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Parshas Eikev - Vol. 10, Issue 42
Compiled by Oizer Alport
Moshe stressed to the Jewish people that the land of Israel would be different than the land of Egypt from which they were coming. Whereas the fields of the land of Egypt were watered by irrigation from the Nile River, those in Israel received their water from the rain. Although Rashi notes that a natural water supply is advantageous in that it requires substantially less exertion, what deeper message was Moshe trying to impart?
After tempting Chava to eat from the forbidden Tree of Knowledge, the serpent was cursed that it would travel on its stomach and eat dust all the days of its life (Bereishis 3:14). In what way does this represent a punishment, as other animals must spend days hunting for prey while the snake's diet - dust - can be found wherever it travels?
The Kotzker Rebbe explains that this point is precisely the curse. Other animals are dependent on Hashem to help them find food to eat. The snake, on the other hand, slithers horizontally across the earth. It never goes hungry, never looks upward, and is totally cut off from a relationship with Hashem, and therein lies the greatest curse imaginable.
Similarly, Rav Shimshon Pinkus symbolically explains that Moshe wasn't merely relating an agricultural fact. He was teaching that just like the serpent, the Egyptians were a totally "natural" people. Because it never rained in their country, so they never had to look skyward to see what the clouds foretold. As a result, their hearts never gazed toward the Heavens, which effectively cutting them off from perceiving any dependence on or relationship with the Almighty. Everything which occurred in their lives could be explained scientifically and deceptively appeared to be completely "natural."
In light of this, the Exodus from Egypt to Israel wasn't merely a physical redemption from agonizing enslavement, but it also represented a deeper philosophical departure. The Exodus allowed the fledgling Jewish nation to exchange a worldview devoid of spirituality, through which everything is understood and explained according to science and nature, for one in which we confidently declare that Hashem runs every aspect of the universe and we are dependent on Him for every detail of our daily lives.
Parshas Eikev contains a passage which extols the many virtues of the land of Israel, which the Jewish people would be entering shortly. The section concludes by proclaiming that although Hashem controls the entire world, His primary attention is constantly focused on the land of Israel. However, a careful reading of the verse seems to reveal a glaring lack of parallel structure. The verse mentions the beginning of "the year" (me'reishis ha'shana), but concludes by referring to the end of "year" (acharis shana).
The Satmar Rebbe explains that Parshas Eikev is read toward the end of the summer, as our vacation periods slowly come to an end. The realization that the Shabbos on which we bless the upcoming month of Elul is only one week away serves as a wake-up call that the time for examining our ways is just around the corner.
Every year, a person gets excited about this opportunity for spiritual rebirth, eager to improve his deficiencies. He convinces himself that this will be "the year" of all years, the year in which he is finally successful in addressing the issues which have haunted him throughout his life. He makes a list of the areas he plans to rectify. Upon its completion, he becomes filled with enthusiasm, convinced that he is on the home stretch to becoming the new person that he always dreamed of.
Unfortunately, the sad reality is that the evil inclination is only too happy to let him repeat the process he engages in every year. It knows that with the passage of time, his dreams will be forgotten for another year as he becomes distracted by the responsibilities of everyday life. As the year draws to a close, he will look back with disappointment and realize that the year which he was sure would be "the year" was in reality just another ordinary year. The Torah hints to this phenomenon by referring to the start of the year as the beginning of "the" year - and the end of the year as merely the end of (yet another typical) year.
However, the Rebbe provides an insight full of consolation. In the Kedushah said during Mussaf (Nusach Sefard) the chazzan declares, "He is our G-d, He is Our Father, He is Our King, He is Our Savior. He will save and redeem us a second time, and will tell us in His mercy for all to see: 'I have redeemed you at the end (of time) as at the beginning, to be to you for a G-d.'"
The Rebbe homiletically suggests that Hashem hints to us that we will be redeemed from the current exile "acharis k'reishis" - when the end (of the year) is like the beginning (of the year). The time will come when we won't just begin the year excited that this will be "the year," but when we will be able to look back at the end and declare proudly, "This was indeed 'the year.'" When that time comes, Hashem will bring the ultimate redemption, may this be "the" year.
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Parsha Point to Ponder (and sources which discuss it):
1) Moshe recounted that he descended from Mount Sinai with the 2nd set of Tablets after spending an additional 40 days on the mountain (10:5). Rashi writes (Shemos 34:29) that this took place on Yom Kippur. How was he permitted to carry the Tablets from the mountain, which is a private domain, to the Jewish camp, a public domain, on Yom Kippur? (Ramban Shemos 18:13, Shu"t Rivash 96, Panim Yafos Parshas Ki Sisa, Chasam Sofer Shemos 20:22, Shu"t Yehuda Ya'aleh Orach Chaim 192, Tzafnas Paneiach, Rinas Yitzchok, Chavatzeles HaSharon Parshas Ki Sisa)
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