Parshat Re’eh 5778: The False Prophet, the Communal Enticer and a Subverted City[?] vs Striving for Closeness to Hashem

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShevua, Parshat Re’eh is being co-sponsored by R’ Barak and Sarah Schecter of Ramat Beit Shemesh dedicated L’ilui Nishmas for both Barak’s grandfather, Yosef ben Yisrael David z”l and Aviv ben Yair z”l and by an anonymous donor lilui nismas Devorah bat Yechiel Michel Of Blessed Memory. To both the Schecter family and our anonymous donor, many thanks for your sponsorship and for your continued kindnesses and good wishes.

You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.

Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
skype: mark.burt3

Parshat Re’eh 5778: The False Prophet, the Communal Enticer and a Subverted City[?] vs Striving for Closeness to Hashem

by Moshe Burt

Our Parshat Re’eh, early on, reinforces a theme discussed previously in Parshat Masei:

“When you cross the Jordan to the land of Canaan, you shall drive out all of the inhabitants of the Land before you; and you shall destroy all their prostration stones; all of their molten images….” (Artscroll Stone Chumash, Sefer BaMidbar, Perek 33, posukim 51-52 and commentary, pages 922-923)

…Apparently, …the meaning here: If you allow the pagan inhabitants to remain in the Land, they will become a hedge [a guard, a protection] around their pagan practices; the nature of these practices will be concealed from your perception and insight, and you will not find fault with them. Tolerance toward the pagan inhabitants will beget tolerance toward paganism. If you tolerate paganism and find justification for it within Hashem’s Land, you will cease to belong to Hashem alone, and… you will be deprived of your right to exist in the Land, and you will not be worthy of protection …. When Hashem removes His protection of you…, those toward whom you have been so tolerant will become your enemies and will oppress you in your own land.

In this context, R’ Shimshon Rafael Hirsch z”l provides rendering to English and commentary on Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 33, posuk 52 in the new Hirsch Chumash (published by Feldheim in 2005 and translated to English by Rabbi Daniel Haberman, pages 666-667):

“You shall first clear out the land for occupancy and [only] then settle in it, for to you have I given the land to take possession of it.”

You must first make the Land fit to be your yerusha [inheritance] by removing all traces of polytheism, and only then will you be able to settle in it. You are not inheriting the Land by your own power and might; rather, Hashem’s will and Hashem’s power are giving you the Land…. Hence, you will not be able to avoid fulfilling the first basic condition on which Hashem makes the [this] gift of the Land dependent.

The Artscroll Stone Chumash, early in our Parshat Re’eh, renders to English Sefer Devarim, Perek 12, posukim 1-3 detailing how to make the Land fit for the Jews to take up residence:

“These are the decrees and ordinances that you shall observe to perform in the Land that Hashem, Keilokecha [of your forefathers] has given you, to possess it, all the days that you live on the Land. You shall utterly destroy all the places where the nations that you are driving away worshipped their gods; on the high mountains and on the hills, and under every leafy tree. You shall break apart their altars; you shall smash their pillars; and their sacred trees shall you burn in the fire; their carved images shall you cut down; and you shall obliterate their names from that place.”

Sefer Shem Mishmuel (by R’ Shmuel Bornstein, as translated by R’ Zvi Belovski, page 392) provides a brief summary of Sefer Devarim, Perek 12, posukim 1-3:

…The sidrah describes the actions which Klal Yisrael were to take against the idols they would find in Eretz Yisrael. Hashem commanded them to utterly destroy them and to… uproot idolatry from the land.

The Artscroll Stone Chumash provides further commentary on these posukim (pages 999-1000):

…Idols must be destroyed totally (Mizrachi). This is why it is not sufficient merely to chop down an… idolatrous tree; even its roots must be removed from the ground (Rashi).

Rabbi Akiva inferred… that whenever one saw a high mountain or verdant tree, it should be assumed that an idol or an altar had been placed there (Avodah Zarah 45b). Apparently, the Canaanites set up their idols wherever the surroundings manifested the powers of nature, powers that they associated with their idols.

