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No Excuses

By Tzvi Fishman
7/23/2009, 12:00 AM

This Shabbat, we begin reading the Book of Devarim. With all the nation gathered before him, the Rabbi of all Rabbis, Moshe Rabainu, begins to explain the true meaning of the Torah, as it says:

“Moshe began to explain this Torah….” (Devarim, 1:6).

And what does he tell them?

“You have dwelt long enough in this mountain – turn and take up your journey….” (Ibid).

The Jewish Nation is not supposed to leave in the Diaspora. G-d wants the Jews to live in Israel, as Moshe relates to them the word of God, saying:

“Behold I have set the Land before you; go in and possess the Land which the L-rd swore to your fathers, to Avraham, Yitzhak, and Yaacov, to give to them and to their offspring after them (Devarim, 1:8).

This is spoken to them in the language of a command. Living in the Land of Israel is a commandment of the Torah, in all generations, as the Ramban makes clear (Ramban on the Torah, BaMidbar, 33:53; and Ramban, Supplement to the Sefer HaMitzvot of the Rambam, Positive Commandment #4 ). All of the authorities of halachah, the Rishonim (early authorities) and Achronim (later authorities) agree with him (See “Pitchei Tshuva,” Shulchan Aruch, Even HaEzer, Section 75, sub-section 6).

In the verse, “Moshe began to explain this Torah….” The Hebrew word for “explain” is באר. Rashi clarifies the meaning of the word by saying that Moshe explained the Torah in 70 languages (See Rashi, loc. cited).

Whatever the language, a Jew is meant to live in Israel.

Moshe explained the Torah in 70 languages because he knew that in the future, the Jews would be scattered to the four corners of the world amongst the 70 nations, where they would speak English, and French, and Spanish, and German, and Russian, and Arabic, and Portuguese, Yiddish, Brooklynese, and all of the rest. He wanted each and everyone to know, in the languages that they spoke, that “You have dwelt long enough in the Diaspora – take up your journey - go in and possess the Land which the L-rd swore to your fathers, to Avraham, Yitzhak, and Yaacov, to give to them and to their offspring after them.”

That way they wouldn’t have any excuses, claiming I didn’t know, I didn’t understand.

Pick any language you like. The Torah says the same thing in all of them. A Jew is supposed to live in the Land of Israel. Comprendo?