EIKEV (Deuteronomy, 7:11-11:25) — “Dress Rehearsal”

Do you like grapes?  How about figs?  Dates?  Have I got a country for you!

G-d is bringing you to a good land; a land with flowing streams and underground springs gushing out in valley and mountain.  It is a land of wheat, barley, grapes, figs, and pomegranates; a land of oil-producing olives and (date) honey.  It is a land where you will not eat bread in poverty, and you will not lack anything. … When you eat and are satisfied, you will therefore bless G-d for the good land that He has given you. (Deuteronomy, 7:7-10)

The seven foods listed above enjoy a special status.  They are referred to in Halacha (Jewish Law) as the “Seven species for which the Land of Israel is praised.”  When these fruits and grains are consumed, there is a special blessing that is recited.  This blessing is an abbreviated form of the full Grace after Meals that one says after a full meal.  In this blessing, we thank G-d for the Land and its produce.  Interestingly, this blessing is even recited when eating grapes, etc., that grew outside of Israel.  Apparently, its mere association with Israel enhances its prestige.

Similarly, OUR association with Israel enhances OUR prestige.  G-d took our People out of Egypt with the specific purpose of giving us the Commandments to fulfill in His Holy Land.

Consider the following.  In the section of this week’s Torah Reading (11:13-21) that is read twice daily as the second paragraph of “the Shema”, we are reminded to follow the Commandments and anticipate G-d’s rewards.  We are also warned that abandoning G-d’s ways could lead to banishment from the Land.  Then the Torah reiterates last week’s commandments (6:7-9) of Tefillin, Mezuzah, and Torah study.  The paragraph concludes with the statement that all this should be done so that we and our children will enjoy longevity in the Land that G-d has given to our ancestors.

What is the statement about Tefillin and Mezuzah doing in the middle of a discussion about whether or not we get to live in the Land?  We already know about those Mitzvahs from last week’s Torah Portion!  Why does the Torah repeat it right after telling us that we may be banished from the Land?

Rashi gives us a fascinating answer to this question.  “Even after you have been exiled from the Land, put on Tefillin and make Mezuzahs, so that they won’t be new to you when you come back.”

“…SO THAT THEY WON’T BE NEW TO YOU WHEN YOU COME BACK!”  Do you hear what Rashi is telling us?!  He is implying that the whole reason for observing Commandments outside of Israel is so that we will remain acquainted with them when we go back to Israel!

The entire Jewish experience is an Israel-centric way of life.  Israel-type fruits serve as a reminder.  We pray facing Israel and we constantly beseech our Creator to return us to Zion.  We put Mezuzahs on our doors so that we will remember how to do it when we go home.

WHEN we go home.  When WE go home.  When WILL we go home?

We look with pride (and fear) at our Jewish brothers and sisters who refuse to be intimidated by our enemies into leaving Israel.  We congratulate Prime Minister Sharon for taking on the French anti-Semites and advising French Jews that it’s time to get out of there and come home to Israel.  Yet, we sit comfortably in New York and Chicago and Norwich, practicing our Mitzvahs in the Diaspora, rather than doing the real thing in the Holy Land.

I can hear you grumbling already.  (Especially those of my readers whose email addresses end with “.co.il.”) “Very nice, Rabbi Seplowitz!  YOU’RE sitting there in Monsey, telling everyone else to go to Israel?  Why don’t YOU put your money where your mouth (or computer keyboard) is, and get on the next plane to Israel?”

Good point.  Good point.  I am not saying that Aliyah today is the answer for everybody.  But, at the very least, shouldn’t we be asking ourselves the question?

And we should certainly never delude ourselves into thinking that we are living optimally as Jews outside of Israel.  We are, when all is said and done, strangers visiting in strange lands.  Even for those of us living in Israel, our Holy Temple lies in ruins, desecrated by those who consider it a “Mitzvah” to kill Jews.

Jewish life is not what it could be, and it is not what it should be.  Let us each redouble our efforts to serve G-d to the best of our ability, and beg Him to bring the Redemption.  Let us plead with Him to rebuild the Temple, restore world peace, and once and for all, to bring us home.

Have a great Shabbos.

Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz

To leave a comment about this article, or to read other readers’ comments on this article, scroll down past the archive links.

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From the Archives

“Heels and Smiles” (2009)

… My Rebbe was a man who overlooked nothing.  He knew how to see what others ignored.  He was completely in tune with the world around him.

I remember one evening, toward the conclusion of one of his weekly Torah ethical discussions (“Shmuessen”) he asked us to shut off our tape recorders.  (That always meant we were going to get it!) …

Read more.

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“Where Were YOU When the Lights Went Out?”  (2003)

… People are essentially good.  We do, however, tend to take liberties when it comes to minor infractions.  We wouldn’t dream of reaching into the cash register at the local supermarket and “sampling” its contents.  Yet, many people wouldn’t think twice about nibbling on a grape or two in the produce department.  Most of us don’t drive at 95 miles per hour in a 55MPHzone.  But how many of us stay under 56???…

Read more.

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“Animal Wrongs” (2002)

… Why does the Torah mention animals in the middle of a discussion about humans eating?  It would seem more logical that after mentioning grain, grapes, and olives, the Torah should then say, “you will eat and be satisfied.”  THEN, it should talk about grass for the animals. Why does the Torah interrupt a discussion of people food with a reference to animal food?   …

Read more.

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“Write Between the Eyes!” (2001)

…If the Torah says to write the words of the Shema ON OUR DOORPOSTS, why don’t we?  Why do we settle for attaching a piece of parchment to the doorpost?  Apparently, WE ARE NOT FULFILLING OUR OBLIGATION!!  If we want to be truly Torah-observant Jews, we should take a magic marker and scribble two Hebrew paragraphs on the doorposts of our homes! …

Read more.

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This is the weekly message at TorahTalk.net.) Copyright © 2000-2011 by Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz.  May be reprinted. Please include copyright information.

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Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz is a Mohel (Brisrabbi.com) and chaplain inMonsey,New York. For information about scheduling a Bris or a lecture, or just to say hello, call (800) 83MOHEL.

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Published in: on August 4, 2004 at 7:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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