Eikev – Educating Our Jewish Children

For Food for Thought in Spanish: Haga clic aquí para leer en español. Please share this with your Jewish Spanish speaking family, friends, and associates.
The second paragraph of the Shema is found towards the end of this week’s Torah portion of Eikev. The Ramban points out a very subtle but fascinating difference between the first two paragraphs of the Shema. Around the conclusion of the second paragraph the Torah states, “Teach them to your children, to discuss them, while you sit in your home, while you walk on the way, when you retire and when you arise” (Devarim 11: 19). In the first paragraph of shema it writes, “Inform through teaching your children and speak of them while you sit in your home, while you walk on the way, when you retire and when you arise” (Devarim 6:7).
The Ramban observes, “It makes sense according to the simple explanation of the pesukim that the Torah is coming to add something here (in the second paragraph of the Shema) when it says ‘to discuss them,’ for there (in the first paragraph of the Shema) it commands ‘and you speak them when you sit in your house’. Here it is saying we should teach our children to the point that the children will be constantly speaking about it at all times. It also adds here, ‘teach them’ but there it says ‘inform through teaching’ which means to tell them about the mitzvos. Here, they should teach to them so that they will know it, and make them understand them and the reason [behind the mitzvos] to speak them with you at all time.” (Click here for Hebrew text.)

In the first paragraph of the Shema, the Ramban remarks that “these mitzvos are already hinted to, because after there was a command to observe the mitzvos, as a statute in the world for all your generations, ‘Between Me and the Jews, it shall be an eternal sign’ (Shemos 31:17). ‘This is my covenant that you shall observe between you and Me and between your children after you’ (Breishis 17:10). Behold we are commanded to inform our children about the mitzvos, and how can you inform them if you don’t teach it to them?!” (Click here for Hebrew text.)
At first glance there seems to be a progression; Hashem first commanded the generation in the Desert to know and observe the mitzvos. This is an obligation for all generations, but perhaps one might think the subsequent generations would have to figure out on their own how to observe them. Therefore the first paragraph of the Shema commands the parents to tell their children about the mitzvos, possibly assuming that once we know what to do, we can figure out on our own how to do it. Then in the second paragraph of the Shema Hashem instructs the parents to teach the children so well that this is all they talk about all day.

However, if this is true, then why did the Torah have to tell us this in this sequence? Why not just get to the point and command the parents to be sure the children know how to properly observe the Torah and Mitzvos? Also, the Ramban, in the first paragraph of the Shema, seems to refer to telling over the mitzvos as teaching them, for how else would they know them? But, in the second paragraph, he seems to refer to this level as just stating the mitzvos, and the third level as teaching them in their entirety. But is this a contradiction in the Ramban; and if not, what is the difference between the two levels of progression?

Upon further analysis it would seem that the Ramban is showing us the process of educating our children. Ideally, Hashem first commanded us to have the resolve to be Torah observant and only then we can give it over to the next generation. Then, once the parents are following the Torah and mitzvos, the Torah instructs the parents to lecture the children on how to fulfill the Torah and mitzvos in its entirety. But lecturing isn’t enough; to ensure the next generation will be properly observant there has to be an attitude of dialogue. Children have to feel comfortable in asking their parents if they are observing the Torah and keeping the mitzvos in the proper manner, to the point that this is the focal point of their lives. Torah is all they speak about and enjoy speaking about. Everything they do and talk about is connected to the Torah in some shape or form. Only then has the parents ideally reached their obligation of ensuring the continuity of the Torah and its mitzvos to the next generation.

Eikev – Israel’s Defense Force and Offensive

For Food for Thought in Spanish: Haga clic aquí para leer en español. Please share this with your Jewish Spanish speaking family, friends, and associates.

At the end of this week’s Torah portion of Eikev, the Torah states: “For if you keep all these commandments which I command you to do them, to love the Lord, your God, to walk in all His ways, and to cleave to Him, then the Lord will drive out all these nations from before you, and you will possess nations greater and stronger than you” (Devarim 11:22-23).

