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R' Feldman's Derasha - Parashat Eikev (August 24, 2019)

08/27/2019 11:20:08 AM

Aug27

The Parasha has extraordinary focus on the land of Israel, but the point has a lot of relevance to us right here too.

Children at SPHDS learn how to make Berachot regularly on whatever they eat.  They also learn how to negotiate a plate full of various fruits, and how to figure out which fruit gets the honor of being blessed.  To figure that out, they learn a verse in this week’s Parasha, which lists the fruits of the land of Israel in a certain order. That verse is odd in a way because it mentions “the land” twice.  A land of wheat and barley,” it begins, and then starts to list fruits. But then, in the middle of the list, it says again, “A land of olive oil and honey” (referring to date honey).  

Everyone asks why it has to say “the land” twice within the verse.  The question comes because people don’t step back to put the verse in context.  There are in fact seven straight mentions of the word “Aretz” within the space of just a few verses (Devarim 8:7 - 8:10).  

  1. Eretz Tova (a good land) to which Hashem brings you
  2. Eretz of flowing water 
  3. Eretz of fruit
  4. Eretz of olive oil and honey 
  5. Eretz of bread
  6. Eretz of stone which can yield iron and from whose mountains one can mine copper
  7. Finally, a land over which one must bless
     

Out of the seven, the stitch which mentions oil and honey is not just a separate section.  It is the middle, the fourth, or pivotal, section. And why it is set apart becomes clear.

There is a ladder in these seven mentions of the word “land.”  It begins with us quite passive -- we have been brought to the land.  And then it talks of a natural resource, water, which we have no part in, and then fruit which, again, we have very little to do with.  We cultivate a bit but it is mostly based on rain.

But we will eventually move onto bread, which is very much made by us, and then minerals which can be accessed only if man mines the ground.  

What of olive oil and honey?  They are the transition from the passive to the active, for they refer to what one can access from the fruit only if one squeezes or pulverizes it.  

Upon ascending this ladder, one has become aware of the way that the experience in the land of Israel teaches one the full gamut of human achievement.  The experience is supposed to bring one, at the end, to Bentsch, to bless, the land. But there is a danger in that achievement. That is, you might still keep going, rising in achievement until you lose sight of the fact that it’s not possible without Hashem.  Either one ends the progression with a sense of the blessings bestowed on us or one keeps going and can get so carried away by achievement that one ends up in a sort of narcissistic oblivion.  

If the endpoint is blessing and thanks for Hashem, then one has reached the true sense of humility.  Many think that humility means to think that they are less. But that misunderstands a verse that comes just after this section.  At the height of arrogance, a person says (8:17), “my strength and the might of my hand made me all of this wealth.” The next verse gives the corrective: “for [Hashem] is the one who gives you strength to make wealth.”  R’ Yaakov Kaminetzky, z’l, always said that humility does not come from saying I am nothing. In fact, a person should be aware of all that makes one impressive. Humility comes from saying that what makes me impressive is from Hashem.  And not just saying it but meaning it. That will result in the saying of a blessing.

Wed, September 18 2019 18 Elul 5779