By: Rabbi Menashe Sasson
Reporting from Jerusalem, Israel
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 Israel 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] 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 17 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 18 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 Israel having engaged in the sin of the Golden Calf. Moshe descended for a second time on 29 Av, after Hashem agreed to forgive Am Israel.
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 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.
Let us summarize what just happened.
What happened next, although not in this parashat, 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 interest.
Regarding the latter class of non-Jews – those who do not claim an ownership interest in Eretz Yisra’el – such persons may reside in Eretz Yisra’el “if they submit, eradicate their idolatry, and accept the seven Noahide laws. . . .” Redak, 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.
Parashat Ki Tissa speaks about 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 sacred trees.” Shemot 34:12-13. HaShem also commands that Am Israel “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 Israel; rather, the Torah is referring to any people – for all time – who claim a legal right to Eretz Yisra’el.
According to the Or HaChaim:
Likewise, Abarbanel said:
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, 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” with the Arabs, the Torah requires that we drive them 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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Menashe Sasson is a Sephardic rabbi and American attorney who resides in Jerusalem, Israel.