Reading these last parashot of the year, I keep wondering – why did things go wrong after the years of miraculous existence in the desert that should have taught our forefathers all the right things?
יב וְהָיָה עֵקֶב תִּשְׁמְעוּן, אֵת הַמִּשְׁפָּטִים הָאֵלֶּה, וּשְׁמַרְתֶּם וַעֲשִׂיתֶם, אֹתָם–וְשָׁמַר יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ לְךָ, אֶת-הַבְּרִית וְאֶת-הַחֶסֶד, אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּע, לַאֲבֹתֶיךָ.
|12 And it shall come to pass, because ye hearken to these ordinances, and keep, and do them, that the LORD thy God shall keep with thee the covenant and the mercy which He swore unto thy fathers,|
|13 and He will love thee, and bless thee, and multiply thee; He will also bless the fruit of thy body and the fruit of thy land, thy corn and thy wine and thine oil, the increase of thy kine and the young of thy flock, in the land which He swore unto thy fathers to give thee.|
|14 Thou shalt be blessed above all peoples; there shall not be male or female barren among you, or among your cattle.|
One would think that with a promise like that, who would turn away?
But aren’t we guilty of the same things today as our ancestors were a long time ago? They turned to things they could touch – little idols and teraphim because it was easier to imagine they are in charge and because that was what surrounding peoples did. We turn to positions of power, money and benefits because we think that they would protect us just as if they were the new teraphim. Do we, as people ever change? When we cry of pain, we turn to G-d asking “why”? “Why me, why now?”. However, when we are jumping for joy, do we always find time to stop and thank Gd for the small miracle that just happened? For the stars, we saw, for the meal that was delicious, for a child that came home with some good news? For another day of peace in our lives – this seems more miraculous now than ever.
ז כִּי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, מְבִיאֲךָ אֶל-אֶרֶץ טוֹבָה: אֶרֶץ, נַחֲלֵי מָיִם–עֲיָנֹת וּתְהֹמֹת, יֹצְאִים בַּבִּקְעָה וּבָהָר.
|7 For the LORD thy God bringeth thee into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths, springing forth in valleys and hills;|
|8 a land of wheat and barley, and vines and fig-trees and pomegranates; a land of olive-trees and honey;|
The sweet fruit of this land
How I yearn for thee
Tell me you’re waiting to meet me
As much as I do
י וְאָכַלְתָּ, וְשָׂבָעְתָּ–וּבֵרַכְתָּ אֶת-יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, עַל-הָאָרֶץ הַטֹּבָה אֲשֶׁר נָתַן-לָךְ.
|10 And thou shalt eat and be satisfied, and bless the LORD thy God for the good land which He hath given thee.|
How many times we say this in Birkat ha-mazon ברכת המזון without thinking where had the text come from. In reality, we do have to stop and appreciate these ancient words. Life was mostly about not hungering thousands and even hundreds of years ago, and the possibility to be satisfied was not taken for granted by anyone.
יב וְעַתָּה, יִשְׂרָאֵל–מָה יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, שֹׁאֵל מֵעִמָּךְ: כִּי אִם-לְיִרְאָה אֶת-יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ לָלֶכֶת בְּכָל-דְּרָכָיו, וּלְאַהֲבָה אֹתוֹ, וְלַעֲבֹד אֶת-יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, בְּכָל-לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל-נַפְשֶׁךָ.
|12 And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all His ways, and to love Him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul;|
|13 to keep for thy good the commandments of the LORD, and His statutes, which I command thee this day|
These verses, though, present such challenge that I once attended a whole class discussing just that – how do you “walk in His ways” and yet fear Him? Personally, I do understand the fear, more like awe – יִראָה – but how does one walk together with Something/Body that he fears so intensely? Isn’t Gd a “consuming fire”? How do we reconcile these two? Even though I try to learn all the time, this is still an open question for me.
י כִּי הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר אַתָּה בָא-שָׁמָּה לְרִשְׁתָּהּ–לֹא כְאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם הִוא, אֲשֶׁר יְצָאתֶם מִשָּׁם: אֲשֶׁר תִּזְרַע אֶת-זַרְעֲךָ, וְהִשְׁקִיתָ בְרַגְלְךָ כְּגַן הַיָּרָק.
|10 For the land, whither thou goest in to possess it, is not as the land of Egypt, from whence ye came out, where thou didst sow thy seed, and didst water it with thy foot, as a garden of herbs;|
|11 but the land, whither ye go over to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys, and drinketh water as the rain of heaven cometh down;|
|12 a land which the LORD thy God careth for; the eyes of the LORD thy God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year.|
The story of the land of Israel and the history of the modern State of Israel testify to these words.
We just have to remember that we can’t take the Almighty’s protection for granted. This land can get tired of our sins, Gd forbid. Or, even our illusions. Listening to the news lately, makes me think that we all are living in some kind of a dark fantasy land. May we wake up to the truths that have been told to us by Moshe Rabbenu.