It doesn't finish even if it seems so

Parsha and its Implementation – Ki Tavoh - Rabbi Eliezer Shenvald - 5779

A long-awaited look at something to happen, a long-term effort to achieve some goal or fulfill some ideology means, that when it happens or when it´s reached, it seems that we can finally rest, and the results can be enjoyed sitting calmly and resting on the laurels. Sometimes when the ideology has been fulfilled, there is a tendency to lose ideological tension to the point of indolent hedonism and denial of ideology on its behalf.

The greater the expectation, the greater the effort on the way to the destination, or the achievement, the greater the tendency is. However, many times this is not a final goal, but an intermediate point that, that even after achieving it must not go into complacency, must rise the "day after", with mental strength and continue. We must not lose the ideological tension. We have to remember that 'it doesn't end, even when it seems to be over'!

In this week's Torah Parasha, upon entering Israel, the Torah commands to erect a stone altar upon which the Torah commandments will be written:

וַהֲקֵמֹתָ֤ לָ֑ךְ נֹתֵ֣ן אֱלֹהֶ֖יך ד' אֲשֶׁר אֶל־הָאָ֕רֶץ אֶת־הַיַּרְדֵּן֒ תַּעַבְר֣וּ אֲשֶׁ֣ר בַּיּוֹם֮ וְהָיָ֗ה

הַתּוֹרָ֥ה אֶֽת־כָּל־דִּבְרֵ֛י עֲלֵיהֶ֗ן וְכָתַבְתָּ֣ בַּשִּֽׂיד׃ אֹתָ֖ם וְשַׂדְתָּ֥ גְּדֹל֔וֹת אֲבָנִ֣ים לְךָ֙

זָבַ֤ת ארץ לְךָ֗ נֹתֵ֣ן אֱלֹהֶ֣יךָ ד שֶׁראֲ אֶל־הָאָ֜רֶץ תָּבֹ֨א אֲשֶׁר֩ לְמַ֡עַן בְּעָבְרֶ֑ךָ הַזֹּ֖את

לָֽךְ׃ אֱלֹהֵֽי־אֲבֹתֶ֖יךָ ד דִּבֶּ֛ר כַּאֲשֶׁ֥ר וּדְבַ֔שׁ חָלָב֙

הֵיטֵֽב׃ בַּאֵ֥ר הַזֹּ֖את הַתּוֹרָ֥ה אֶֽת־כָּל־דִּבְרֵ֛י עַל־הָאֲבָנִ֗ים וְכָתַבְתָּ֣

“As soon as you have crossed the Jordan into the land that Hashem your G-d is giving you, you shall set up large stones. Coat them with plaster and inscribe upon them all the words of this Teaching. When you cross over to enter the land that Hashem your G-d is giving you, a land flowing with milk and honey, as Hashem, the G-d of your fathers, promised you… And on those stones you shall inscribe every word of this Teaching most distinctly. (Devarim 27:2- 8).

The commentaries are divided. What part of the Torah was to be written on the stones? And how much space was there for their writing? (Some interpreted that indeed all the Torah was written there (or the stones were especially large - Ramban ibid), or the entire Torah from Bereshit (Daat Mikra ibid), or only a short set of the 613 Mitzvot was written there (R´ Saadia Gaon and Ibn Ezra ibid), or general Parshiot such as "Kriat Shema", or the blessings and curses (Ralbag on Yehoshua 8:31).

Another opinion is in the Gemara -Sotah 32a: Probably at the heart of the controversy was the question of the purpose of the writing: whether to remind the commandments or to mention the foundations of Torah and faith. Either way, the altar was a striking and impressive monument that reminds the Torah commandments or its essentials in the best possible way.

What does it mean to erect the altar and write the Torah near the entrance to the land? What is it for?

According to our Parasha – in merit of the written things on the altar, the people of Israel will receive the inheritance of the land: "When you cross over to enter the land that Hashem your G-d is giving you". Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (RSRH) interpreted that this duty was to be carried out immediately on entering the country without delay: "As soon as you cross the Jordan you will engage in the erection of the stones for the purpose of the Torah, and it will be found that you will begin to erect them before the crossing is completed, since only through the erection of these stones will you be able to cross the Jordan and come to the Promised Land". (ibid)

It might be it was meant to stand in front of the people of Israel´s eyes as the Covenant on Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal upon entering Israel at the inauguration of the altar.

The entry into the Land after the long desert period and the long-awaited expectation is an intermediate stage and does not constitute a completion of the spiritual process that the people of Israel are supposed to shape in the land. The fear was that upon entering the country there would be a feeling of rest and settlement, that everyone would turn to dwell under his own vine and under his own fig tree (according to Melachim I 5:5).

And as a result, the spiritual and ideological tension and commitment to Torah and commandments would decrease.

"וישמן ישורון ויבעט. שמנת עבית כשית ויטוש אלוה עשהו וינבל צור ישועתו"

As it says in the song: ¨So Jeshurun grew fat and kicked— You grew fat and gross and coarse— He forsook the G-d who made him And spurned the Rock of his support¨. (Devarim 32:15)

The written Torah and special status are meant to express that "It is not over, even when it seems to be over!" And so the tension will continue for days and years, and the goal will be achieved.

These words were written even before the fateful election results were published. But will be read after them. Need to keep in mind that the elections, whatever their results, are not the final goal. They are an intermediate stage that builds and allows for tools.

After that, however, there is still much work to be done on the way to fulfill the spiritual and ideological goals of the Jewish people in their own country. This requires a great deal of patience and a lot of mental strength.

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