Shabbat Parashat Ki Tetzei| 5763
From the works of Hagaon Harav Shaul Yisraeli zt”l - The Boundaries of Eretz Yisrael - III - Southern Boundaries of Brit Bein Hab’tarim - From Eretz Hemdah I,4:1
In Brit Bein Hab’tarim, only two demarcations of the land given to Avraham are mentioned: the Euphrates River and Nehar Mitzrayim (the River of Egypt). What is Nehar Mitzrayim?
We should note that, in the borders of Parashat Masei, the southern border is more detailed and mentions Nachal Mitzrayim as its southwestern point. Rashi (ibid.) identifies this river as the Shichor on the face of Egypt, which upon comparison to Yehoshua 13, apparently refers to the Nile’s eastern-most branch. According to this identification, the Land of Goshen, where the Jewish people lived during their stay in Egypt, was actually part of Eretz Yisrael. While this fits nicely with a midrash that the Goshen mentioned in Sefer Yehoshua within Eretz Yisrael was actually the Goshen of Egypt, this possibility raises grave questions. How can it be that the exile of Bnei Yisrael, which Ya’akov feared and Bnei Yisrael awaited to escape, was actually within their own homeland? Why wasn’t Yitzchak allowed to go to “Egypt” during the famine, and why didn’t Ya’akov want to be buried there? Another difficulty involves the demarcation itself. The southeastern border, the Dead Sea, is so far north of the Nile that the “southern” border would have been at too unreasonable an angle to be so called.
The Radvaz (Shut 2210), therefore, dismisses the possibility of the Nile being a border of Eretz Yisrael out of hand. [ed. note- it is theoretically possible to salvage the rejected opinion and say that Nachal Mitzrayim and Nehar Mitzrayim aren’t the same river. Nehar Mitzrayim, of Brit Bein Hab’tarim could refer to the future borders, which might reach the Nile, not the halachic borders of Masei. Rav Yisraeli apparently rejected this possibility, because of his understanding that the differences between the sets of boundaries were only in the east, the Land of the Keini, K’nizi and Kadmoni (see last week)]. Thus, it seems quite clear that the proper identification of Nehar Mitzrayim is Wadi el Arish (which is just south of the present day border of Israel with Egypt). What is the southeastern border of the Brit Bein Hab’tarim promised land? [As we saw last week,] the lands of Ammon and Moav were included in the land given to Avraham. Since these kingdoms extended well south of the Dead Sea and since the Torah mentions the Red Sea as a border (Shemot 23), it would appear that one draws a line from Wadi el Arish, through the desert, to some point on the Red Sea. The line would then extend east under the territories of Ammon and Moav, encompassing them in the boundaries of the ten lands given to Avraham. In the future, the border will extend further south to include the Land of Seir, which will then be given to us.
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