Good Shabbos to everyone!
I dedicate this parsha-post for a refuah sheleimah for Chaya Liana Esther bas Mazal.
I can’t help it, I just have to ask– is time really flying, or is it just me?  It is a bit of a shock and a pleasure, to see how we’ve already reached Sefer Devarim.  Read on, as we commence with drawing spirit from these scripts, as we enter the last book of the Torah.


The fifth Aliyah of this week’s parsha opens to Moshe Rabbeinu reminiscing.  He reflects on the Bnei Yisroel’s journey through the desert.  In verse 2 and 3, he speaks about how Hashem commanded the nation to stop circulating Har Seir (some time after parting from the Yam Suf), and to travel on northward.  In the following pasukim, Moshe reviews Hashem’s instructions to the people, for how to treat the residents of Seir, the descendants of Eisav, relatives (though diametrically different!), of the Jewish People.

“V’et ha’am tzav laymor atem ovrim bigvul acheichem bnei-Eisav hayoshim b’Seir v’yiru mikem v’nishmartem m’od.  Al titgaru vam ki lo-etayn lachem mayartzam ad midrach kaf-ragel ki-y’rusha l’Eisav nasati et-har Seir.   Ochel tishbru mayitam bakesef v’achaltem v’gam-mayim tichru mayitam bakesef ushtitem.  Ki Ado-nai Elokecha bairach-cha b’chol ma’asei yadecha yada lech’t’cha et-hamidbar hagadol hazeh zeh abayim shana Ado-nai Elokecha imach lo chasarta davar.  Vana’avor may’ais acheinu bnei-Eisav hayoshvim b’Seir miderech ha’Aravah me’Eilat u’m’Etzyon-Gaver vaneifen va’na’avor derecho midbar Moav. — You shall command the people, saying:  ‘You are passing through the boundary of your brothers the children of Esau, who dwell in Seir; they will fear you, but you should be very careful.  You shall not provoke them, for I shall not give you of their land even the right to set foot, for as an inheritance to Esau I have given Mount Seir.  You shall purchase food from them for money so that you may eat; also water shall you buy from them so that you may drink.  For Hashem your G-d has blessed you in all your handiwork;  He knew your way in this great Wilderness; this forty-year period Hashem, your G-d, was with you; you did not lack a thing.’  So we passed from our brothers, the children of Esau who dwell in Seir, from the way of Arabah, from Elath and from Ezion-Geber and we turned and passed on the way of the Moabite desert.”  {Devarim 2:4-8}

It is explained to us here, that we are not permitted to antagonize the descendants of Eisav, from trespassing, to inciting war (as a result of traversing the land when our presence is not wanted) with them. This appears to be as a gesture of fraternity, as Yaakov and Eisav were siblings– twins, at that!– and that is where our link with them lay.  Respecting boundaries, is certainly a big tenet of family life!  We are firmly told that we may not even do so much as step into their territory, without permission from their authorities.  But are we given any deeper insight as to what the basis is for this mitzvah?  Or perhaps we may ask, “Why does Eisav really deserve this treatment?”.

We are in fact given a source of enlightenment.  A number of the Meforshim (Commentators) are in agreement, that in the merit of Eisav’s tremendous respect for his father Yitzchak, in caring for his needs and such, Hashem granted him the reward of the fertile land of Seir, the material, and literal, “cream-of-the-crop” of this world.

Moshe continues to teach, transmitting the words of Hashem, in reference to the nation of Moav.

“Vayomer Hashem ailai ‘At-tatzar et-Moav v’al titgar bam milchama ki lo-etein l’cha mayartzo y’rusha ki livnai-Lot nasati et Ar y’rusha.’ — Hashem said to me ‘You shall not distress Moav and you shall not provoke war with them, for I shall not give you an inheritance from their land, for to the Children of Lot have I given Ar as an inheritance.'” {Devarim 2:9}

Rashi clarifies that although we may not declare open warfare on Moav, who we aren’t quite friendly with, we are not prohibited from intimidating them.  We aren’t told to uproot any and all traces of battle with them.  Rabbi Yehoshua Gordon z”l, mentions ‘field’ or ‘army’ exercises, in sight of the Moavim, as an example of a rather harmless intimidation.  But to keep them on their toes, or keep them at bay?

The mention of the nation of Ammon, whose ancestor is also Lot, follows shortly after that of Moav, and a short interlude of more review on the wandering through the Midbar.

“Vaydaber Hashem aylai laymor:  ‘Atah oveir hayom et-g’vul Moav et-Ar.  V’karavta mool bnei Ammon al-t’tzureim v’al-titgar bam ki lo-etein  mayeretz bnei Ammon l’cha y’rusha ki livnei Lot nasatiyha y’rusha.’ — Hashem spoke to me saying:  ‘This day shall you cross the border of Moab, at Ar, and you shall approach opposite the children of Ammon; you shall not distress them and you shall not provoke them, for I shall not give any of the land of the children of Ammon to you as an inheritance, for to the children of Lot have I given it as an inheritance.'” {Devarim 2:17-19}

What is the difference between our instruction here, for how to interact with the Ammonites, and the law concerning Moav?  The answer, is that, unlike with the Moavim, we are forbidden to “harass” this people at all.  But why the differentiation?

