Parshas Eikev – The Missing Gibor

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This week’s Parsha contains a number of sections that are integral to Tefilah. The most famous is the second paragraph of Shema. But we also find part of the first Bracha of Shemoneh Esreh – HaGadol HaGibor Ve’Hanora[1] –  which has a fascinating history.

The first Bracha of Shemoneh Esreh is Avos- the Bracha of the Patriachs. The Gemarra[2] brings a discussion whether the basis of the three daily Tefilos is the order of the Korbanos, or corresponding to the three Avos. The resolution is that it is both. But what does it mean that the Avos instituted Tefila? Rav Elya Lopian explains this in the following way. The act of Tefila is not as simple as we are used to. How can one think that they can speak in a way that reaches HaShem? He explains with a parable (which I have updated slightly). We can all now reach into our pocket, remove a small object, and with a few taps be speaking to anyone on the face of the globe. It seems the simplest process in the world. But in order to do this, there needs to be an entire infrastructure. Cell towers, satellite stations, geostationary satellites orbiting the globes; altogether billions of dollars of equipment and thousands of people’s scientific and engineering genius. But all we need to do is tap a few times and we are connected through this network. The institution of the Avos as to create this network, that we can then access. If not for their efforts we would have to reach all the way up spiritually each time we wished to daven.

The entire Bracha is based on the tripod of the Avos. HaGadol HaGibor Ve’Hanora is another manifestation of the Avos. Gadol is the Midah of Chesed. Gadol means something that is larger than itself. Chesed of Avrohom is to reach outside one’s self. Gibor is power. Yitzchok is the Midah of restraint, the greatest strength. Nora is the Midah of awe. When Yakov has the vision at the place of the Bais HaMikdosh, he describes that place as the Nora- the place of awe. The rest of the Bracha is a continuation of these sets of three.

This unique praise of HaShem has a varied history. The Gemarra[3] tells us that during the time of the First Temple it was said. But when the first temple was destroyed, Yirmiyahu said, “Gentiles are frolicking in the Heichal, and how can we say Nora?” In the exile in Bavel, Daniel said, “The Jewish people are in exile, how can we mention HaShem’s strength?” But when the Anshei Kensses HaGedolah – The Men of the Great Assembly – convened to formalize the Tefila, they said that this phrase would always be said in its entirety, even during times of exile. “His strength is that He controls His desire and has patience for the evildoers. His awe is that the Jewish people can exist even in the den of seventy wolves surrounding it.”

The obvious question is how could Yirmiyahu and Daniel modify a Pasuk? The answer seems to be in the following direction. It is very clear that Tefila has to reflect reality. In order to actually Daven, you cannot use praises of HaShem that are not reflected in the reality of the person praising HaShem. So therefore Yirmiyahu and Daniel could not and should not use the praises that they do not see as reality. What the Anshe Knesses HaGedola did was reveal a deeper level of reality in what those words mean. This reality will be relevant throughout the Galus, till the Bais HaMikdosh will be rebuilt. Thus we can continue to say it, even without a Bias HaMikdosh.

The issue is that earlier in the Parsha[4] when discussing the conquest of Eretz Yisroel, Moshe only uses two of these three words, HaGadol and HaNora. Why is the praise of Yitzchok left out? Especially since it is being used in the context of the conquest of Eretz Yisroel? The Ba’al HaTurim answers[5] we find an interesting dichotomy among the Avos. Avrohom and Yakov go to battle in Eretz Yisroel. Yitzchok does not. Therefore, the Gibor of Yitzchok is not used in the description of the conquest, since we do not find Yitzchok as a prototype of conquest. This answer requires explanation. Why is Yitzchok different, especially since his Midah is Gevurah which would seem to be the most relevant to conquest and battle?

In the Sefer Amudei Hod, written as a commentary on the Ba’al HaTurim by a friend of mine, he posits that each of the Avos limited the use of their Midah so as to not be enticed to misuse it. That is why Avrohom whose Midah was Chesed was so careful in his relationship with Sarah, since that can be Chesed, with no boundaries. Yitzchok in the same sense was concerned to use the Midah of Gevurah lest he should come to believe that it was his personal Gevurah, and not the Gevurah of controlling himself as HaShem deisres. The only one who does not have this issue is Yakov, since his Midah is Torah, which is in balance and does not itself to being misused.

