This week, our Parshat HaShevua Re’eh is co-sponsored by Rabbi Mordechai and Gila Bernstein dedicated for B’Ezrat Hashem, the end of the corona virus pandemic and by Yechiel and Tova Nussbaum dedicated Lilui Nishmas for Yechiel’s Father Yeshaya ben Efraim Fishel. Both families are from Ramat Beit Shemesh. To the Bernstein and Nussbaum families, many thanks for your sponsorship and for your continued kindnesses.
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This author opens our Parshat Re’eh with an excerpt from Rabbi Shmuel Goldin’s Parsha summary, in his sefer “Unlocking The Torah Text,” Sefer Devarim (page 131) which seems particularly telling and encapsulates this period of dual perils: the Chinese corona virus pandemic and the leftist, fascist, anti-religion cancel culture in which many of the world’s Jews find ourselves:
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.
To set the stage for Moshe’s warning, 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 [G’d 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.”
The Artscroll Stone Chumash now renders to English 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 the hand of the entire people afterwards. You shall pelt him with stones and he shall die, for he sought 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)
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”, “deplorable”, “subversive”, “seditious”, “xenophobic” or even “fascist” in our contemporary secular “western liberalized morality” (read as totalitarian) -based cancel-culture where many of our brethren find themselves in Chutz L’Aretz during the dual perils — the corona pandemic and violent, totalitarian, quash dissent environment.
Or here, where “Israel-style Derangement Syndrome” finds segments of the police, with Knesset approval, monitor Jews, often abusively physical against observant (meaning religious) Jews, during the Chinese corona pandemic.. 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 missionary adherents, lest “those toward whom you have been so tolerant will become your enemies and will oppress you in your own land.”
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, thus, would run contrary to the political/populous mindset, psyche of Israel and its governance 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?
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 thrice 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, as Naama Issachar is now free and home — which can only occur when Jonathan is home in Israel and carrying for his ill wife Esther Yocheved bat Rayzl Bracha, and that the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem — as with the return in April, 2019, via Russia, of the remains of Zachariah Baumel, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of five and a half 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!!!
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.