Parshat Eikev 5782: The Significance of Moshe’s Two Descriptions of Eretz Yisrael

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShavua, Parshat Eikev is being sponsored by Baruch and Tammy Labinsky of Ramat Beit Shemesh dedicated for a Refua Shleima for Ben Zion David Ben Sara and Tzirel Hana Bas Basya. To the Labinsky family, 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 (or as the case may be, co-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

Parshat Eikev 5782: The Significance of Moshe’s Two Descriptions of Eretz Yisrael

by Moshe Burt

The Sapirstein Edition, “The Torah: With Rashi’s Commentary renders translation of the opening posuk of Parsha Eikev:

“And it will be because of your listening to these ordinances, and your observing and performing them: then Hashem Ke’ilokecha will safeguard for you the covenant and the kindness that He swore to your forefathers.” (Sefer Devarim Perek 7, posuk 12)

The Artscroll Stone Edition Chumash renders this translation of the beginning of our opening posuk:

“This shall be the reward when you hearken to these ordinances…” (Sefer Devarim Perek 7, posuk 12)

The Artscroll Stone Chumash (Parshat Eikev pages 980-981) cites Rashi in explaining the word “Eikev”:

“You will hearken [listen]“ = eikev — the reward: in midrashic terms also means the “heel”, alludes to the sort of commandments that people may regard as relatively unimportant, so they tend figuratively to “tread on them with their heels.” Thus, the Torah assures Israel that if they are careful to observe even these neglected commandments, they can be certain that Hashem will reward them with His Covenant and Kindness.

Stated another way, this means being attentive to the little Mitzvot; the details, the Mitzvot that one tends to overlook, to ignore, to tread one’s heels on in life’s mad dash, but without which the Jewish people would lack the merit which sets us apart from common man. The little mitzvot are the small details, the ones epitomized by V’Ahavtah L’re’echa Komocha — caring for, and attentiveness to your fellow Jew as for yourself.

Bearing all of the above in mind, Rabbi Shmuel Goldin cites and discusses Moshe’s two descriptions of Eretz Yisrael in his sefer “Unlocking The Torah Text,” Sefer Devarim (pages 105-109):

Early in our Parsha, Moshe declares:

“For the Lord, your G’d is bringing you to a good land: a land of streams of water, of springs and underground pools emerging forth in the valley and in the mountain; a land of wheat and barley and grapes and figs and pomegranates; a land of olive oil and honey: a land where you will eat bread without scarceness; you will lack nothing within it; a land whose stones are iron and from whose mountains you will mine copper.” (Rabbi Goldin citing Sefer Devarim, Perek 8, posukim 7-9)

Further in the Parsha, Moshe states:

“For the land to which you come, to possess it, is not like the land of Egypt from which you left, where you plant your seed and water it on foot, like a garden of vegetables. And the land to which you cross over to possess it is a land of mountains and valleys; from the rain of the heavens you shall drink water, A land that the Lord, your G’d seeks out; constantly the eyes of the Lord, your G’d are upon it, from the beginning of the year to year’s end.” (Rabbi Goldin citing Sefer Devarim, Perek 11, posukim 10-12)

Moshe’s first description of the land in our Parsha is uniformly positive…. Clearly, this description is designed to encourage the nation as it prepares, with both excitement and trepidation, for its entry into an unknown land.

Moshe’s second description of Canaan [Eretz Yisrael], however, might well give the B’nei Yisrael pause. The land from which you have come… is sustained through a regular source of irrigation, the overflow of the Nile. The land towards which you travel, however, is not automatically irrigated with such regularity, This land depends instead upon rains from the heavens. Hashem’s constant care is needed for those who live upon this land to thrive.

This author sees, in a way, a connection between the Artscroll Stone Chumash’s definition of “eikev” — the ignored or overlooked, seemingly minor Mitzvot that people may regard as relatively unimportant; the details one overlooks in the mad dash of living so they tend figuratively to “tread on them with their heels.”

For instance, how often do we see smokers who drop their spent cigarette butts, candy wrappers or empty soda cans to the Holy ground of Eretz Yisrael, either as they walk, drive or wait for the autobus? How we act toward Our special Holy Land, Eretz Yisrael seems, at least to this author, as important as how we treat our fellow.

