From the Mouth of Babes
By Tzvi Fishman
7/18/2007, 12:00 AM
Tzvi FishmanBefore making Aliyah to Israel, Tzvi Fishman was a Hollywood screenwriter....
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We mentioned that many people are so cross-eyed in the dark maze of their exiles that they fail to see the light that is so obvious to anyone who looks with straightforward vision. Or as our illustration suggests, they find it hard to see the butterfly that sits at the tip of their nose.
Keep your eyes on the butterfly
The situation is similar to the laws of writing sacred texts. For instance, if a reader of a Torah scroll is not certain whether a letter is an unusually extended yud, or a too short vav, he must call a child up to the scroll and ask his opinion. Whatever the child answers is the verdict, determining whether the Torah scroll is kosher or not.
This same test can be applied to the question whether or not G-d wants the Jewish People to live in the Land of Israel. Make the test yourself. Take any fourth grade or fifth grade class of Jewish kids in your community. Have all of them read the Book of Devarim (Deuteronomy). Then ask them where G-d wants the Jewish People to live. The test is as simple as that. That way you’ll get the answer straight from the mouth of babes. To make sure the kids haven’t already been brainwashed in their homes, choose a class of non-Jews in any public school. Ask them the same question. I bet every one of the kids answers, “In the Land of Israel.”
Sinai was merely a stopover to pick up the Torah. Why? Because the Torah is meant to be lived in the Land of Israel, not in the wilderness of Sinai, or England, or America, or France.
Why do I say this? Because, as you study the Book of Devarim for the next two months, notice how many times it says, in one phrasing or another: “These are the commandments that I have given you to do in the Land that I have given you to possess.” For instance, to cite just a few:
“Now therefore, hearken O Israel, to the statutes and to the judgments which I teach you to do them, that you may live and go in and possess the Land which the L-rd G-d of your fathers gives you (Devarim, 4:1).
“Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the L-rd my G-d commanded me, that you should act accordingly in the Land whither you go in to possess” (Devarim, 4:5).
“And the L-rd commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and judgments, that you might do them in the Land into which you go over to possess (Devarim, 4:14).
“Thou shall keep therefore His statutes and His commandments which I command thee this day, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee, and that thou may prolong thy days upon the Land which the L-rd thy G-d gives thee, forever” (Devarim, 4:40).
“I will speak to thee all of the commandments and the statutes and the judgments, which thou shall teach them, that they may do them in the Land which I gave them to possess” (Devarim, 5:27).
“You shall walk in all the ways which the L-rd your G-d has commanded you, that you may live, and that it be well with you, and that you may prolong your days in the Land which you shall possess (Devarim, 5:30).
“Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the judgments, which the L-rd your G-d commanded to teach you, that you might do them in the Land into which you go to possess it (Devarim, 6:1).
“Hear therefore, O Israel, and take care to do it, that it may be well with thee, and that you may increase mightily, as the L-rd G-d of thy fathers has promised thee, in that Land that flows with milk and honey” (Devarim, 6:3).
“All the commandments which I command thee this day shall you observe to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the Land which the L-rd swore to your fathers (Devarim, 8:1).
“Therefore shall you keep all the commandments which I command you this day, that you may be strong, and go in and possess the Land, into which you go to possess it; that you may prolong your days in the Land, which the L-rd swore to your fathers to give to them, a Land flowing with milk and honey” (Devarim, 11:8)
“in the Land….” “in the Land….” “in the Land….”
Now, when the Torah speaks about a Land of milk and honey that G-d gave to our forefathers, it isn’t talking about England, or France, or South Africa, or Australia, or Mexico, or even America, as any fourth grader will tell you. The commandments were given to us to be performed in the Land of Israel. G-d wants the Jewish People to live here.
Let’s take a quick look at this week’s Torah portion. Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook would repeat this to his students year after year by saying, look what we have here! Moshe begins to explain the Torah to the Children of Israel as they are about to enter the Promised Land. We are about to hear the commentary of Moshe Rabainu on the Torah. Pretty good teacher, right? Rashi writes that Moshe explained them the Torah in 70 languages. (Maybe so that the English Jews, and the French Jews, and the Spanish-speaking Jews would be sure to understand). And what is the first thing that Moshe tells them?
“The L-rd our G-d spoke to us in Horev, saying, You have dwelt long enough in this mountain: turn and take up your journey” (Devarim, 1:7).
In other words - let’s go guys. You’ve hung around in this wilderness long enough! And where are they supposed to go? Moshe reminds them what G-d has already said on the way out from Egypt:
“Behold I have set the Land before you; go in and possess the Land which the L-rd swore to your fathers, Avraham, Yitzhak, and Yaacov, to give them and to their seed after them (Devarim, 1:8).
The Land isn’t Greenland, nor Iceland, nor even Disneyland. It’s the LAND OF ISRAEL. And “their seed” – that’s us!
Not even Disneyland
Once again, cherished brothers and sisters. What is Moshe telling them? Ask the fourth graders. He is telling them that have lingered long enough around the mountain of Sinai – they are to take up their journey and go on to Israel. Sinai was merely a stopover to pick up the Torah. Why? Because the Torah is meant to be lived in the Land of Israel, not in the wilderness of Sinai, or England, or America, or France. The goal of Judaism is not the Torah, but rather to live a life of Torah in the Land of Israel. That’s what the Exodus was all about, as the verse clearly states: “I will bring you up out of the afflictions of Egypt to a Land flowing with milk and honey” (Shemot, 3:17).
In upcoming blogs, with G-d’s help, we will see more. In the meantime, read this blog over and over until it sinks in. Remember. It isn’t the commentary of Tzvi Fishman. It’s Moses explaining the Torah. If you don’t believe me, ask any fourth grader.
Get the picture?