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Shabbat Parashat Behar| 5768

The Torah and the Land part II

Moreshet Shaul

(from the works of Hagaon Harav Shaul Yisraeli zt”l)


The Torah and the Land – part II

(from Harabbanut V’Hamedinah, pp. 310-312)

[Last time we saw about the positive steps that Yehoshua took to impress upon Bnei Yisrael that although they were entering a life of natural, physical existence, they must remember that Hashem’s Hand is responsible for their successes. Now we will deal with some shortcomings.]

Yehoshua failed in the matter he was commanded from the outset: “The book of the Torah shall not move from your mouth, and you shall dwell in it day and night” (Yehoshua 1:8). While busy with the operative elements of the conquest, he ignored the irreplaceable, basic condition- Torah study. The prophet tells us that Hashem’s “military commander” appeared because of the matter of “now,” meaning, to chastise him for not learning during the preparations (Megilla 3a). The great importance of conquering the Land depends on the depth of Torah study day and night. If Yehoshua was busy in the day, he could have dedicated the night to Torah. “Great is study, which leads to action.” Without it, action will not fully succeed. Torah study puts one in an other-worldly spiritual state that turns physical matters into trivialities that are important only as means. Without Torah study, physical things entice one and do not enable him to win the battle with the evil inclination (see Sukka 52b).

Yehoshua’s failure to place Torah study at the center of life from the outset of conquest apparently caused future failures. At the end, the nation was guilty of idol worship, incest and idolatry, and murder, which in turn caused the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash and foreign domination over Israel.

“Moshe received the Torah at Sinai and handed it to Yehoshua, and Yehoshua to the elders, and the elders to the prophets and the prophets….” The chain did not go from elders to elders but to prophets, who are an important but different type of link. Everyone can have a share in the crown of Torah, but not everyone is capable of prophecy. When the Torah is the domain of prophets, others are excluded. This is hinted at in the pasuk’s summary of the era: “The nation served Hashem all of Yehoshua’s days and the days of the elders who continued after Yehoshua” (Shoftim 2:7). When the link of elders ended, the nation deteriorated spiritually.

This initial failure may be referred to by Chazal’s comments on the cause of exile, “‘for leaving my Torah’- that they did not bless on the Torah in the beginning” (Bava Metzia 85b). The beginning can refer both to when they first entered the Land and in regard to making Torah study a priority as the center of their new life in the Land. This is the difference between Moshe and Yehoshua. Moshe saw people as seeking him out in order to “seek Hashem” (Shemot 18:15). Yitro viewed them as burdening Moshe with dispute resolution, but Moshe explained that in fact the people were coming to learn, with disputes serving as the framework for learning Hashem’s laws. Divine wisdom cannot be absorbed abstractly and so justice becomes a means of grasping it. People had a desire to be involved in Torah study, as this is the very basis of life. This idea was the essence of Moshe’s personality and something that he toiled to engrain in the people. For this reason, the Torah is called the “Torah of my servant Moshe” and Torah scholars are referred to as Moshe (see Rashi to Chulin 93a).

That is why the midrash says that if Moshe had entered the Land, destruction would not have occurred. He would have succeeded in endearing Torah study on all avenues of the nation’s life. This would have protected them from being pulled along with physicality as a goal in its own right, instead of a means for the service of Hashem. Then, instead of being influenced by the abominations of other nations, the Torah would have gone forth from Zion and the nations would have abandoned their idols. This is the aspiration that we also are yet to actualize in our times, yet our eyes look forward to it in the end of days.


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This edition of Hemdat Yamim is dedicated in loving memory of

R ' Meir ben Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld


 Hemdat Yamim is endowed by Les & Ethel Sutker of Chicago, Illinois in loving memory of

Max and Mary Sutker

 and Louis and Lillian Klein, z”l.

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