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Shabbat Parashat Masei 5782

Parashat Hashavua: "To Be a Free Nation in our Land"

Harav Yosef Carmel

Sefer Bamidbar ends the description of the wandering in the desert and brings us to the cusp of entering Eretz Yisrael (Sefer Devarim deals primarily with Moshe’s address to the people before his death). Therefore, Parashat Masei summarizes the sojourns in the desert, final preparations for entering Eretz Yisrael, and the beginning of the process of founding an independent state for Bnei Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael in set boundaries.

In the last generations, we have been blessed, with Hashem’s kindness and through the wonderful dedication and ultimate sacrifices of many Israelis, to establish a Jewish and democratic state in Eretz Yisrael, which promises freedom to all its citizens. In the anthem that the Zionist movement adopted and which became the state’s anthem, one line has been the subject of much argument, especially in the religious community: "To be a free (chofshi) nation in our Land, the Land of Zion and Jerusalem."

The argument was because chofshi was used at that time to refer to those who were not careful to fulfill mitzvot. On the other hand, this was not the poet’s intention. We will use Parashat Masei to help understand the root, chofesh.

The fight against idol worship was stressed on the eve of the entry to the Land (Bamidbar 33:50-56). It is important to understand the fundamental difference between the privilege to be under the pleasant obligation to do mitzvot and being enslaved by idol worship. All idol worship, without exception, creates a situation of enslavement between the adherent and the idol. The idol is viewed as having power, and those who are under its dominion need to appease it and ask for its help to get what they want. Much effort is put into not arousing its anger, for they believe it is powerful. Sacrifices were a major part of this effort. It is impossible to be free without breaking out of that relationship.

Many kings in the ancient world viewed themselves as deities, adding an element of enslavement between them and their subjects. The lowest level was to be such a servant to a servant (i.e., the king is himself a servant). This is the way Chazal (see Kiddushin 22b) viewed Bnei Yisrael’s status as slaves in Egypt, a place called the “house of slaves” (see Shemot 13:3).

Yirmiyahu set out the conditions for being freed from the “house of slaves.” He told the people that when Hashem took our forefathers out of Egypt, he made a covenant with them that they must send their brethren free from bondage according to the Torah’s schedule and conditions (see Yirmiyahu 34:13-16). According to the Yerushalmi (Rosh Hashana 3:5), Yirmiyahu was just elaborating on what was found in Shemot 6:13. Elsewhere he told the nation that Hashem did not take the people out in order that He should “receive” offerings but so that He would be their G-d, for their benefit (Yirmiyahu 7:22-23). The point is that we should be a free nation in the higher meaning of the term, and for our own noble good. When one part of the nation subjugates another part, we cannot be a society that is based on doing good.    

May we merit to establish a society in Israel in which no one subjugates others. Rather, the government and the populace should be dedicated to doing good for each other.

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Nir Rephael ben Rachel Bracha
Yisrael ben Rivka

Arye Yitzchak ben Geula Miriam

Neta bat Malka

Meira bat Esther
Yerachmiel ben Zlotta Rivka

Together with all cholei Yisrael

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to the memory of:

Those who fell in wars

for our homeland


Rav Shlomo Merzel z”l
Iyar 10, 5771

Reuven & Chaya Leah Aberman z"l
Tishrei 9
,5776 / Tishrei 20, 5782


Mr. Shmuel & Esther Shemesh z"l

Sivan 17 / Av 20


Mr. Moshe Wasserzug z"l

Tishrei 20 ,5781


R' Eliyahu Carmel z"l

Rav Carmel's father

Iyar 8 ,5776


Mrs. Sara Wengrowsky

bat RMoshe Zev a”h.

Tamuz 10 ,5774


Rav Asher & Susan Wasserteil z"l
Kislev 9 / Elul 5780

R' Meir ben

Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld z"l


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Tevet 16 ,5780


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Chana bat Yaish & Simcha

Sebbag, z"l


Rav Yisrael Rozen z"l
Cheshvan 13, 5778


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Tamuz 23, 5777


R' Abraham Klein z"l

Iyar 18 ,5779


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Av 4


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Tammuz 19, 5778


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Adar 28, 5781


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Nechama Osna bat Yitzhak Aharon & Doba

Av 30, 5781


Rabbi Dr. Jerry Hochbaum z"l

Adar II 17, 5782


Mrs. Julia Koschitzky z"l

Adar II 18, 5782


Mrs. Leah Meyer z"l

Nisan 27, 5782

R' Yitzchak Eizik
ben Yehuda Leib Usdan z"l
Av 29


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