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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Tzav

Parashat Tzav

Amalek and the Land of Israel

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This Shabbat, Jerusalem, a "walled city," celebrates Shushan Purim, despite the fact that at the time of the miracle of Purim, its walls had long been destroyed and were not to be rebuilt until the days of Ezra. A city is defined as "walled" if its wall stood at the time of Yehoshua bin Nun, regardless of its status at the time of Mordechai and Esther. The reason for this, according to the Talmud Yerushalmi, is to give honor to the Land of Israel which lay desolate in those days.

Those of us living in Jerusalem read about that same Yehoshua in our Maftir, "Vayavo Amalek." Moshe instructs Yehoshua to choose men and fight Amalek, while Moshe ascends the mountain with Aharon and Chur. The Midrash teaches that Yehoshua was chosen to battle against Amalek because he was destined to lead the children of Israel into the Promised Land. The Netziv may help us understand the connection between Amalek and entering the Land. He explains that the battle against Amalek was meant to be waged in a natural fashion, with Moshe's prayers and God's intervention behind the scenes, as opposed to the war against Egypt with its overt miracles.

During their forty-year sojourn in the wilderness, the children of Israel lived a totally spiritual existence, with the Manna falling from heaven and a pillar of cloud going before them. Upon entering the Land, the Israelites had to live a natural life, farming the land and battling their enemies. God is always present in the Land of Israel, but His presence is felt behind the scenes. Yehoshua's training in the war of Amalek, therefore, prepared him to lead the Israelites into the Land.

Our Sages wished to honor the desolate Land by attaching significance to Yehoshua bin Nun. We, with God's help, have the opportunity to emulate Yehoshua and rebuild the Land.

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