Devarim 2019


Parshat Matot-Massei By: Rabbi Moshe Goodman, Kollel Ohr Shlomo, Hebron


לשכנו תדרשו Inviting the Holy Presence in Our Holy Land

Go and Conquer the Land

In this third and last section of our “three-weeks”, study of the borders of the Land of Israel, we would like to discuss these borders from the point-of-view of the Tanach and the Kabbalah, and compare them with the halachic perspective mentioned in the past two weeks.

In the Tanach, we find two types of borders: 1. Ideal borders specified by Hashem 2. Actual borders by Israel’s conquer and settlement of lands. Since the actual borders have gone through various fluctuations throughout history [and we have already discussed some of them in “the those who ascended from Egypt/Babylon”], we would like to discuss the ideal borders alone, which can be categorized into three [or four] groups, which may be hinted to by the three oaths of Hashem to our three Patriarchs of Hebron regarding their offspring’s’ inheritance of this Land. To Avraham Hashem promised a land from the “river of Egypt” [identified by many as Wadi Al Arish] till the Euphrates. In parshat Maseii, when Hashem commands Israel to conquer and settle the Land, a much smaller Land is specified by its borders. This smaller map of the Land may be hinted to in Hashem’s promise to Yitzhak, when the specification of the Land [its borders not specified in the promise to Yitzhak] is also attached to a command upon Yitzhak to settle in the Land, similar to the command on his offspring in parshat Maseii. These borders carry halachic implications as well. For example, the law is that only after the borders of parshat Maseii are conquered by Israel entirely, then other lands conquered outside these borders receive sanctity of the Land of Israel. In regard to Yakov, Hashem promises a seemingly borderless Land, as Hashem says “you [your offspring] shall go exceedingly west, east, north, and south, etc.” (parshat Vayetze). Indeed, our Sages interpret this promise to refer to a Land that is boundless. In regard to this “boundless” Land we see two such descriptions in Tanach, the first, mentioned in the book of Dvarim, implies literal boundless boundaries, saying that “every place that the sole of your foot walks shall be yours” (Dvarim 11, 24). The second, mentioned in the book of Yechezkel, also has an element of “boundlessness,” since our Sages (Sifrei, Vezot Habracha) interpret the verses there to mean that the eastern boundary in Yehezkel is indeed boundless, while the other directions do have specified boundaries (Malbim however explains that all tribes have boundless territories to their east, except for the tribe of Dan). These different promises are reconciled by commentators by saying, as is indicative in last week’s parsha, that according to Israel’s spiritual stature and prestige they will merit to greater portions of Land becoming the “Land of Israel.”

According to the Kabbalah (without discussing the spiritual worlds and sfirot involved) we can categorize seven categories of lands from highest spiritual energy to lowest: 1. “The Garden of Eden” (a very spiritual domain, outside the scope of our discussion) 2. The Land of Israel (Western Bank) – at the border between the Land of Israel and the “Garden of Eden” stands the Holy of Holies in the Temple 3. The Eastern Side of the Jordan (given to Reuven, Gad, and half of Menashe) 4. “Syria” (discussed in last week’s issue) 5. Babylon (discussed in last week’s issue – however, there Egypt and Amon and Moav were grouped with Babylon, which seems to not be the case in regard to their spiritual value according to the Kabbalah) 6. The inhabited Diaspora 7. The uninhabited Diaspora (wilderness, desert, etc.) is the lowliest, and it is there where the force of evil (“klipot”) takes greater hold.

When comparing halachic, kabbalistic, and biblical sources we find that, aside from the Land of Israel [Proper] which is obviously holy according to all sources, all give special spiritual stature to the Eastern Bank, to “Syria”, to Babylon, which carry halachic significance, are part of the lands promised to Avraham, and carry spiritual significance according to the kabbalah. In regard to the differences between halacha, kabbalah, and biblical sources we may say that these differences arise primarily from differences of emphasis in these different areas of Torah. The halacha emphasizes the practical implications, while kabbalah emphasizes the spiritual source of matters, while biblical sources emphasize the historical/spiritual development of these matters. Yet still, there is much more to discuss and explore about these various descriptions of the Land of Israel and the relationships between them.


Real Stories from the Holy Land 

In Hebrew, a Pasha, or Ottoman governor, is referred to as a “feicha”. This story possibly took place in 1831, before the Peasant’s Revolt of 1834. When Ibrahim Pasha of Egypt invaded the Land of Israel, he sought to take over Hebron. On his way to occupy the City of the Patriarchs, he saw that his troops were very tired and told them they should rest on Mount Etam, which is near Solomon’s Pools. The Arab peasants of Hebron, when they heard of the coming of the Pasha, gathered a large battalion, went to where the Pasha’s soldiers rested. They stormed them, and killed 3,000 of them. The Pasha was furious and swore to take over Hebron and exterminate every inhabitant down to the last person, both Jews, Arab peasants, and the feudal Arab landowners. When the Jewish community heard about his furious oath, they gathered together and locked themselves in the chatzer [yard, or court] and called for a special day of fasting and prayers to G-d for salvation. But they were amazed to see that when Ibrahim Pasha came to Hebron, he put soldiers near the chatzer in order to defend them, while he committed terrible deeds to the peasants who revolted against him. When they sought to understand why he acted in this manner, it was announced that the ministers of the House of Farchi in Damascus who joined Ibrahim Pasha in his conquest, advised him to do so. In remembrance of this event, a special commemorate was held every year for generations on the eve of Rosh Hodesh Av, the first of the month of Av and the tradition Tachanun prayer was not recited. This day is called the Purim of Ibrahim Pasha.

Sources: Yehezkel chapter 48, Etz Haim 39, 1, Maamarei Rashbi 36a, Hebron Fund site (for story)

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