This can explain the next few Pesukim. The Torah writes both in Eikev and in Mishpotim that Eretz Yisroel will not be conquered immediately, but a small part at a time. Since the area of Eretz Yisroel is larger than that which the Jewish population needs, HaShem will not allow them to conquer it all at once, since part of the land will lie fallow and attract wild animals. The Sifri, brought in Rashi[6], says; “But are we not assured that the wild animals will not attack us? This is referring to Klal Yisroel when they sin, that is why they are afraid of the animals.”

We see that the Pasuk missing the Gibor is referring to a time when Klal Yisroel is not perfect. Therefore, they cannot use the Midah of Gibor, since they might think the conquest is through their own efforts. And that is why they cannot conquer all of Eretz Yisroel at that time. The goal is to reach perfection in all Midos, then we can use them all, and there will be nothing to be afraid of.

That is the message of the beginning of Shemoneh Esreh, to be completely connected to the Avos and their Midos, which connects us to HaShem, and then there is nothing to be afraid of.

[1]  דברים פרק י – (יז) כִּי יְדֹוָד אֱלֹהֵיכֶם הוּא אֱלֹהֵי הָאֱלֹהִים וַאֲדֹנֵי הָאֲדֹנִים הָאֵל הַגָּדֹל הַגִּבֹּר וְהַנּוֹרָא אֲשֶׁר לֹא יִשָּׂא פָנִים וְלֹא יִקַּח שֹׁחַד:

[2]  ברכות דף כו/ב – אמר לך רבי יוסי ברבי חנינא לעולם אימא לך תפלות אבות תקנום ואסמכינהו רבנן אקרבנות

[3]  יומא דף סט/ב –  דאמר רבי יהושע בן לוי למה נקרא שמן אנשי כנסת הגדולה שהחזירו עטרה ליושנה אתא משה אמר האל הגדול הגבור והנורא אתא ירמיה ואמר נכרים מקרקרין בהיכלו איה נוראותיו לא אמר נורא אתא דניאל אמר נכרים משתעבדים בבניו איה גבורותיו לא אמר גבור אתו אינהו ואמרו אדרבה זו היא גבורת גבורתו שכובש את יצרו שנותן ארך אפים לרשעים ואלו הן נוראותיו שאלמלא מוראו של הקדוש ברוך הוא היאך אומה אחת יכולה להתקיים בין האומות ורבנן היכי עבדי הכי ועקרי תקנתא דתקין משה אמר רבי אלעזר מתוך שיודעין בהקדוש ברוך הוא שאמתי הוא לפיכך לא כיזבו בו:

[4]  דברים פרק ז – (כא) לֹא תַעֲרֹץ מִפְּנֵיהֶם כִּי יְדֹוָד אֱלֹהֶיךָ בְּקִרְבֶּךָ אֵל גָּדוֹל וְנוֹרָא: (כב) וְנָשַׁל יְדֹוָד אֱלֹהֶיךָ אֶת הַגּוֹיִם הָאֵל מִפָּנֶיךָ מְעַט מְעָט לֹא תוּכַל כַּלֹּתָם מַהֵר פֶּן תִּרְבֶּה עָלֶיךָ חַיַּת הַשָּׂדֶה:

[5]  בעל הטורים על דברים פרק ז פסוק כא – (כא) אל גדול ונורא – ולא אמר גבור אלא הזכיר גדול כנגד אברהם דכתיב ביה (יהושע יד, טו) האדם הגדול, ונורא כנגד יעקב דכתיב ביה (בראשית כח, יז) מה נורא המקום הזה. והזכיר אלו שמצינו שנלחמו, אברהם עם המלכים ויעקב כנגד לבן ועשו אבל לא מצינו ביצחק שנלחם:

[6]  רש”י על דברים פרק ז – (כב) פן תרבה עליך חית השדה – והלא אם עושין רצונו של מקום אין מתיראין מן החיה שנאמר וחית השדה השלמה לך אלא גלוי היה לפניו שעתידין לחטוא:

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