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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Re'e

Jerusalem and Shechem

Parshat Re'e

Two places show two aspects of the holiness of Eretz-Israel: Sechem signifies the nature of the covenant between G-od and Israel and Jerusalem is the center of holiness and Devine Presence.
3274
Dedicated to the memory of
R. Avraham Ben David
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1. Torah of the Land
2. Shechem
3. The place G-od shall choose

Torah of the land
After a long introduction of grand and general ideas, including undertaking the Yoke of Devine Government and the Yoke of Mitzvoth at the opening of Humash Devarim, in our Parasha we climb to the level of actuality: application of all of this content in actual behavior.

The list of the 52 Mitzvoth (almost one tenth of all the Mitzvoth) in our Parasha opens with the title - "These are the statutes and the ordinances, which ye shall observe to do in the land which the Lord, the God of thy fathers, hath given thee to possess it, all the days that ye live upon the earth (Devarim 12,1). This is the special print of Humash Devarim: building the Torah as a whole as a manifestation of the life of the nation on its land , as a spiritual content of life for a nation which lives full, independent life. This is also the axle around which the content of these Mitzvoth revolves. For example, the commands concerning the prohibition of paganism (Avoda Zara) are put as obligation to remove paganism out of our land.

Two places are chosen in our Parasha in order to express two levels of revelation of the holiness of Eretz-Israel: Mt. Gerizzim and Mt. Eival (the city of Shechem being between them) on the one hand and on the other hand - Jerusalem, "the place G-od shall choose". The content of the Parasha lies between these two stages.

Shechem
Shechem is the entering gate to Eretz Israel not only for our Father Abraham - "And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Schechem, unto the terebinth of Moreh"; and our Father Yaakov on is return safely from the house of Lavan - "And Yaakov came in peace to the city of Sechem"; but also for the People of Israel in the days of Yehoshua. The Gemara (Sotah 36) tells us that the covenant on Mt. Gerizzim and Mt. Eival was made in a miraculous fashion on the day of entering the Land : "Come and see how many miracles were done on that day - they crossed the Jordan and came to Mt. Gerizzim and Mt. Eival , more than sixty Miles, and no-one could stand on their way. Anyone who tried to interrupt them was seized with panic... and then they brought the stones and built the altar... and wrote the Torah in seventy tongues on them... and praised and cursed and took the stones and came to sleep in the Gilgal".

Shechem clearly and decisively signifies the fact that the Torah is an absolute covenant, not only between G-od and His people but an eternal covenant between the nation and its land with the Torah carved in it and spread over the whole span of life.

Here, on top of Mt. Gerizzim and Mt. Eival, we accepted the fact that the blessing of the land is realized just as much as we are worthy of living on it and use it according to its unique spiritual nature - the land of Life and the place of Devine Presence.

Shechem is a place designed for trouble (Midrash Raba): Her Dina was profaned, here Yoseph was sold, here Avimelech killed his brothers and here the kingship was split. But Shechem is also Joseph’s first-born present - "And I have given thee one shoulder (=Shechem) over thy brothers). It therefore signifies the complete connection of the tribes to Josef and his unique way of elevating everything secular to holiness ("The Lamentation in Jerusalem", The Articles of Harav Kook).

Out of this powerful covenant which lays between the two great mountains we are filled with courage and bravery to be walking on the ground of Eretz Israel, with the Divine blessing that appears on it spiritually and materially.

The place G-od shall choose
Out of our submergence in the air of Eretz Israel, taking hold of it and being held by it according to the guidance of the Torah - "For ye are to pass over the Jordan to go in to possess the land which the Lord your God giveth you, and ye shall possess it, and dwell therein. And ye shall observe to do all the statutes and the ordinances which I set before you this day" (ch.11, 31-32)- we become worthy of the concentration of the holy service in the chosen place: "Ye shall not do so unto the Lord thy God (Rashi: to worship God ‘on the high mountains and under every green tree’). But unto the place which the Lord thy God shall choose out of all your tribes to put His name there" (11,4-5) - Jerusalem , the city of holiness.

A long way we have to pass until we are told the whereabouts of that chosen place. "Unto His habitation shall ye seek and thither thou shalt come "(v.5) - "...That you will have to travel afar and ask for the way leading to the house of G-od" (Ramban). The inner life of the nation is thirsty to discover its heart - the place G-od shall choose.

The place G-od shall choose to put His name there - later become known as Jerusalem - is the living heart of the nation. Here is the place of Service, here is the center of Torah and teaching, here is the place of prophecy and its origin, here is the place where the pan-tribal spiritual elevation is assembled, and this is also the place where once in every seven years the giving of the Torah is renewed on the ceremony of "Hakhel", which is like a repetition of the revelation of Sinai.

The reader of the Torah before the whole people in the "Hakhel" is the king of Israel. Jerusalem is also the center of kingship in Israel, for the Torah and the nation - the spiritual aspects and the public-political aspects are concentrated in it together. The choice of Jerusalem as place for G-od, the place of the Temple and of the eternal kingship of the house of David are one Eternal Devine choice.

And the spiritual-earthly covenant of Shechem on Mt. Gerizzim and Mt. Eival rises and sanctified by the eternal covenant of holiness and Devine presence of the kingship of Israel - in Jerusalem.
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