Israel Forever

For the week ending 14 June 2003 / 14 Sivan 5763

Short Chapter, Long Lesson

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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There is a short chapter with a long message in the parsha which Jews will hear this week in synagogues. It consists of two of the most familiar passages, the ones which are said when the Sefer Torah is taken out of the Holy Ark and when it is returned.

What distinguishes this two-passage chapter besides its size is the fact that it seems to have no consequential connection to the events described before and after it, an anomaly illustrated by the upside down Hebrew letter nun which appear at both ends.

The explanation given by our Talmudic Sages is that this chapter was interjected by Hashem to serve as a buffer between two tragic sins of our ancestors during their sojourn in the wilderness. One of those sins is explicitly detailed in the Torah the unjustified complaint about a lack of meat which was punished with a plague. But where is there any mention of sin preceding this chapter when all that is written is "They traveled from the mountain of Hashem"?

The answer supplied by the Midrash is that the Jews who had received the Torah from Hashem at Mount Sinai showed too much interest in making a fast getaway from that mountain for fear that they would be given additional divine commandments. They behaved like children fleeing school, anxious to leave their location simply because it was "the mountain of Hashem".

Implied in all of this is that once a Jew is anxious to abandon his connection with Hashem and His Torah it is inevitable that he will sink into striving for hedonistic pleasure and grumble about a lack of satisfaction. Jews who treasure the spiritual opportunity of living and learning in Eretz Yisrael do not join in the grumbling of those whose goal is to see Israel as just another western capitalist country. They dont run away from the mountain of Hashem like silly schoolchildren and it is they who will determine the destiny of Israel forever.

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