Rabbeinu Bachye remarks on these pesukim: “If you follow the mitzvos of the Torah then Hashem will kick out the enemies from amongst you, for on this condition you are entering the land. In the Medrish it cites (Medrish Tanchuma Breishis 1): ‘For if you keep’ (אם שמור תשמרון) If you keep the mitzvos of the Torah you will be protected, meaning you will be protected from any enemy and from any destructive force. So to the previous paragraph starts ‘And it will be if you will listen’ (והיה אם שמוע תשמעו, which is the beginning of the second paragraph of Shema) it also mean if you listen to the words of the Torah, you will be listened to [in your prayers]. The opposite is also true [if you don’t listen and keep the mitzvos then Hashem won’t be quick to listen to your cries and protect you.] Similarly it says in Mishley 21:13: ‘He who stops up his ear from the cry of a poor man-he, too, will cry out and not be answered.’ [Implying if he does help the poor his own prayers will be accepted too.]” (Click here for Hebrew text.)

In the first part of pasuk 23 it says:“Then the Lord will drive out all these nations from before you,” Rabbeinu Bachye says it refers to “those who are closer to you [inside Israel] and then afterwards, ‘Every place upon which the soles of your feet will tread,’ (pasuk 24), which is the farther places. For this reason Chazal say (Sifri Ekev 51) about King David that he did something out of order and against the commands of the Torah, for he first captured the farther places which were Aram Tzova and Aram Naharayim which are farther from the Land of Israel and then afterward he captured the closer ones. For this reason they say in Gitten 47a that the conquering of the individual isn’t considered conquering. It is called ‘the conquering of the individual’ because there weren’t 600,000 people with him and it was not considered a conquering for the sake of the Holiness of the land regarding maaser (tithes) and shmita (sabbatical year) on a Torah level but rather only on a rabbinic level. Aram Tzova is Syria as we learn in the Sifri quoted before.”

We can infer from this Rabbeinu Bachye that if King David would have conquered everything in the proper order, with the backing of the entire nation, by first finishing to conquer the territories in Israel proper, as was started in the times of Yehoshua, and then continuing on to Syria and Aram Naharayim, then those latter places would also have been imbued with the same Torah level of Holiness and obligation in mitzvos, such as maaser and shmita. However, as a consequence for not strictly following the Torah, and doing things out of order, the farther lands that King David conquered were only sanctified on a rabbinic level.

There is a very interesting observation that could be pulled out of these two pesukim for why Rabbeinu Bachye specifically mentioned the incident with King David at this juncture, besides the fact that he transgressed these very pesukim of pasuk 23 and 24. Pasuk 22 points out that if we follow the Torah to the strictest letter of the law in Israel, then Hashem guarantees that we will be unharmed by any enemy, and in fact all our enemies will be outside the land of Israel. Now people might say: ‘come on, give us a break, look at how many people are Torah observant or are changing over and are finding their Torah roots in Israel and still our enemy is amongst us. And not only threatening us but actually harming us. How could it be with so much good in The Promise Land?!’

The obvious answer is that we aren’t perfect, and that not everyone is following Hashem’s word. But what we also see is that reward and punishment aren’t all or nothing. We are still in the land and there have been many miracles that have allowed us to stay in Eretz Yisrael. Wwe see this from King David, who was known to be on such a high level of relationship with Hashem, as testified in his Sefer Tehillim (Psalms) that was written with Divine Inspiration. He was a prophet, who led the Jewish People faithfully for forty years, and was deserving of having the Beis HaMikdash to be built in his day, if not for the fact that he was involved in bloodshed, albeit for the sake of defending his people and conquering the Holy Land. Yet we see here that whatever miscalculation it was for King David to choose to conquer Syria and its adjoining land first before finishing the conquest of Israel, there were consequences. He did it totally for the sake of Heaven, and proof is in the consequence, that the land he conquered was just not as holy as it could have been; yet any level of mishap deserves a consequence. It cannot simply be ignored.

But what we also see is that even what seems to be a very subtle consequence is a consequence which makes for a difference and has major ramifications. Who knows what would have happened if the land would have been conquered correctly? Would it have been at the Torah level of holiness and obligations to fulfill the mitzvos concerning land just like the rest of Israel has?

We have to realize that even the small differences in our service of Hashem makes for a difference. In this way we can be more observant of how we act and the choices we make. But also the consequences of our actions must be thought out clearly and realized; for, imagine the fact that something is rabbinic and not on a Torah level is a punishment for the actions of King David!

If we are more careful and thoughtful in what we do and are mindful to try to kindly help others do the right thing then peace and serenity will be granted for all of us in the Holy Land, and all our prayers will be answered with all of us in the Promised Land, speedily in our days.