On the Haftora of Parshas Eikev.

The MALBIM would seem to have the cogent literal and contextual interpretation of the Pesukim in the Haftora of Parshas Eikev. It would seem (to me Isaac Balbin) that other Rishonim and Acharonim had a Pshat based on a Mesora of Torah She Baal Peh?

[By Meir Deutsch, with light editing]
© מאיר דויטש –  מנ”א התשע”ז
We just reached the second SHABBAT of the NECHAMA SHABBATOT. The verses of Nechama are in the Haftarot, all of them from the book of YESHA’YAHU/Isaiah. Let us see what he says. Here are the first verses of the Haftara of ‘EQEV:

ישעיהו פרק מט
(יד) וַתֹּ֥אמֶר צִיּ֖וֹן עֲזָבַ֣נִי ה’ וַאדֹנָ֖י שְׁכֵחָֽנִי:
(טו) הֲתִשְׁכַּ֤ח אִשָּׁה֙ עוּלָ֔הּ מֵרַחֵ֖ם בֶּן־בִּטְנָ֑הּ גַּם־אֵ֣לֶּה תִשְׁכַּ֔חְנָה וְאָנֹכִ֖י לֹ֥א אֶשְׁכָּחֵֽךְ:
(טז) הֵ֥ן עַל־כַּפַּ֖יִם חַקֹּתִ֑יךְ חוֹמֹתַ֥יִךְ נֶגְדִּ֖י תָּמִֽיד:
(יז) מִֽהֲר֖וּ בָּנָ֑יִךְ מְהָֽרְסַ֥יִךְ וּמַחֲרִבַ֖יִךְ מִמֵּ֥ךְ יֵצֵֽאוּ:
(יח) שְׂאִֽי־סָבִ֤יב עֵינַ֙יִךְ֙ וּרְאִ֔י כֻּלָּ֖ם נִקְבְּצ֣וּ בָֽאוּ־לָ֑ךְ חַי־אָ֣נִי נְאֻם־ה’ כִּ֤י כֻלָּם֙ כָּעֲדִ֣י תִלְבָּ֔שִׁי וּֽתְקַשְּׁרִ֖ים כַּכַּלָּֽה:
(יט) כִּ֤י חָרְבֹתַ֙יִךְ֙ וְשֹׁ֣מְמֹתַ֔יִךְ וְאֶ֖רֶץ הֲרִֽסֻתֵ֑יךְ כִּ֤י עַתָּה֙ תֵּצְרִ֣י מִיּוֹשֵׁ֔ב וְרָחֲק֖וּ מְבַלְּעָֽיִךְ:
(כ) ע֚וֹד יֹאמְר֣וּ בְאָזְנַ֔יִךְ בְּנֵ֖י שִׁכֻּלָ֑יִךְ צַר־לִ֥י הַמָּק֖וֹם גְּשָׁה־לִּ֥י וְאֵשֵֽׁבָה:
(כא) וְאָמַ֣רְתְּ בִּלְבָבֵ֗ךְ מִ֤י יָֽלַד־לִי֙ אֶת־אֵ֔לֶּה וַאֲנִ֥י שְׁכוּלָ֖ה וְגַלְמוּדָ֑ה גֹּלָ֣ה׀ וְסוּרָ֗ה וְאֵ֙לֶּה֙ מִ֣י גִדֵּ֔ל הֵ֤ן אֲנִי֙ נִשְׁאַ֣רְתִּי לְבַדִּ֔י אֵ֖לֶּה אֵיפֹ֥ה הֵֽם:
(כב) כֹּֽה־אָמַ֞ר אֲדֹנָ֣י ה’ הִנֵּ֨ה אֶשָּׂ֤א אֶל־גּוֹיִם֙ יָדִ֔י וְאֶל־עַמִּ֖ים אָרִ֣ים נִסִּ֑י וְהֵבִ֤יאוּ בָנַ֙יִךְ֙ בְּחֹ֔צֶן וּבְנֹתַ֖יִךְ עַל־כָּתֵ֥ף תִּנָּשֶֽׂאנָה:
(כג) וְהָי֨וּ מְלָכִ֜ים אֹֽמְנַ֗יִךְ וְשָׂרֽוֹתֵיהֶם֙ מֵינִ֣יקֹתַ֔יִךְ אַפַּ֗יִם אֶ֚רֶץ יִשְׁתַּ֣חֲווּ לָ֔ךְ וַעֲפַ֥ר רַגְלַ֖יִךְ יְלַחֵ֑כוּ וְיָדַ֙עַתְּ֙ כִּֽי־אֲנִ֣י ה’ אֲשֶׁ֥ר לֹֽא־יֵבֹ֖שׁוּ קֹוָֽי:
(כד) הֲיֻקַּ֥ח מִגִּבּ֖וֹר מַלְק֑וֹחַ וְאִם־שְׁבִ֥י צַדִּ֖יק יִמָּלֵֽט:
(כה) כִּי־כֹ֣ה׀ אָמַ֣ר ה’ גַּם־שְׁבִ֤י גִבּוֹר֙ יֻקָּ֔ח וּמַלְק֥וֹחַ עָרִ֖יץ יִמָּלֵ֑ט וְאֶת־יְרִיבֵךְ֙ אָנֹכִ֣י אָרִ֔יב וְאֶת־בָּנַ֖יִךְ אָנֹכִ֥י אוֹשִֽׁיעַ:
(כו) וְהַאֲכַלְתִּ֤י אֶת־מוֹנַ֙יִךְ֙ אֶת־בְּשָׂרָ֔ם וְכֶעָסִ֖יס דָּמָ֣ם יִשְׁכָּר֑וּן וְיָדְע֣וּ כָל־בָּשָׂ֗ר כִּ֣י אֲנִ֤י ה’ מֽוֹשִׁיעֵ֔ךְ וְגֹאֲלֵ֖ךְ אֲבִ֥יר יַעֲקֹֽב:

