"For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing forth in valleys and hills; a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey; a land where you will eat food without scarcity, in which you will not lack anything; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. When you have eaten and are satisfied, you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land which He has given you." These are the words by which Moses describes, in this week’s portion of the Torah, the land into which the Israelites are about to enter. There will be an opportunity to eat, and even more than that. There will be an opportunity to be satisfied with all the food consumed, li
ving on a full belly. But, it is also essential, even if not as the first thing, who is actually responsible for all this goodness bestowed on the People.
There is also a due warning, “Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments and His ordinances and His statutes which I am commanding you today; otherwise, when you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built good houses and lived in them, and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and gold multiply, and all that you have multiplies, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God”. It is possible to live a good life without remembering God, one can eat, build nice houses, have cattle, and many other material benefits. Yes it is possible but the likely outcome is arrogance and loss of God. It is simply described as, “My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.” I do not owe anything to anyone, I have no responsibility to others, I am not obliged to thank for all the good bestowed upon me because everything is because of me. So Moses reminds us once more, “it is He who is giving you power to make wealth”.
We must admit to ourselves that even though the Land of Israel is a tough place it is also a very good place to be at. One can eat plenty, build and be rebuilt, succeed materially and spiritually. Nevertheless the same warnings from the arrogance of success is applicable today as it was thousands of years ago, echoing somewhere in the distant corner of the great desert. What was to happen was seen then and has repeated itself several times over because it seems there is always someone who boasts, “My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.” When one is power drunk the good sense is overcome, a monopoly makes fairness bow, and authority controls justice, and then, what may seem good, sustainable and eternal, may be gone with the wind.
We read the Haftarah from the prophet Isiah who says, “Your builders hurry; Your destroyers and devastators Will depart from you.” It is possible to read the Hebrew version a little differently as, “Your sons hurried, your destroyers and devastators came from within” and of course this is typically used towards those whom the current regime is not overly happy with. However, in context it seems that the first explanation of the text is the one which one to go with. In order to reconstruct those who destroy and those who devastate must exit the scene. Those who have to hurry back are the sons. The prophet continues, “Lift up your eyes and look around; All of them gather together, they come to you. ‘As I live, declares the Lord, ‘You will surely put on all of them as jewels and bind them on as a bride’.” He stress twice “All of them gather together” and “put on all of them as jewls”. On one hand those who destroy and devastate will leave and on the other hand the returning sons will all be there.
It is so easy to destroy and destruct while it is so tough to build, renew, plough, erect, plant and harvest. When we toiled with our many partners, at times from different sides of the negotiating table, in order to reach a compromise on the issues of the Wall, we were heading for sowing and constructing. Unfortunately there are some who have a problem with “All of them gather together” and they prefer to rely on their own power and strength of their hands, and they devastated and destroyed. They are trying to do the same with issues relating to conversion, Kashrut, marriage and divorce. They have already demolished so much that we must be out there to stop them from continuing their terrible deeds. We must tell them “leave”, get out before you add damage upon damage. We also have to call upon all the sons and daughters, “Hurry”, it is essential that you will be here with us, it is important for you to act, it is important that you get involved, and even more so, committed, it is important for you to speak your mind loud and clear, build with us, together.
Forty days from now we shall be at the eve of Rosh HaShana, and bless together that the courses of the current year shall be over and the next year’s blessings shall begin. Maybe, just like Moses, we need to also think of all of those who tried to destroy us and use his words, “So I fell down before the Lord the forty days and nights, which I did because the Lord had said He would destroy you. I prayed to the Lord and said, ‘O Lord God, do not destroy Your people, even Your inheritance, whom You have redeemed through Your greatness, whom You have brought out of Egypt with a mighty hand.” We must remind them that since the exodus from Egypt each of us is free, women and men. We pray together, for ourselves and for them, that we shall have a safe voyage together, that shall bring peace and prosperity, despite the differences and despite the disagreement, and maybe simply because of them.
Reuven Marko, 20 Av 5777, 11 August 2017