Rabbi Avraham Norin

Ram at the Machon Meir Conversion Center


A Mighty Arm

I proudly dedicate this Dvar Torah to Sol, Dina, Lior, Ezzy and Amitai Adelsky, who are making Aliya to Eretz Yisrael this summer.  
I pleaded with the LORD at that time, saying: ‘O Lord GOD! You who have just begun to show your servant your greatness and your mighty arm, you whose powerful deeds no other power can equal. Let me now go over, see the good land that is beyond the Jordan, that goodly hill-country, and Lebanon’ (Devarim 3: 24-25).
With these dramatic verses, Parshat Vaetchanan begins. Moshe, the humble servant of Hashem, finds the courage to plead to Hashem, asking him to revoke the decree that didn’t permit Moshe to go into the Promised Land. But beyond this drama lies a question on the wording of Moshes request. Why does Moshe say that Hashem has just begun to show his mighty arm? Hashem seemingly already showed Moshe his mighty arm when he took out the People of Israel from Egypt! 
For example, in this week’s parsha Moshe says: “It is not because you are the most numerous of peoples that the LORD set His heart on you and chose you—indeed, you are the smallest of peoples; but it was because the LORD favored you and kept the oath He made to your fathers that the LORD freed you with a mighty arm and rescued you from the house of bondage, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt”  (Devarim 7: 7-8). Did Hashem show his mighty arm when he took us out of Egypt as this verse In the middle of the parsha seem to say,  or did he only show us his mighty arm forty years later as Moshe implies from his prayer at the beginning of the parsha?
The answer is simple: Hashem’s mighty arm was not exhibited when they left Egypt. Hashem’s mighty arm is exhibited only when the children of Israel arrive to the land of Israel! At the end of Sefer Bamidbar, Israel conquers the East side of the Jordan and starts inheriting the land. Only then, once some of the people of Israel are living in their land, can Moshe say that Hashem’s mighty has begun to be shown.
The verses that mention leaving Egypt ביד חזקה”” should be understood in this same light. While we usually translate ביד חזקה “with a mighty arm”, the preposition “ב” in Tanach has other translations as well.  Sometimes “ב” means “part of a whole”. This is how the words “ביד חזקה” should be understood: Hashem took us out of Egypt starting the process which would bring his people to the land where his mighty arm will be exhibited. 
We see from here another idea: The Exodus from Egypt was not complete until the People of Israel inherited the land of Israel. This idea can be explained based on the following Mishna:
“…If the master of the house passes his hand outside and puts something into the hand of the poor man, or takes something out of the poor man’s hand and brings it into the house, the master of the house is obligated to bring a sin offering while the poor man is exempt… If the master of the house extends his hand outside and the poor man takes something out of it, or puts something into it which is brought inside by the master, they are both exempt” (Shabbat 1:1).
The situation in the Mishna is when a poor man carrying a basket comes to a house on Shabbat asking for food.  Since there is no Eruv, it is prohibited to transfer items from one domain to the other. The full act of transferring requires the action of taking something out of one domain, together with the completion of the action by bringing the item to a resting point to a second domain. Therefore, the Mishna rules that a master of the house is exempt from bringing a sin offering if he takes something out of one domain withoutplacing in into another domain. This idea explains why the act of taking the people of Israel out of Egypt was not considered complete until they were brought to the land of Israel.  As a result, Hashem’s mighty arm was shown only upon the completion of the Exodus, when the people of Israel were brought to the land divinely promised to them.
 This idea is further elaborated in the book of Nehemiah. At the beginning of the period of the Second Temple, Nehemiah is informed of the great state of destruction in which the land of Israel lies. He immediately starts mourning and fasting, and prays to Hashem the following prayer:
“Be mindful of the promise You gave to Your servant Moses:  If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples; but if you return to Me, faithfully keep My commandments, even if your dispersed are at the ends of the earth, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place where I have chosen to establish My nameFor they are Your servants and Your people whom You redeemed by Your great power and Your mighty hand.” Nehemiah 1: 9-10  
Nehemiah, who saw the beginning of the redemption in his days, understood that seeing Hashem’s mighty arm was not an experience limited to Moshe’s days. Every generation who sees Hashem returning the people of Israel back to their land witnesses Hashem’s mighty arm. Soon after, Nehemia left his position in Persia and came to Jerusalem to rebuilt the city. 
Nehemia understood that when Hashem displays to us his mighty arm, and returns us to our land, it becomes our obligation to use the might of our arms, to ensure that the Land of Israel will be built up again.
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