Let us look at the translation:
14. But Ziyyon said, The Lord has forsaken me, and my Lord has forgotten me.

Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget thee.
Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.
The explanation of verse 17, given by most MEFARSHIM always surprised me. “מִֽהֲר֖וּ בָּנָ֑יִךְ מְהָֽרְסַ֥יִךְ וּמַחֲרִבַ֖יִךְ מִמֵּ֥ךְ יֵצֵֽאוּ.”. They interpret the מְהָֽרְסַ֥יִךְ וּמַחֲרִבַ֖יִךְ מִמֵּ֥ךְ יֵצֵֽאוּ as some kind of collaborators, evil people or criminals, even traitors. If we look at רד”ק, he interprets it: there will not be amongst you an evil person or criminal. The “מצודת דוד” says: the evil amongst you… We see the same in many Responsa books.

Here are a few examples:

כת הקראים נוצרה וקמה לרועץ מקרבנו בבחינה של מהרסיך ומחריביך ממך יצאו בערך מסביב לשנת ד’ אלפים תקי”ב לבריאת עולם[…] (שו”ת ציץ אליעזר חלק ה סימן טז – הרב אליעזר יהודה ולדנברג).

ובארתי בזה הכתוב – “מהרסיך ומחריביך ממך יצאו”. ישעי’ (מט) הרצון בזה – שיש שונאים הנראים כאוהבים ומתאחדים עם שלומי אמוני ישראל וטובם כחדק נהפך למרורת פתנים ומסך רוח, עושים להפריד בין אחים ובין אביהם של ישראל. והמה מהרסיך כאיש שונאי ישראל בגלוי.  (שו”ת מהרא”ש הקדמה ותוכן עניינים – רבי אלכסנדר שמואל ב”ר פינחס דוד היילפרין).

והרבה יש להתאונן כמאמר הנביא מהרסיך ומחרביך ממך יצאו אשר גם בקהלות קטנות ימצאו העורבים המצפצפים ומהרסים לתקנת דת ישראל שתיקן הרב מרא דאתרא. (שו”ת מנחת אלעזר חלק ג סימן לו – רבי חיים אלעזר ב”ר צבי שפירא).

Let us try and understand what the Prophet Yesha’yahu said. He said: Do you think that the Lord left you, his people, no – I will not forget thee. The walls are continually before me. Thy children make haste [to come back to Zion], as the [enemy] that destroyed and wasted it will go away from thee [the city].

