Friday, August 01, 2014

vyachpiru lanu es ha'aretz -- yishuv ha'aretz lishma

Again, I think we need to focus our attention in these weeks on learning divrei Torah that pertain to Eretz Yisrael and on chizuk for Am Yisrael.  The Radomsker explains the pasuk, “Hashem Elokeinu dibeir eileinu b’chorev leimor” as hinting that Hashem speaks to us still even “b’chorev,” even when things are in a state of churban, of destruction and ruin.  The words of Torah are there to comfort us and inspire even in difficult times.

There is an important Tanchuma that opens our sefer by telling is that the same miracles that G-d did for the Jewish people in the desert will be done for us again in Tzion.  When Bnei Yisrael were still in the midbar they heard, “Eileh hadevarim…,” the words that open our parsha, and we are promised (Yeshayahu 42:16) that in the future G-d will make the darkness into light and the twisted roads straight, “eileh hadevarim asisim v’lo azavtim.”   We hope that we see this vision soon!

When it comes to describing the mission the spies were sent on, our parsha uses the term “v’yachpiru lanu es ha’aretz,” as opposed to in parshas shelach, where the term “v’yasuru is used. Why the change?  And why did Moshe not only agree to the mission, but “vayitav b’einay ha’davar,” he thought it was a good idea? 

The Maor v’Shemesh writes that Bnei Yisrael came to Moshe with the claim that they did not want to be motivated to fulfill the mitzvah of yishuv ha’aretz because of the beauty of the land of Israel.  That would be she’lo lishma!  The term “v’yachpiru” which describes the spies’ mission is similar to the word “cherpah,” embarrassment.  They deliberately wanted to hear the downside, the reasons not to go, all that was wrong and could go wrong in Eretz Yisrael, so that had they gone despite all that, it would have been purely out of love for the holiness of the land.

Aside from the obvious risk of this plan backfiring and the people being swayed by all the bad news, which is exactly what happened, I think it was flawed for another reason.  In the introduction to the Eglei Tal the Sochotchover writes that there are people who think that the simcha and enjoyment that comes from learning Torah takes away from the lishma.  However, quite the opposite is true.  The enjoyment that comes from learning is part and parcel of the lishma, part and parcel of the mitzvah of talmud Torah itself.  In that same way, I would argue that appreciating the beauty of the physical land of Eretz Yisrael does not take away from the lishma of the mitzvah of yishuv ha’aretz, but is rather part and parcel of what Hashem wants from us in doing the mitzvah.

At the end of the parsha the Torah begins to describe (3:12) the apportionment of land in Eiver haYarden to the tribes of Reuvain and Gad, but then seems to go on a tangent and talk about the lands in Eiver haYarden that Moshe gave to half the tribe of Menashe, only to then come back again a few pesukim later (3:16) and resume the description of Reuvain and Gad’s portion.  Why not finish the narrative with respect to Reuvain and Gad instead of interrupting it with what was given to Menashe?

The Netziv answers that the tribe of Menashe were great talmidei chachamim – these were the scholars and Roshei Yeshiva.  The story of Menashe’s settlement in Eiver haYarden is not an interruption to the story of Reuvain and Gad’s settlement of those lands, but is a crucial element in that narrative.  Moshe Rabeinu deliberately encouraged Menashe to settle near Reuvain and Gad because without the spiritual energy of Menashe, the communities of Reuvain and Gad outside of Eretz Yisrael would be religiously unable to sustain themselves. 

Living in chutz la’aretz, outside the center of Torah, requires extra spiritual insurance.   

Moshe gives Bnei Yisrael a bracha at the beginning of the parsha that Hashem should add to us a thousand fold over and bless us "ka'asher dibeir lachem."  As a general rule, the term “dibur” is used when harsh words are spoken, while the term "amira" is used for words of comfort or a soft spoken message.  When then does Moshe Rabeinu say (1:11) that Hashem should bless us “ka’asher dibeir lachem?”  Wouldn’t bracha be given using “amira,” not “dibur?” 

The Tiferes Banim (son of the Bnei Yisaschar) explains that what Moshe was saying is that even when we face harsh times, “dibur,” underneath those rough words we will also find Hashem’s bracha.  

He continues and writes that the gemara always uses the phrase “ta shema,” but the Zohar uses the expression “ta chazu.”  Shemiya is enough when the meaning is relatively clear, but when it comes to speaking about sodos haTorah, the deeper level of “chazu” is needed.  This Shabbos before 9 Av is called Shabbos Chazon because finding bracha behind the “dibur” of difficult circumstances is not something that is obvious; it is part of the hidden aspects of Torah that we have to search for a dig deeply to discover.  Our parsha reminds us that even if it's not obvious on the surface, we have to trust that the bracha is still there.  This is our avodah during these times, and it's not an easy one.

Let me just end with the second part of the vort of the Radomsker I started with: Hashem speaks to us through Torah even “b’chorev,” even amidst churban, and he tells us, “Rav lachem sheves…,” your “rav,” your teacher and guide during difficult times, is “sheves,” the day of Shabbos.  The chassidishe seforim say that these Shabbosos of the three weeks are the holiest Shabbosos of the year.  Shabbos lifts a person up and lifts up the entire week.  To lift a person up during these difficult times, to lift up the week in which 9 Av occurs, that must really be a holy, special Shabbos.   That’s our Shabbos of Chazon. 

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