The origin of this reasoning lies in the story of Lot and his daughters, after they fled the burning, crumbling Sodom, to hide.  Their temporary home of choice, was a cave.  And this is where a rather dark story takes place…  In brief, the daughters feared that after the destruction of their city, they were the only people left, or even existing in the world.  G-d could’ve collapsed all civilizations, if He so wished.  Propelled by this concern that they were last of the human race, they decided to have children with Lot, without him quite knowing at the time.  The older daughter, named her son, born later on, “Moav”, literally meaning, “from the father”.  This was a bold offense, to publicize the unsettling and disgraceful story to everyone who heard the child’s name.  The younger daughter, in contrast, maintained a greater level of tzniyus (modesty), naming her baby son “Ben-Ammi”, simply, “son of my people”.  (The name was later changed to “Ammon”.)  She was much more subtle about the story of how she mothered her child.  So in honor of the younger daughter’s tzniyus, we are compelled to respect her offspring, by not causing any offense against them.

In spite of this awkward story, with Lot playing a big character, boundaries and safeguards he received for his children, on behalf of a praiseworthy deed of his.  The story, from the Midrash, goes as follows:

When Avraham went down to Mitzrayim (Egypt) with Sarah, he took Lot with him.  Upon reaching the country, he pleaded with Sarah to answer that her husband Avraham, was in fact her brother, if the question was aroused.  If it became known that Avraham was her husband, the immoral Paroh would have Avraham put to death, so he could take Sarah as a wife for himself.  Sarah agreed to the plan, and remained silent about the fact that Avraham was indeed her husband.  However, Lot was another player in the game.  He could have ‘sold out’ his uncle Avraham and aunt Sarah, and perhaps rake in a tidy profit? You never know what is going on in an individual’s head.  However, Lot upheld the same silence as Sarah, thereby playing a role keeping Avraham safe.  And because of his loyalty, he merited portions of land for his descendants.

Now we are aware of the root of the blessings and bestowal of lands, upon these people, actually our relatives, who we may sometimes view with a more negative eye.  From this, we can perceive that there is always a merit, always a virtue, always an accomplishment, in everyone.  Even the less popular groups.  A comforting note, perhaps, in the midst of world violence and turmoil we are going through, especially in Israel.  I do not wish to get too controversial here, but I will confidently say, that even though there are a great number of radicals, executing their shocking and heartbreaking plans on innocent people, there are, from those same native lands, genuinely good, upstanding, and peaceful people, who may just be hidden.  Let us never be blind to that.

And now, we will close today’s discussion with a Kabbalistic teaching, which I learned from Rabbi Yehoshua Gordon z”l, in his shiyur, on this portion.

Hashem promised to Avraham Avinu ten lands as an inheritance.  But for now, ‘seven shall be for you’, with the exception of the provinces of Kaini, Kniszi, and Kadmoni (at the time of the Bnei Yisroel’s journey through the Midbar, these places were better known as Ammon, Moav, and Seir), but they would be officially acquired by Avraham at a later point in time.  Interestingly, it seems like these three lands, the exceptions to Avraham’s reward (at the time), are still in his ownership, since Seir is Eisav’s home, and Eisav is the grandson of Avraham;  Ammon and Moav are the lineage of Lot, who was Avraham’s famous nephew.  But, the Bnei Yisroel were given restrictions for how they might traverse and interact upon the three lands.  Presently, these properties were exclusively cared for and inhabited by Bnei Eisav, Moav, and Ammon– their benefits and portions in this world, and not for us to meddle with.  But one day, with Moshiach’s arrival, these lines will be dissolved, and the lands will not only be claimed by the Jewish nation, but will exist in harmony on a much higher level as well, as we’ll soon see. 

The ten lands Hashem vowed to Avraham, correlate to the Ten Sefiros– Soul-Powers, Divine Attributes*:  Chochma (Wisdom), Binah (Understanding), Daas (Knowledge), Chesed (Loving-kindness), Gevurah (Judgement, Discipline), Tiferet (Splendor), Netzach (Victory), Hod (Glory, Humility), Yesod (Bonding, Foundation), Malchus (Kingship). 

The last seven, are what we hold strongly and proudly in our possession now.  But with the arrival of Moshiach, the other three– Chochma, Bina, and Daas (the culmination of complete intellectual, and elevated, understanding of the framework of mankind)– will also ‘join the mix’ in a perfect harmony of clear and revealed dedication to Hashem, with these traits.  All of human character, in all areas, in all the world, will rejoice in perfect unity in dedication to a greater purpose.  This is something we constantly strive toward, for at the time it is not clear and revealed in this world.

May you all have success and clarity in seeing the merits of your fellow human beings, seeing the positive in them with open eyes.  And with that same positivity, may we merit to break all barriers and boundaries, in a unified purpose, in a better world– and even when we start out towards that dream, now.

The Messenger Bird

(*Footnote:  Every reader must please understand, that although I attempted to put translations to the Hebrew terms of the Sefiros {as seen in parentheses}, one or two simple words cannot fully communicate the broad, deep sense of each of these great attributes.  They go beyond the scope of this note, so if you would like to gain a better understanding of them, I encourage you to speak about this, and learn it with an experienced person in this realm of knowledge.)