Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Mesech Chochma on the "matarah Elokit" of yetzi'as Mitzrayim

The gemara (Sanhedrin 111) links "v'lakachti eschem li l'am" with "v'hei'veisi eschem el ha'aretz" and teaches that just as only Yehoshua and Kaleiv, 2 out of 600,000 of those who left Egypt, made it to Eretz Yisrael ("...v'hei'veisi"), so too, only 2 out of 600,000 actually left Egypt ("v'lakachti") -- the rest died in makas choshech.  Meschech Chochma writes that Chazal are trying to tell us that quantity does not matter to G-d.  All the makos and all the miracles done for Klal Yisrael in the desert were worth it if even just 2 out of 600,000 people would achieve the "matarah Elokit," the Divine purpose and end goal.  He adds that therefore one should not grow despondent when seeing how the masses remain unresponsive to the dvar Hashem.  That's just the way things work -- it is a few individuals who are truly inspired and committed, but in their merit, G-d protects our entire nation.

R' Moshe Tzuriel in his Derishat Tzion calls attention to the Meshech Chochma's phrase "ha'matarah ha'Elokit."  What indeed was the purpose and end goal of yetzi'as Mitzrayim?  Wasn't it mattah Torah?  Didn't the entire nation, all 600,000+, not just 2 people, merit standing at Sinai and hearing the dibros?   Clearly that's not the "matarah" the Meshech Chochma was speaking of.  The Torah is a blueprint, but what good is a blueprint, a plan, which is never brought to fruition?  The end goal, the "matarah," was building a nation in Eretz Yisrael.

To put what I think R' Tzuriel is saying a little more starkly, yesh lachkor: is the purpose/matarah of Klal Yisrael to learn and keep Torah, and having Eretz Yisrael is just a means to that end, or is the goal/matarah to build a nation, which means having our own country, and the Torah is a means, an instruction book, on how to go about doing that? 

"Eretz Yisrael einena davar chitzoni, kinyan chitzoni la'umah, rak b'tor emtza'i l'matarah shel ha'hisagdut ha'kelalit v'hachzakat kiyuma ha'chomi oh afilu ha'ruchani..."  (First sentence in Rav Kook's Orot)

Without "v'hei'veisi," the goal remains incomplete and the "matarah" is not achieved.


  1. "only 2...actually left Egypt"

    2 on whom the Shechinah rested, Pirkei Avos 3:2, for speaking rightful words to one another (Malachi 3:16), as indicated by the final words of Shemos 5:9, and the Rashi there...

  2. I wonder why any geographic location would matter so much.

  3. What is the exact Perek and passuk in Chumash that the Meshech Chochmah's commentary above was written on?

  4. What is the exact Perek and passuk in Chumash that the Meshech Chochmah's commentary above was written on?

  5. Seems obvious Eretz Yisroel is for keeping the Torah תהלים ק״ה {מד} וַיִּתֵּן לָהֶם אַרְצוֹת גּוֹיִם וַעֲמַל לְאֻמִּים יִירָשׁוּ: {מה} בַּעֲבוּר יִשְׁמְרוּ חֻקָּיו וְתוֹרֹתָיו יִנְצֹרוּ הַלְלוּיָהּ:

    1. It's ironic, but as I understand it, the religious Zionists in the early twentieth century were advocating East Africa, and it was primarily the chilonim that insisted on Eretz Yisrael. Life is strange.

    2. It was a dispute amongst the chilonim themselves - basically between the West Europeans and the East Europeans.

    3. I am not a historian. I am told that a recent historical analysis asserts/demonstrates that the primary advocates were the the religious. It was emptier, no real local opposition, and the main thing was escaping pogroms. The chilonim davka wanted Eretz Yisrael despite their awareness of the inevitable tensions.

  6. "only Yehoshua and Kaleiv"

    would those two have balked at warring Pelishtim, Shemos 13:17?
    if the Pelishtim still had their tzilam, Bamidbar 14:9, over them?