We can see that the prophet continues:
18. Lift up thy eyes round about, and behold: all these gather themselves together and come to thee.
The settling again in the waste and the destruction will expand and “shall be now too narrow for the inhabitants, and they that swallowed thee up shall be far away”.

Do we see any connection to traitors amongst the population in the prophet’s saying? I cannot find one. Yesha’yahu does not mention any punishment or condemnations of them. All he is telling us that the enemy that destroyed the city will leave it. If he was talking about traitors, than what does he mean by the beginning of that verse: Thy children make haste… where too? What for?

The IBN EZRA writes: “Here your sons came and your destroyers left”. It might be not clear enough what he means by “your destroyers”, but he translates ממך יצאו = “leave you” and not “originate from you”. The MALBIM is clearer, and says: “your enemies that destroyed you have left. Here we see clearly that the MALBIM sees here the enemies of Israel that destroyed Zion and not traitors amongst you.

Let us go back to our quotation.

(יז) מִֽהֲר֖וּ בָּנָ֑יִךְ מְהָֽרְסַ֥יִךְ וּמַחֲרִבַ֖יִךְ מִמֵּ֥ךְ יֵצֵֽאוּ:

And in English:
17. Thy children make haste, thy destroyers and they that made thee waste go away from thee.

Does the translation into English of verse 17 sound clearer?

The translator knew both languages well. The English translation is from: Koren, The Jerusalem Bible, Jerusalem 1969, with the English text by Harold Fisch.

Were the Hebrew words taken out of context?

We still refer to the text מְהָֽרְסַ֥יִךְ וּמַחֲרִבַ֖יִךְ מִמֵּ֥ךְ יֵצֵֽאוּ as referring to the destroyers among our people. Are we following our Mefarshim and Responsa and using them to describe traitors of the nation or fifth columnists?

It reminds me of another verse – in TEHILIM:

כָּל־כְּבוּדָּ֣ה בַת־מֶ֣לֶךְ פְּנִ֑ימָה מִֽמִּשְׁבְּצ֖וֹת זָהָ֣ב לְבוּשָֽׁהּ (תהלים פרק מה, יד):

To whom does this verse refer to?

From the previous verse there, we see it is the daughter of the king of Zor, not a Jewish princess. The verse says: KVUDA (with a SHURUK), but some Meforshin and many Responsa = שו”ת read it as KVODA.

Were they reading it without the vowels = NIKUD? Let us look at some examples:

אבן עזרא: כל כבודה – וטעם פנימה שהיתה שוכנת לפנים בארמונה ולא היתה נראית לכל:
מצודת דוד: כל כבודה – כל אשה מכובדה ובת מלך היושבת פנימה
בחדרה לפי רוב כבודה אשר לבושה עשוי ממשבצות זהב.

I think that the MALBIM, as in our Haftara, is the only one whose explanation is consonant with the context.

We have got his interpretations:

1.     כל כבודה בת מלך פנימה, בארגז שהביא למנחה הונח פנימה כל כבודה של בת מלך, כל דברים היקרים ונכבדים הראוים לבת מלך, תכשיטין יקרים וכדומה, וגם הונח שם לבושה ממשבצות זהב, לבוש יקר הנעשה ממשבצות זהב, זה המנחה שהביאו עשירי עם:

2.     ומה היא המנחה כל כבודה בת מלך, דברים מכובדים וענינים נפשיים הראוים לבת מלך, שבתוך הארגז של המנחה נמצא לבושה ממשבצות זהב, לבוש מלכות שבו תלביש הנפש שהם מדות יקרות מאד מזהב ומפז:

3.     מלבי”ם ביאור המילות: כבודה כמו ואת הכבודה לפניהם (שופטים י”ח). פנימה, בתוך דבר. ר”ל בפנים של הארגז נמצא כל כבודה של בת מלך:

The verse is literally about a container – chest (or a suitcase as the airlines call it today) = Kvuda; not about honour or dignity = Kavod

Let us go back to our Haftara. We should not forget that it is one of the NECHAMA HAFTAROT, dealing with the return to Zion. Based on a contextual literal reading it has nothing to do with fifth columnists.

