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Shabbat Parashat Devarim 5781

Parashat Hashavua: Why Are There No Plishtim in Sefer Devarim?

Harav Yosef Carmel

These days we are mourning the destruction of the first and second Batei Hamikdash. An important deficiency of life without a Beit Hamikdash is the loss of sovereignty.

The Rambam (Melachim 1:1) rules: There were three mitzvot that Bnei Yisrael were commanded upon entering the Land – to appoint a king, to eradicate the nation of Amalek, and to build a permanent Sanctuary. The mitzva to appoint a king precedes the other two, in which case it is noteworthy that Bnei Yisrael did not appoint such a king for some 400 years from the time that Yehoshua led the nation into Eretz Yisrael. Why didn’t they do so? Because they did not have full independence. What prevented full independence? The answer can be found in silence.

The Plishtim prevented our dominion and even independence, and this is the reason they are all but missing in the Chumash (the Plishtim of the forefathers’ era was a different nation). They are mentioned in passing only in Shemot. When explaining why Bnei Yisrael did not travel from Egypt to Eretz Yisrael via the coastal road, known as “the road of the Land of the Plishtim,” the Torah explains: “… lest the nation have regret when they see battle and return to Egypt” (Shemot 13:17). In other words, the Plishtim were too powerful for the young nation to be ready to confront in battle. The second, cryptic reference was in the context of the boundaries of Eretz Yisrael – the Mediterranean is called the Sea of the Plishtim.

When Yehoshua entered the Land and had many successful conquests, the navi still details the areas that were “left over,” i.e., not conquered. Very prominent among them were the areas inhabited and controlled by the Plishtim (Yehoshua 13:1-3).

Returning to our parasha, Moshe Rabbeinu summarized the history since the Exodus and mentions what was conquered on the eastern side of the Jordan, the sojourns in the area, and the giving of land in that area to Reuven and Gad. Not a word is mentioned about the Plishtim. Apparently, Moshe knew that this problem would not disappear so quickly. Israeli sovereignty and the establishment of a state is something that requires much Divine Assistance, special leadership, staying power, and a properly prepared army. It took hundreds of years after entering the Land and was accomplished only at the time, and based on the actions, of Shmuel, Shaul, and especially David.

After 2,000 years of exile and subservience, we have received independence in a large part of the Land west of the Jordan. The dreams of generations were fulfilled, and a wondrous process of ingathering of the exiles took place. [This was written during the “summer of Corona,” which included civil tension surrounding lockdowns. At the time of translation, we do not know how the streets will look when this is read.] We have a great responsibility to protect that which has been gained. Social deterioration and anarchy in the streets are dangerous events, and these dangers can grow exponentially. While exponential growth in Covid infection is dangerous, the danger of “civil war” is much more serious and concerning. Specifically, during the Three Weeks, let us protect our wonderful state with love and unity, remembering that the virus does not distinguish between parts in the nation.

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Nir Rephael ben Rachel Bracha
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