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Ask Your Local Rabbi

By Tzvi Fishman
8/13/2011, 11:08 PM

During the week, we will take a look at some other “tell it like it is” essays of Rabbi Meir Kahane from the amazing new seven-volume collection, “Beyond Words.” For the moment, as is our custom, we will take a look at the Torah portion we read on Shabbat, to what we can learn from it. After all, that’s why we it. The Torah isn’t some ancient document that had no bearing on our lives, G-d forbid. The Torah is the living Divine guide on how we are to conduct our lives. There are many things to learn in this week’s portion of “Va’etchanan,” but we will concentrate on one thing that the Torah repeats again and again.

As we have written in the past, we are to learn from our Forefathers. The accounts of their lives come to teach us how we are to live. They are our fathers. We are their children. We are to model our lives after the example they set. Their aspirations are to be our aspirations. So, right at the beginning of the Torah portion, we find Moshe Rabbeinu, our teacher, pleaded with G-d to let him enter the Holy Land. Our Sages told us that Moshe pleaded, cajoled, begged, entreated, beseeched, appealed, implored, prayed, invoked, supplicated, cried, petitioned, nagged, even sang. Finally, G-d had to order him to cease. More than anything else, Moshe wanted to enter the Holy land. After all, it was the goal of his mission, to bring the Jews into the Promised Land. Moreover, it is the goal of the Torah. To truly live the Torah, you have to be in the Holy Land. The Torah was given to the Jews to be performed in the Holy Land. G-d didn’t want the Jews to settle down in the wilderness with the Torah. That isn’t the real Torah. The Torah isn’t just putting on tefillin, eating glatt kosher hamburgers, and observing Shabbat. The Torah is building a holy nation in the Land of Israel, so that all the nations of the world will learn that they have to serve G-d too – not just on Sunday mornings in their private lives, but all of the world’s government must bow to Hashem, and that is something that they can only learn through the holy national life of the Nation of Israel in Eretz Yisrael.     

But you don’t have to take my word for it. Look at what Moshe tells us again and again in this week’s Torah portion:

“Now therefore hearken, O Israel, to the statutes and to the judgments which I teach you to do them, in order 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)

Now, I grew up in America. I went to a fancy phony boarding school in New England. I went to college and took all kinds of courses in English. I memorized all the rules of William Strunk & E.B. White’s “The Elements of Style.” Please take another look at the verse above. There are two parts to the sentence. The first clause says what G-d expects from the Jews. The second clause tells why. The first part of the sentence expresses the means to carry out the goal. The means are the statutes and judgments of the Torah. The goal is to live a Torah life in Israel, as it says, “in order that you may live and go in and possess the Land which the L-rd G-d of your fathers gives you.”

Let’s take another example, a few verses on: “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 it” (Devarim, 4:5).  Once again, we are told that G-d gave us the commandments in order that we keep them in the Land. The goal is not merely keeping the commandments, but rather keeping them in the Land, the only place where most of the commandments can be kept. And of course, lest someone have any doubts, the Land which the Torah refers to is the Holy Land, not America, Germany, Australia, or England.

Let’s go on. Once again, Moshe tells them: “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 it” (Devarim, 4:14).

My dear brothers and sisters – is there something not clear about this? Maybe the first time you hear it. But the second time, and the third, and the fourth, and the fifth. The goal of the Torah is to observe it in Eretz Yisrael. That’s why Moshe repeats it again and again. There are several similar examples in this Torah portion, but my fingers are tired from typing. You can read them yourselves.     

Print out this blog, take it to your local rabbi, and ask him if I’m wrong. I don’t see any other way of explaining these verses, do you? Let me know if he says something different. I’d be very interested to learn. Maybe Moshe made a mistake. Maybe when he told us (Devarim, 6:3), “Hear therefore, O Yisrael, 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 your fathers has promised thee, in the Land that flows with milk and honey,” maybe Moshe stuttered and really meant to say, “in the Land that flows with milk and money.”

Ask your local rabbi. I’d be happy to know his response.