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Shabbat Parashat Eikev 5776

Parashat Hashavua: Exiting Destroyers

Harav Yosef Carmel

[Ed. Note – It is always hard to translate p’sukim upon which there is a dispute about its meaning, but we will start with the simplest literal translation.]

In this week’s haftara, we find the pasuk: “Your sons hurried (miharu banayich); your spoilers and destroyers have left you” (Yeshaya 49:17). Classical commentators struggled with the meaning of both parts of the pasuk and with the connection between the sections. We will cite several and, as is our practice, also make our own suggestion.

Rashi explains the beginning of the pasuk positively, as a prophecy of consolation that the exile will end soon, as sons will be quick to return. We then have to explain the end of the pasuk as the Ibn Ezra and Rashi’s student, Mahari Kra, do, that the return will be possible because our enemies who destroyed the Land (i.e., the Babylonians) were leaving it.

In contrast, Mahari MiTrani explains that it is not talking about the speed of the sons, but it is a derogatory reference to their hastiness to sin. Thus, the sons are the same sinful people to whom the second part of the pasuk refers to as “your destroyers.”

The Radak and Abarbanel explain the pasuk positively, but in a different way. The destroyers will cease to be bad people, as they will repent, which will pave the way for the nation to merit redemption.

We can suggest a different approach, based on a broader look at the whole haftara [which we will have to ask our readers to look up or take our word about the context]. The section is discussing the miracle of the ingathering of exiles and the rebuilding of the Land, events that we have merited seeing in the last couple of generations.

In the Torah portion on tochecha (rebuke/warning), the people are foretold: “I will make the Land desolate; and your enemies who inhabit it will experience desolation” (Vayikra 26:32). This was good news for the nation, as until Bnei Yisrael started returning to the Land, there was desolation and almost no one lived there.

Let us suggest an explanation for our pasuk as follows, based on the above background. Bnei Yisrael are called to return quickly to their Land, which will be possible because the enemies had not succeeded in remaining there. They left, as the Torah had promised that when it would be time for the sons to return, the Land would be sparsely populated (see Sifra, Bechukotai 2:6).

The drash of our pasuk is that our biggest destroyers come from our own midst. May we pray that this never be the case, as destruction from within is the hardest to fix.

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