Not only should the idols themselves be removed, Jews are not even to refer to them by their proper names. Instead, they should use derogatory nicknames for them (Rashi)…

Once these forms of idolatry (avodah zora) are eradicated from the Land, Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, in his sefer “Unlocking The Torah Text,” Sefer Devarim (page 131), devotes a paragraph of his Parsha Summary to how to deal with the internal forces which could entice others to idolatry:

After warning the B’nei Yisrael not to be attracted to the evil ways of the peoples that they conquer, Moshe outlines the Halachic response to a series of potential internal threats: the false prophet, a member of the community who entices others towards idolatry and a city that succumbs in its entirety to idolatrous practice.

About one-third through our Parshat Re’eh, Torah addresses the false prophet (navi sheker), the communal enticer (meisit u’meidiach) and the theoretical case of a Subverted City (ir hanidachat). This vort will endeavor to treat these internal threats.

Rabbi Goldin discusses the potential threat of the navi sheker and asks questions on the posukim below (“Unlocking The Torah Text,” Sefer Devarim, page 154):

Moshe…. warns of the possibility that “a prophet or a dreamer of a dream” might successfully produce “a sign or a wonder” in an attempt to convince you to follow the avodah zora of others.

“Do not listen to the words of that prophet,” he cautions, “for Hashem Kelokecha is testing you to know whether you love [Him] with all of your heart and with all of your soul.” (ibid, rendered to English in “Unlocking The Torah Text,” Sefer Devarim, Perek 13, posukim 4-5)

If the individual in question is a charlatan, why does Torah refer to him as “a prophet or a dreamer of a dreams”? Shouldn’t the appellation “prophet” be reserved for someone who is telling the truth? ….Would Hashem truly grant supernatural powers to an imposter, simply to “test” the people’s belief? Given that Hashem knows from the outset what lies in man’s heart [This author has cited this attribution to Ibn Ezra on several occasions as cited in the sefer “Torah Gems”, by Aharon Yaakov Greenberg on Parshat Yithro, page 131], what would be the purpose of such a test?

Rabbi Goldin cites numerous Chachamim such as: Rashi, Rabbi Yossi, Rabbi Akiva, Rambam, Ramban, Ibn Ezra, Abravanel with various and differing explanations regarding these questions. R’ Goldin concludes in this way (ibid, “Unlocking The Torah Text,” Sefer Devarim, page 160-161):

The situation of the navi sheker… is comparable to two Halachically acceptable witnesses who offer testimony that directly contradicts what we ourselves have observed. Such testimony is clearly not acceptable, no matter how worthy the witnesses themselves may seem to be. Similarly, the signs presented by a potential navi who directly contradicts the prophecy of Moshe will not sway us, no matter how worthy that candidate for prophecy may seem to be.

“Given that we only accept a potential navi’s signs because we are commanded to do so [by Hashem through Moshe], how can we accept …a sign from one who endeavors to refute the very prophecy of Moshe, prophecy that we ourselves heard?” (Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah 8:1-3) ….The law leads us. Just as we are mandated by law to accept the sign of a worthy candidate for prophecy who does not contradict Torah law, we are equally mandated by law not to accept the sign of an apparently worthy candidate who does contradict Torah law.

When all is said and done, the ultimate veracity of a prophet will be determined by what he says and not by how he says it. Substance, and not form, the Halacha mandates, should convince us of the truth.

The Artscroll Stone Chumash now brings p’sukim regarding one who attempts to entice another to avodah zora:

“If your brother…, or your son or …daughter, or [your] wife…, or your friend … will entice you secretly, saying, ‘Let us go and worship [avodah zora]’ — that you did not know, you nor your forefathers, from the [idols] of the peoples that are around you… — you shall not accede to him and not hearken to him; your eye shall not take pity on him, you shall not be compassionate nor conceal him. Rather, you shall surely kill him; your hand shall be the first against him to kill him, and he hand of the entire poeple afterwards. You shall pelt him with stones and he shall die, for he ought to make you stray from near Hashem, Keilokecha, Who takes you out of Mitzrayim, from the house of slavery. All Israel shall hear and see, and they shall not again do such an evil thing…'” (Sefer Devarim, Perek 13, posukim 7-12)

As an aside, regarding the “subverted city, R’ Hirsch, in the new Hirsch Chumash Sefer Devarim cites Tosefta in Gemara Sanhedrin 71a (re: Perek 13, posukim 13-19, page 281):

Scripture discusses… a purely theoretical case which never happened and never will happen — where the inciters succeed and the majority of the city is led astray to idolatry.

