8/06/2015

Shabbat Eykev

Mevarchin Rosh Hodesh Ellul
Candles Friday 7th 7:45pm
Havdalah 8th 8:38pm

There are many problematic sentences in the early chapters of Devarim where Moshe, forty years after the events took place gives a slightly different perspective. For example in Bamidbar it is God who commands them to send spies into Canaan. Here in Deuteronomy it is the people who come to Moshe and ask for it.

But there is also a contrast in Devarim itself in regard to the Canaanites. On the one hand in Chapter 7 it says that the Israelites must destroy the Seven Canaanite nations completely and not intermarry with them. Well, if you destroy them then of course you cannot intermarry. But then in Chapter8 Moshe says that God will not let them be driven out right away. It will take time. Because otherwise, if you depopulate the countryside, it will go to waste. One had to be realistic. Nevertheless, the goal should remain even if it was and is impractical.

From this it is possible to learn that the Torah did not expect a mass slaughter. But rather the commands were meant as warnings that we would be surrounded by very bad influences morally. It would be a priority to avoid them as much as possible. The Torah often uses hyperbole to stress how dangerous something is. Historically we know the Israelites never succeeded completely in removing them.

And so today, there is much that goes on in the world we live in here and Israel that is bad and morally dangerous. But there are very obvious reasons why we cannot just destroy what we disapprove of. We often have to live with it and find ways of toleration and accommodation. That is why the Torah says the commandments are to help us live, not die by them.