (Avot 1:1) tells us that Moshe transmitted the Torah to Yehoshua, who transmitted it to the z’keinim (elders), who transmitted to the n’vi’im (prophets). Why couldn’t the z’keinim transfer to other z’keinim? The z’keinim represent people from among the nation, but n’vi’im are those with unusual characteristics. When only n’vi’im have the Torah, it is a sign that it is separate from the nation as a whole. The result: “The nation served Hashem all the days of Yehoshua and the days of the z’keinim who lived on after him” (Shoftim 2:7). After that point, the chain was broken.
Perhaps this is the intention of Chazal’s explanation of the destruction, which the Torah describes as “‘for leaving my Torah’ - that they did not make a blessing in the Torah in the beginning” (Bava Metzia 85b). Perhaps this is not referring to a failure to make a blessing before Torah study, but to the failure to sufficiently incorporate Torah in the beginning of the conquest of the Land. In this way, Moshe would not have faltered. He explained to Yitro that the throngs of people who waited to ask him questions were there to seek Hashem” (Shemot 18:15). While Yitro saw the people as coming with petty squabbles, Moshe saw the situation as an opportunity to instill in the litigants the wisdom of the Torah and Divine Justice.
Moshe and Torah were so intertwined that the Torah is called “the Torah of my servant Moshe” (Malachi 3:22). Had Moshe entered the land, the Torah would have been so loved by the nation, that it, indeed, would not have left their mouths. Then they would have not deteriorated and learned to sin like the surrounding nations. On the contrary, they would have inspired their neighbors to cling to Hashem, as Yeshaya foresaw for the times of Mashiach.
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