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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Masei

It Is So Written

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Back in the day, when I was a Rabbi in the Bible Belt, I knew quite a few Southern Baptists. I even lectured for a time at the Southwestern Baptist Seminary. Many of these fine Bible-totin’, Bible-quotin’ men & women were extremely well-versed in our holy books. Some even studied Talmud & spoke Hebrew! But I always told them that if one only reads the hard text – without the benefit of our brilliant commentaries who elucidated that text – then they would never have a truly firm grasp of what the Torah really says & means.

However, there are times when, as we say, "Ayn ha-kra yotzei miday p’shutu" – the verse’s "superficial" meaning cannot & should not be disregarded. That is, its plain, unadulterated meaning tells it like it is.

Perhaps the perfect example of this is found in our sedra of Masey. Just before the Torah delineates the borders of Eretz Yisrael, Hashem warns us in no uncertain terms:

"When you enter the Land of Canaan, you shall drive out the inhabitants from before you, destroying & demolishing all their idolatrous places. You shall inherit the Land, you shall possess it & dwell in it, for I have given it to you as an inheritance."

"But if you do NOT expel those who are living in the Land, then those who are left there shall be ‘pins in your eyes’ & ‘thorns in your sides.’ They will harass & terrorize (‘tzar’ru’) you in your Land. And it will be that whatever I had meant to do to them, I shall do to you."

For many, many years, the initial inability of Joshua to drive out foreign inhabitants from Israel plagued us. Wars against "locals" were frequent & often furious. The P’lishtim (Palestinians?) living in Gaza were among our most dastardly & determined enemies (see the story of Samson & various episodes throughout Tanach as examples) who continually conducted hit-and-run attacks against us.

And now, today, so many centuries after Hashem made His declaration, the dire prophecy once again rings true. The "pins & thorns" have developed into rockets & missiles, and the threat is more deadly than it ever was before. G-d’s chilling rebuke, "That which I meant to do to
them, I will do to you," is ringing in our ears. It suggests that, G-d forbid, if we do not drive these people out, then WE are the ones who will be driven out. In plain language: It is Us, or Them.

The fight we fight is not only moral & just, self-defensive & necessary for our survival. It is also G-d’s will. May He grant Israel security & our courageous chayalim success in their holy mission.
Rabbi Stewart Weiss
Was ordained at the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Illinois, and led congregations in Chicago and Dallas prior to making Aliyah in 1992. He directs the Jewish Outreach Center in Ra'anana, helping to facilitate the spiritual absorption of new olim.
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