VaEschonon Entering Eretz Yisroel

There are many places in the Tanach where we find very powerful Tefilos. Starting from Avrohom for Sedom, Yitzchok and Rivka for children, Moshe after the sins of Klal Yisroel, and Shomo and Ezra at the dedications of the Batei Mikdosh come to mind. Above all is Tehilim, the expression of Dovid HaMelech’s essence of tefila. But in Parshas Va’Eschonon is what I find as the most poignant Tefila of all. It is the Tefila of Moshe to enter Eretz Yisroel. Chazal tell us he davened five hundred and fifteen tefilos . In a sense that is the ultimate Tefila since the Gimatriya of Tefila is five hundred and fifteen (as is the Gimatriya of Yitzchok added to Rivka ). There is an entire Sefer, the Megale Amukos, which which explains the first few Pesukim of the Parsha, in two hundred and fifty two of the different aspect of what Moshe Rabbeinu was davening for (The author’s Yartzeit comes out this Shabbos.). The Ramchal also wrote a Siddur of Tefilos based on that number. But what exactly did Moshe want, and what is the essence of the Eretz Yisroel that he desired to enter into.
There is a well-known incident recounted in the Gemarra Shabbos in the context of the Agadata of Matan Torah. After explaining all the different aspects of Kabalos HaTorah, how Moshe went up to Shamayim, and the Luchos; the Gemarra brings an incident that happens thousands of years later in the time of the Amoraim .
There was a certain Tzeduki who saw Raba engrossed in his studies while the fingers of his hand were under his legs, and he ground them down, so that his fingers spurted blood. ‘Rash people,’ the Tzeduki exclaimed, ‘who gave precedence to your mouth over your ears (when the Jews said Na’aseh Va’Nishma): you still persist in your rashness. First you should have listened, if within your powers, accept; if not, you should not have accepted.’ Said Rava to him, ‘We who walked in integrity, of us it is written, The integrity of the upright shall guide them. But of others, who walked in perversity, it is written, but the perverseness of the treacherous shall destroy them. ”
The Gemarra is in the middle of explaining the concept of Na’aseh Va’Nishma, that first we will do then we will hear. We see in what happened with Rava, that the power of Na’aseh Va’Nishma was not just something that happened thousands of years ago. It is the bedrock of learning Torah in any context in all generations. The way to be engrossed in your learning, to realize that this is the most important thing in the world, and nothing comes before it, is to constantly be a part of Na’aseh Va’Nishma. To always place the keeping of Torah in all circumstances at the forefront. A Tzeduki can never have that. We who have integrity continuously live Na’aseh Va’Nishma. But what is this integrity?
Rashi explains : We went with HaShem with an innocent and pure heart in the manner of those who act out of love and we depended on Him to not burden us with something that we cannot sustain.
This feeling as one learns Torah was not just a statement made centuries ago, but an ongoing feeling towards the love of the Torah that allows a person to learn Torah in this way, over and above all other distractions. That is why we are a rash people.
But this epithet ‘rash people’ is an unusual one. It is used in only one other place is Shas, but in a similar context.
At the end of Kesuvos there is a lengthy discussion of the beauty and connection of the Jewish people to Eretz Yisroel. There is an idea of Remez that is brought in many Seforim, that an Agadata that is discussed at length in a particular place in Shas is there because of a connection to that Mescheta. Kesuvos is about the relationship between a husband and a wife. Specifically it is about the responsibilities that each has towards each other financially. Klal Yisroel and HaShem are viewed as a husband and wife, especially in Shir HaShirim. Part of the dowry written in the Kesuva is that HaShem, the husband will support Klal Yisroel the wife. The means of that support is the bounty of Eretz Yisroel. So the discussion of the dowry is in Kesuvos.
Among the incidents recounted there is the following :
When R. Zera went up to the Land of Israel and could not find a ferry to cross a certain river he grasped a rope bridge and crossed. Thereupon a certain Tzeduki sneered at him: ‘Hasty people, that put your mouths before your ears: you still persist in your rashness. ‘The place’, R. Zera replied. ‘which Moses and Aaron were not worthy of entering who could assure me that I should be worthy?’
Obviously the Gemarra which brings the words of the Tzeduki is not bringing down idiocy. There were many people who attacked different actions and attitudes of Klal Yisroel over the generations that did not enter into the Gemarra. The attacks here have some basis in reality that everyone would ask, and require an answer. What is it? And what is the connection between these two places where the ‘rashness’ of Klal Yisroel is attacked?
There is a Midrash in the beginning of VaYikra which says the following :
“Powerful warriors who do His word to listen in the voice of His word”. This Pasuk is referring to those who keep Shve’is. In general a person can do a Mitzvah for a day, a week, or a month; but to do it for a year, and not work your field and still pay taxes. Is there any warrior more powerful than that? Another explanation; This is Klal Yisroel who said Na’aseh Va’Nishma.
We find that the Midrash says that the particular Midah which is needed to accomplish Shemitah and Kabalas HaTorah are the same. That equation therefore says that the Midah to keep Shve’is is Na’aseh Va’Nishma.
Eretz Yisroel is acquired through Shemitah. This can be proven through a simple logic. If the Pasuk says that by not keeping Shemitah, we will be sent to Galus; then the keeping of Shemitah is the key to staying in Eretz Yisroel. Therefore to enter into Torah you need an ongoing Na’aseh Va’Nishma; and to enter into Eretz Yisroel you need to every seven years remind yourself of Na’aseh Va’Nishma. Therefore When R. Zera wants to enter Eretz Yisroel he realizes that waiting to do it a normal way is counter to what Eretz Yisroel is, so he enters in a hasty way.
The Tzeduki does not understand this. The Tzeduki wants to live in a normal way, first we listen, then we decide if it makes sense, and then we act. Klal Yisroel realizes that to connect to HaShem you need to have the confidence that everything HaShem does is for the good and he never gives us a burden too heavy. That is the way of Torah and also the way of Eretz Yisroel.
R Zera teaches us that anyone who thinks the way to enter Eretz Yisroel is through natural means is wrong. Only by recognizing that it comes from HaShem can we enter into Eretz Yisroel. So the juxtaposition of the Tzeduki’s claim against us in both places is the same. He wants us to live in the natural world, and we realize that we can only live in a world connected to HaShem with complete Bitachon in Him.
The Sfas Emes connects these ideas in a different variation. The Sukkoth after Shemitah, when many of the Halachos of Shemitah are still relevant is the time of Hakhel. It is clear that Hakhel is a reenactment of Matan Torah. The entire nation gathers, even those not obligated in the Mitzvah of Talmud Torah, just as at Matan Torah. Why specifically that year? Based on the Midrash, Hakehl is a Kabalas HaTorah after the Na’aseh Va’Nishma of the year of Shemita. And that is another level of what Rashi means when he begins his explanation of Parshas Behar Sinai, the Parsha of the laws of Shenitah, with the question, what is the connection between Sinai and Shemitah.
To return to Moshe’s Tefila. What Moshe Rabbeinu desired was to complete what he began. Moshe brought us and exemplified the Torah of Na’aseh VaNishma. He now desired to enter into the place where all of life is Na’aseh Va’Nishma. Moshe was not Zoche. But we, as R Zera are, and can be.
As we go onwards from Tisha B’Av need to make every effort to live in a world of Na’aseh Va’Nishma.


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