Lift up thy eyes round about, and behold: all these gather themselves together

שְׂאִֽי־סָבִ֤יב עֵינַ֙יִךְ֙ וּרְאִ֔י כֻּלָּ֖ם נִקְבְּצ֣וּבָֽאוּ־לָ֑ךְ…

If we look further, verse 22, who is going to be punished: הִנֵּ֨ה אֶשָּׂ֤א אֶל־גּוֹיִם֙ יָדִ֔י וְאֶל־עַמִּ֖ים אָרִ֣ים נִסִּ֑י. It is not your people, not the traitors.

Parshas Ekev

The nuance expressed in this short Dvar Torah is better appreciated with reference to the aramaic text in the Gemora (Tractate Brachos 33b), included below with the english paraphrasing. Our weekly portion quoting Moshe asks (Devarim 10:12)

“… What does God request from Jews?”

Moshe answers

“ only to fear the Lord your God”.

The word “only” is a challenging pursuit in life. How does Moshe seemingly minimise the fear of God, as a simple attainment, and as THE element that God asks from us?
The Talmud (ad loc.) is similarly troubled and says

“Is fear of Heaven such a simple level to obtain?”
אטו יראת שמים מילתא זוטרתא היא?

The Talmud answers incredulously,

“Yes, in Moshe’s domain it is a simple level to obtain”.
אין, לגבי משה מילתא זוורתא היא

The question is obvious. We are not Moshe. We didn’t speak to God and experience miracles or God’s interference in our world. God remains hidden. For us plebeians, it can’t be said that attaining the fear of Heaven is a relatively simple task.
In one of my favourite insights from Rav Soloveitchik, the Rav explains that the placement of the comma in the Talmud’s response is the key to the puzzle. Instead of reading

“Yes, in Moshe’s domain it is a simple level to obtain”.
אין, לגבי משה מילתא זוורתא היא

the Rav suggests it be read as

“Yes in Moshe’s domain,  it is a simple level to obtain”.
אין לגבי משה, מילתא זוורתא היא

Meaning, the Jew alone does not achieve this level unless they attach themselves to their respected Rabbi and teacher (לגבי משה). It is indeed a formidable mountain to climb, however, it is incumbent upon every Jew to attach themselves to the Masoretic tradition of a respected Rabbi and teacher who is able to help climbing the mountain.

“fear of heaven”.

This mechanism gives rise to the guiding principle of Judaism, Imitatio Dei, emulating Hashem, as expressed thematically throughout the Rav’s writings, through the Pasuk

והלכת בדרכיו
You should go in the way of God

This imperative is held as a positive Torah command by many Rishonim.
The Rav’s Uncle, the Griz, R’ Yitzchok Zev Soloveitchik, provided a further insight in his ליקוטי הגרי׳ז ב:פה. One of the Griz’s students excelled more than others. The Griz explained that this wasn’t simply a matter of that student’s innate ability and acquired knowledge. Rather, that student knew how to nullify their self-importance ביטול, and that skill is not an easy one to acquire. On the contrary, the greater the person’s skill set and knowledge is, the harder it is to suppress and bow to the opinion of his teacher and master. The statement in the Talmud that

what a servant does for their master, the student does for their master

Isn’t simply a detail, but a general principle that is applicable across the gamut of educational experience, through which one can achieve fear of God/Heaven—יראת שמים.

(Sources: מפניני הרב, ונפש הרב מאת מורי ורבי ר’ צבי שכטר שליט׳א)

Mezuza: should it be viewed as a quasi amulet?

In his typically brilliant style, Rav S.R. Hirsch explains the meaning of a Mezuza as mentioned in this weeks Parshas Ekev, Devarim 6:9

The mezuzah is not an amulet; in and of itself, it does not protect the
house. Only insofar as they shape their lives in accordance with the mezuzah’s
content can the people within the house expect help and protection
from God, the “All-Sovereign and All-Sufficing,” in all the vicissitudes
of domestic life. With this intent it is our custom to adorn the
outside of the mezuzah with the Name shin-daled-yud.