“Observe that I am placing before you both a blessing and a curse…. When G-d brings you to the Land… you must declare the blessing on Mount Gerizim and the curse on Mount Eval” (Deuteronomy 11:26,29). We might ask: How did the Israelites carry this out? The Talmud answers:
“When Israel crossed the Jordan and arrived at Mount Eval in Samaria, alongside Shechem, six tribes ascended Mount Gerizim and six ascended Mount Eval, while the Levi’im and Kohanim and the Ark stood down below in the middle… They looked towards Mount Gerizim and began with the blessing, ‘Blessed is the man who does not make a sculptured or a cast idol,’ and both groups of six tribes answered Amen. They then turned their heads toward Mount Eval and said, ‘Cursed is the man who makes a sculptured or a cast idol’ (Deuteronomy 27:15), and both groups answered Amen. Then they brought the stones and built the altar and coated it with lime and recorded the whole Torah on it in seventy languages… They took the stones and slept at the site – Gilgal –
and there they set up the stones.” (Sotah 32a; Rashi)
What was the purpose of the stones that they had pulled up out of the Jordan? “That this may be a sign among you. When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, ‘What do you mean by these stones?’ you shall then answer them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the Ark of the Covenant of the L-rd. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones shall be a memorial for the Israelites forever” (Joshua 4:6-7).
What connection was there between the blessings and curses of Mount Gerizim and Mount Eval and the stones raised up out of the Jordan which served as an everlasting memorial to the waters of the Jordan having been cut off? As we know, the stones served to remind us that the Israelites were obligated “to drive out all the Land’s inhabitants.”
As the Israelites crossed the Jordan Joshua told them, “If you drive out the Land’s inhabitants, well and good. Otherwise, the waters will come and wash away both you and me” (Sotah 34a).
The covenant of Mount Gerizim and Mount Eval was a covenant of mutual responsibility. The Israelites became guarantors for one another (Rashi on Deuteronomy 29:28). The covenant signified that it was not enough to cross the Jordan and to conquer the Land. Rather, there was also a personal obligation binding each of them to obey and to preserve G-d’s mitzvot in Eretz Yisrael, the palace of the Supreme King of Kings. That is why the Torah began our parashah with the word “Re’eh-Observe!” in the singular.
Today, we are finally privileged to be returning to the Land of our life’s blood, and we must remember and remind ourselves and our children and the whole world of a number of points:
- That we have come to Eretz Yisrael to occupy all of it in accordance with G-d’s command to us, as it says, “Drive out the Land’s inhabitants before you” (Numbers 33:52). We must not give any foreign nation parts of our land. That is why the stones were erected at Gilgal.
- When we came to the Land, we become one another’s guarantors. In other words, we became mutually responsible to the whole Jewish People and to every individual Jew, in accordance with the covenant forged at Mount Gerizim and Mount Eval.
Through our conquering the whole land and fulfilling the whole Torah may we merit complete redemption and salvation soon in our day, Amen.
Looking forward to complete salvation,
Harav Dov Bigon