Rabbi Goldin continues (ibid, pages 106-108)

Rashi searches for and discerns Moshe’s allusion to the agricultural superiority of Canaan. Irrigation in Egypt through the Nile’s overflow, Rashi explains, does not create consistent results. Water… must be manually carried by farmers and workers to the higher terrain, as they are required to “water [the land] on foot, like a garden of vegetables.” (Rabbi Goldin citing Sefer Devarim, Perek 11, posuk 10) In contrast, the land of Canaan is irrigated “from the rain of the heavens.” (Rabbi Goldin citing Sefer Devarim, Perek 11, posuk 11) Hashem will water the fields of the Jews while they “lie comfortably in their beds.” (Rabbi Goldin citing Rashi on Sefer Devarim, Perek 11, posuk 10)

Other scholars, including Ramban and Rashbam, [take a] different approach to Moshe’s second depiction pf Canaan in Parshat Eikev. Moshe’s words in this case, these authorities argue, are not designed to reassure and
encourage the B’nei Yisrael but to warn them. (Rabbi Goldin citing Ramban and Rashbam on Sefer Devarim, Perek 11, posuk 10)

Moshe’s message to the people concerning Canaan is succinctly summed up in the words of the Rashbam: “This land is the best of all lands for those who observe the Mitzvot, and the worst of all lands for those who do not.” (Rabbi Goldin citing Rashbam on Sefer Devarim, Perek 11, posuk 10)

You are entering a land, Moshe tells the nation, that will be completely responsive to your actions. Vastly unlike Egypt, which is irrigated regularly by the Nile, Canaan [Eretz Yisrael] is a land that requires Hashem’s constant attention. If you obey His law, He will cause rain to fall and you will thrive. Conversely, if you rebel against His will, disaster will result.

This warning, the Ramban maintains,… introduces the passage that immediately follows, the second paragraph of the Shema, which outlines a clear vision of Divine reward and punishment in response to man’s actions. (Rabbi Goldin citing Ramban on Sefer Devarim, Perek 11, posuk 10)

The Malbim suggests that unlike Egypt, where irrigation occurs with regularity, Canaan is a land clearly dependent upon daily Divine Providence. Rain, in appropriate measure and in appropriate season, is essential for the sustenance of those living within its borders. After their entry into Canaan, therefore, the Jews will be forced to continually turn their hearts Heavenward in search of Hashem’s Blessing. (Rabbi Goldin citing Malbim on Sefer Devarim, Perek 11, posukim 10-12)

Hashem, Moshe emphasizes, wants the Jews to live in a land where their dependence on Him will be clearly before them, front and center, each day of their lives.

If we accept the approach represented by the Malbim, as combined with the positions of the earlier quoted scholars by suggesting that Moshe’s description of Canaan [Eretz Yisrael] is consciously multi-textured, designed to both encourage and warn the nation at once. Canaan, Moshe emphasizes, is the Jews’ geographical destination, not only because of its physical attributes, but also because of its spiritual character.

The land to which Hashem takes you does not lie. The fundamental truth that has been taught to you through the daily delivery of the manna in the wilderness will now confront you daily upon your entrance into Canaan as well.

You are dependent on Hashem’s Providence each and every day of your lives. There is, of course, a price to be paid for living in a land that does not lie. You will be held directly accountable for your actions in ways that will concretely affect your physical destiny. This is, however, a small price to pay for the gift of living in a land where Hashem’s presence is so clearly felt each and every day.

Rabbi Goldin concludes (ibid, page 110):

Perhaps, from the beginning of time, Eretz Yisrael was always meant to be a land that does not lie, a land in which our dependence upon Hashem confronts us front and center, each and every day of our lives.

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, that the thrice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes and the oft-destroyed Yeshiva buildings in Homesh be rebuilt, all at total government expense; due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. Baruch Hashem that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard is now free of his parole and restrictions and that he is now in his second year at home in Eretz Yisrael. May Esther Yocheved bat Yechiel Avraham have an aliyah in Shemayim and may her memory continue to lift Jonathan to at least 120 years. May 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 eight 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. And may we soon and finally see the total end to the Communist Chinese corona virus pandemic and all like viruses. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nei 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!
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.