Torah Weekly

For the week ending 27 August 2005 / 22 Av 5765

Parshat Ekev

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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If Bnei Yisrael carefully observe even those "minor" mitzvot that are usually "trampled" underfoot, Moshe promises them that they will be the most blessed of the nations of earth. Moshe tells Bnei Yisrael that they will conquer Eretz Canaan little by little, so that the land will not be overrun by wild animals in the hiatus before Bnei Yisrael are able to organize and settle the whole land. After again warning Bnei Yisrael to burn all carved idols of Canaanite gods, Moshe stresses that the Torah is indivisible and not open to partial observance. Moshe describes the Land of Israel as a land of wheat, barley, grapes, figs, and pomegranates, a land of oil-yielding olives and date-honey. Moshe cautions Bnei Yisrael not to become haughty and think that their success in Eretz Yisrael is a result of their own powers or vigor; rather, it was Hashem who gave them wealth and success. Nor did Hashem drive out the Canaanites because of Bnei Yisrael's righteousness, but rather because of the sins of the Canaanites, for the road from Sinai had been a catalogue of large and small sins and rebellions against Hashem and Moshe. Moshe details the events after Hashem spoke the 10 Commandments at Sinai, culminating in his bringing down the second set of Tablets on Yom Kippur. Aharon's passing is recorded as is the elevation of the levi'im to Hashem's ministers. Moshe points out that the 70 souls who went down to Egypt have now become like the stars of the heaven in abundance. After specifying the great virtues of the Land of Israel, Moshe speaks the second paragraph of the Shema, conceptualizing the blessings that accompany keeping mitzvot and the curse that results from non-observance.



"Carve for yourself two stone Tablets like the first ones" (10:1)

Even thoughG-d told Moshe to make the second two Tablets like the first ones, there were fundamental differences between the two sets. In the first set, not only did G-d write upon the Tablets, He fashioned the Safire stone himself. Both the medium and the message were G-dly. The second tablets were hewn by the hand of Man, only the inscription was Divine.

However, there was a deeper difference between the two sets of Tablets.

When we think of the Tablets, we think of words engraved on stone words like any other words. However, in the case of the first Tablets this was not so. The first Tablets did not contain words, they contained speech. This doesnt mean the Tablets were like some kind of Biblical tape recorder. It means that when you saw the words, you saw in them G-d speaking at Sinai. Usually, when someone speaks, their words are present as long as they are still speaking them. When they stop speaking, the words vanish. The first Tablets perpetuated G-ds giving the Torah at Sinai, His speech at Sinai. That is what the Torah means when it says "all the people saw the voices" (Shmot 20:15)

The word davar "thing" in Hebrew has the same root as the word for "speech" dibbur. What is the connection between a thing and speech?

Nothing in this physical world can have an existence without it having a spiritual underpinning. What sustains every object in this physical world is G-d speaking through that object. That object is no more than G-d speaking; it is a dvar, an expression of something God wishes to reveal in His world. In the future, we will clearly see the intention behind every thing in Creation, the dibbur behind every davar. This is what the prophet Yishayahu means when he writes, "the Glory of G-d will be revealed and all flesh together will see that the Mouth of G-d has spoken" (40:5) Just as at Sinai G-ds speech assumed a concrete form, so too at that time in the future every concrete form will reveal its purpose, its dibbur.

Only the first Tablets contained the level of revelation where it was possible to see the dibbur as though it were an object. Usually a physical object does not reveal the intent of its maker. The first Tablets, however, revealed G-ds intent; they were a davar that revealed dibbur. However, after the sin of the golden calf the world was a different place. It could no longer contain the level of revelation epitomized by the first set of Tablets. That is why the Tablets grew suddenly heavy in Moshes hands and they fell to the ground. From that time until Mashiach, things will not reveal their true identity as being no more than the Word of G-d.

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