Judaism: Re'eh: What are You Waiting For?
Levi ChazenLevi Chazen is the Director of the English Division of Yeshivat HaRa´ayon HaYehudi in Jerusalem. He has been working tirelessly over the years in the yeshiva´s many charitable projects in Jerusalem and nationally.
"It shall be that when Hashem your G-d brings you to the land to which you come to possess it, then you shall place the blessing on Mount Gerizim and the curse on Mount Ebal, are they not on the other side of the Jordan, far beyond in the direction of the sunset in the land of the Cana'anite that dwells in the plain far from Gilgal, near the plains of Moreh?"
This commandment by Moshe to the Jewish people to go to the plains of Moreh, as presented in our parsha, was supposed to be the very first act that the Jewish people did upon entering the Land of Israel. But if we look in the Book of Joshua, we find that the order of things was quite different. Only in chapter 8 of the Book of Joshua do we find the Jewish people heading out to fulfill this commandment of going up to Mounts Gerizim and Ebal.
The text there tells us: "And all Israel, and their elders and officers, and their judges, stood on this side before the Ark and on that side before the priests the Levites, that bore the Ark of the Covenant of the LORD, as well the stranger as the home-born; half of them in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal; as Moses the servant of the L-rd had commanded at the first, that they should bless the people of Israel."
What, then, really took place, and what really was the order of things when the Jewish people entered the Land?
Rashi sets us straight in chapter 8 of the Book of Joshua . He writes that upon entering the Land of Israel, the Jewish people traveled to Mounts Gerizim and Ebal to accept upon themselves the blessings and the curses, and they then traveled back and set up camp at Gilgal, where the Tabernacle was constructed. It was only some time later that the wars with Jericho and Ai took place.
One can ask: Why was it so important that the very first thing that Israel did in their land was to go to the plains of Moreh to hear the blessings and the curses? Could it not have waited a few weeks, while everyone "unpacked"? I mean, when you get to a hotel, you don't just jump into the pool; you first have to unpack, get your bathing suit on, and only then can you go swimming.
Moreover, just take a look at all the hardships of traveling on "Day One" that they had to go through - with some 3 million people, including women and children - a trek of tens of miles in enemy territory. Without really knowing the countryside, and with no GPS to guide them, it could take days, if not longer.
As for all the hardships of the journey, the Talmud informs us that many miracles occurred for the Jewish people that day. They were able to make this journey in a very short period of time, in spite of the fact that the whole camp of Israel was traveling with them. They traveled from the plains of Jericho - the crossing of the Jordan - to the mountainous area - some 30 miles and back, in only a few hours. The nations of the land who saw the Jews traveling, wanted to attack them but were unable to, as G-d had cursed them to have loose bowels - and so they were "busy", to say the least...
What, then, was so "earth-shattering", that this commandment had to be done on Day One, right off the bat, upon entering the Land?
For those who read the sentences carefully in our parsha, we can find the answer." The Torah tells us: "These are the decrees and the ordinances that you shall observe to perform in the Land that Hashem the G-d of your forefathers has given you to possess it, all the days that you live on the Land."
Clearly, the Torah is teaching us that the fulfillment of G-d's commandments can be done only in the Land, and lest one think for a moment that you can fulfill commandments even outside the Land of Israel, G-d commands the Jewish people to go right away - before "unpacking" - to Mounts Gerizim and Ebal to accept the blessings and the curses - the fulfillment of the Torah to tell us that until now, it's been the "exhibition games" - but now that you have entered the Land of Israel, it’s the real thing - the season starts! For the entire Torah was given over to the Jewish people to fulfill in the Land of Israel.
Everywhere else, it's just for practice.
No matter when one come up to the Land, even at a late stage in one's life, the merit is great to ascend to the Land, as our rabbis teach us: All who walk four amot in the Land of Israel have a place in the World To Come.
So what are you, my dear brethren in the exile, still waiting for? Come join us in the Land and partake of its goodness!