In such a case the whole [of Medinat] Yisrael is called upon to save the integrity of Hashem’s very Own [nation] by destroying one of the state members [i.e., the offending city], which not only sinned against Hashem but betrayed the fundamental principle of the nation. By this offense, these people — …removed themselves from the national community and, like enemies, set themselves against the whole nation. Thus, the state confronts a community of citizens that betrayed all that is sacred to to the national community. The Torah places in the hand of the state the “sword”, … pronounces the edict of destruction even upon the property of those executed, and decrees the permanent destruction of the city. Not even a trace of this betrayal should come into others’ possession via such property, …desecrated by this betrayal, and ground desecrated by this betrayal should never again become a place of development of Jews’ human existence.

R’ Hirsch then contrasts the decree against the subverted city with that of, as R’ Goldin puts it, “the member of the community who entices others towards idolatry” (ibid, the new Hirsch Chumash Sefer Devarim, page 281):

…The sin of idolatry committed by individuals differs from that committed by a community led astray. The individuals who sin will suffer the… severe penalty of s’kilah [stoning], but this penalty strikes only the person of the sinner, whereas his property is bequeathed to his heirs.

All of this may well sound “politically incorrect”, “subversive”, “seditious” or even “fascist” in our contemporary secular “western liberalized morality”-based governmental environment, aka “Israel-style Derangement Syndrome”. But there seem to be lessons to be learned and applied in a Jewish State in OUR Eretz Yisrael regarding objects and texts of avodah zora and their adherents, lest “those toward whom you have been so tolerant will become your enemies and will oppress you in your own land.”

Continuing on in Perek Yud Gimmel [13] of our Parsha, Torah teaches:

“[After] Hashem, your G’d, shall you follow and Him shall you fear; His commandments shall you observe and to His voice shall you hearken; Him shall you serve and to Him shall you cleave.” (As rendered to English in the Artscroll Stone Chumash, Sefer Devarim, Perek 13, posuk 5)

The Artscroll Stone Chumash (page 1008) provides this commentary on the above posuk:

“And to Him shall you cleave.” The only way a human being can cleave to Hashem is by emulating His ways.

Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, in his sefer “Growth Through Torah” (page 416) cites both The Chofetz Chayim and aa story:

The first Hebrew word in this verse is “Acharei” which denotes a far distance. (Rashi)

…Regardless of how far a person feels he is from the Almighty, he should never give up hope. With all of his power he should strive to come closer to the Almighty. Therefore the Torah uses the term [“acharei”] which denotes distance. Even those who are at present far from the Almighty should seek Him and will find Him. Never allow any faults or transgressions to prevent you from coming closer to the Almighty. (Hachofetz Chayim, Vol. 3, page 1160)

Rabbi Chayim of Tzanz once said to an evildoer, “Don’t think that because you give in to your evil inclination in some areas, you therefore must do evil in all areas. Rather, in whatever ways you can, do good and overcome evil.” (Maigdolai Hachasidus Hoadmor Maitzanz)

It would seem to this author that both the imperative of eradicating all forms of avodah zora, and striving to connect to Hashem are connected and would relate to the political/populous mindset, psyche of Israel in recent decades.

This author wonders, how much of the hate and loathing of Judaism and spirituality, as well as manifestations such as bogus “two-state solutions” and the like by secular Jews is an outward expression of subconscious feelings or perceptions that ones’ faults and transgressions are such that one is soo far from the ways of Hashem, as to feel beyond redemption, to have given up hope of ever achieving closeness to Hashem?

Back in Chutz L’Aretz, early into a Ba’al Teshuva journey, this author learned the significance of the Hebrew letter “×”” [Hei]. The space in the letter “Hei”, as distinguished from the letter “×—” [Chet], indicates that even if one sins, strays or is distant from Hashem, that space opening in the letter “Hei” avails one, who has sinned or is distant, the ability, the opportunity to return, to renew and to come close to Hashem once again.

May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them and that the twice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. May our dear brother Jonathan Pollard be liberated and truly free — only upon his return home to Israel, and that the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of four years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos! Chodesh Tov!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.