By: HaRav Menashe Sasson
מאת: הרב מנשה ששון
The Torah, in Parashat Ki Tissa, opens with HaShem speaking to Moshe Rabbeinu at the top of Mount Sinai about a variety of mostly “religious” topics, one of which is Shabbat. “HaShem spoke to Moshe, saying, Speak to the Children of Yisra’el and say, “You must observe my Sabbaths, for it is a sign between Me and you for your generations, to know that I am HaShem, who makes you holy.” Shemot 31:12-13.
The Torah continues: Shabbat “is a sign forever that in six days, HaShem made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed. When [HaShem] finished speaking to [Moshe Rabbeinu] on Mount Sinai, [HaShem] gave Moshe the two Tablets of Testimony, stone tablets inscribed by the finger of God.” Shemot 31:16-18.
Meanwhile, at the foot of the mountain, the Jewish people, impatient as they were that Moshe Rabbeinu was taking longer than expected to descend from the top of Mount Sinai, busied themselves with making a Golden Calf.
According to Rashi’s timeline, Moshe Rabbeinu, ascended Har Sinai for the first time on Shavout, descended forty days later, on the 17th of Tammuz, saw the Golden Calf and “threw down the Tablets from his hands and shattered them at the foot of the mountain.” Shemot 32:19.
On the 18th of Tammuz, those who had worshipped the Golden Calf – “about three thousand men,” – were executed. Shemot 32:28.
On 19 Tammuz, Moshe ascended Har Sinai again, for another forty-day period, this time to seek forgiveness from HaShem for Am Yisra’el having engaged in the sin of the Golden Calf, and descended for a second time on 29 Av, after HaShem agreed to forgive Am Yisra’el.
On Rosh Hodesh Elul, Moshe Rabbeinu ascended Har Sinai for a third, and final time, for another forty-day period.
After learning the entire Torah from HaShem, Moshe Rabbeinu, on Yom Kippur, descended Har Sinai for the final time, with the second set of Tablets.
Shortly before descending Har Sinai on Yom Kippur, Moshe Rabbeinu said to HaShem, “If I have found favor in Your eyes, . . . forgive our iniquity and our error and make us Your heritage.” Shemot 34:9.
HaShem responded, “Behold! I seal a covenant. Before your entire people I shall make distinctions such as have never been created in the entire world and among all the nations. . . .” Shemot 34:10.
Beware of what I command you today. Behold, I drive out before you the Amorite, the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Hivvite, and the Jebusite. Be vigilant lest you seal a covenant with the inhabitant[s] of the land to which you are to come, lest it be a snare among you. Rather, you shall break apart their alters, smash their pillars, and cut down its scared trees.
Let us summarize what just happened.
What happened next, although not recounted in this parasha, is the Jewish people depart Har Sinai and make their way to Eretz Yisra’el.
The Halakha – Jewish law – relating to non-Jews living in Eretz Yisra’el recognizes two classes of people: those who claim an ownership or similar interest in Eretz Yisra’el and those who do not claim any such an interest.
The latter class of non-Jews – those who do not claim an ownership interest in Eretz Yisra’el – may reside in Eretz Yisra’el “if they submit, eradicate their idolatry, and accept the seven Noahide laws. . . .” Radak, commentary to Debarim 20:11 (They shall become tribute and serve you.). See also, Rambam, Hilchot Melachim 6:1; Sefer HaChinuch, Mitzvah 527.
“Tribute” means to pay taxes. To “serve you” or “servitude” means enjoying individual rights, but not national rights, including but not limited to serving in any governmental position of authority, whether appointed (civil service) or elected. Rambam, Hilchot Melachim 6:1.
Psrashat Ki Tissa addresses those who claim an ownership or similar interest in Eretz Yisra’el. “Be vigilant lest you seal a covenant with the inhabitant[s] of the land to which you are to come, lest it be a snare among you. Rather, you shall break apart their alters, smash their pillars, and cut down its scared trees.” Shemot 34:12-13. HaShem also commands that Am Yisrael “not make for yourselves molten gods.” Shemot 34:17.
When the Torah speaks of the Canaanite nations, it is not merely referring to ancient civilizations who just happened to be occupying Eretz Yisra’el prior to the arrival of Am Yisrael; rather, the Torah is referring to all people, for all time, that claim a legal right to Eretz Yisra’el.
“You are to drive out all the inhabitants of the land. . . .” Even though the Torah says in Debarim 20:16 that, “you must not allow a single soul (of these seven nations) to survive” in this instance the Torah does not speak of the seven Canaanite nations, but [rather] about all others who lived amongst them. This is the reason the Torah chose its words carefully, i.e. “all the ones who dwell in the land,” that the Yisra’elites were to drive out[,] even those people who lived there who were not members of the seven nations.
Or HaHaim, Bamidbar 33:52).
Likewise, Abarbanel said:
Shemot 34:11-12 inform us that since HaShem is driving out the [Canaanite] nations, it would be improper for Yisra’el to forge a covenant with them. If a nobleman helps someone by fighting that person’s battles and banishing that person’s enemies, it would be immoral for that person to make peace with [those enemies] without [first obtaining the] nobleman’s permission. So, too, with HaShem driving out Yisra’el’s enemies, it is immoral for Yisra’el to enter into a treaty with them, for that would profane HaShem’s Glory. This is especially true considering that the treaty will not succeed. Because Yisra’el dispossessed them of what they believe to have been their land, there is no doubt that they will constantly seek to defeat and destroy Yisra’el. This is why it said, “[the Land] to which you are coming.” Since Yisra’el came to that Land and took it from its inhabitants, and because they feel that the Land has been stolen from them, how will they make a covenant of friendship with you? Rather the opposite will occur: “they will be a snare among you.” When war strikes you, they will join your enemies and fight you.
Abarbanel, Commentary on Shemot 34:11-12.
The modern-day Arabs – who claim a right to Eretz Yisra’el – are a people referred to by the Torah as “inhabitants of the land” and as “all the ones who dwell in the land.”
The Arabs, just as the Torah promised, are today a “snare among” the Jewish people because we have “seal[ed] a covenant with” them simply by allowing them to remain in Eretz Yisra’el.
A fortiori, because it is forbidden to allow Arabs to remain in Eretz Yisra’el, all the more it is forbidden for the Jewish people to allow the Arabs to form a state within the borders of Eretz Yisra’el.
HaShem’s message could not be more clear. Not only are the Jewish people forbidden to agree to a “Two-State Solution,” the Torah requires that we drive the Arabs out of the land, as politely as possible, of course, and then “break apart their alters,” especially the Jewish people’s modern-day Golden Calf, that molten god which currently sits on Har HaBayit.
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