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Shabbat Parashat Bechukotai 5776

Parashat Hashavua: Komemiyut

Rav Daniel Mann

On Yom Ha’atzmaut we celebrated the establishment of the State of Israel, which became a reality, to a great extent, by our miraculous success in the War of Independence. In Hebrew that war has a few names – including, Milchemet Hakomemiyut. The word komemiyut is a mila yechida’it – a word that is found only once in the Torah. In this case, it is found in our parasha: “I am Hashem who took you out from the Land of Egypt from being slaves, and I broke the staves of your yoke, and I led you komemiyut” (Vayikra 26:13). I refrained from translating the word, and for good reason. One of the ways commentators and translators know how to explain a word is by comparing it to its other appearances in Tanach, including some in which the meaning is clear by context. Since we cannot do that for komemiyut, we will use other methods: context in our pasuk, analyzing the root, along, of course, with looking at our classical commentators.

The end of our pasuk seems to give a metaphorical clarification for that which its beginning raises – the Exodus. By taking us out of slavery, Hashem was breaking the yoke that represents slavery. In other words, not only was the yoke removed, but it was never to be used again. This ostensibly cleared the way for a next stage – leading us komemiyut. Unkelus translates komemiyut as to freedom, which explains the previous metaphor. This may also be the source for the understanding of those who named that crucial war, Milchemet Hakomemiyut (The War of Freedom).

Other opinions in Chazal assume komemiyut continues to describe the nation metaphorically. Some say (see Bava Batra 75a) it is a combination of two words – koma (height) me’at (either 100 or 200 amot). While we have no indication this was literally true, it hints at great stature with which Hashem provided us. We can maintain that stature by avoiding the great sins that precipitate the curses our parasha moves on to discuss. Rashi, based on midrashim in several places, talks of standing erect, and the midrashim continue that the people were not afraid of any living thing. This is also apparently connected to the root of koma, embedded in komemiyut, but instead of referring to height, it refers to posture and the frame of mind it represents.

Another possible direction is to relate it to the most similar words found in Tanach, the verb lekomem (see Yeshaya 44:26; ibid. 58:12; Micha 2:8). The consensus is that this verb means to establish (which captures the idea of the ’48 war, as well), like the similar word lehakim.

       One of the reasons to want to understand this word is that we use it every morning in the beracha before Kri’at Shema: “Bring us in peace from the four corners of the world and lead us komemiyut to our Land.” Are we asking to be brought in freedom to our Land, like Unkelus? Do we want to be tall or erect (figuratively) when we come and not have to sneak in under the eyes of the Turkish, British, or whomever? Do we want to come in such a way that we are able to be established here – permanently, as part of a great building process? I imagine that for most of us, the answer is – let’s request all of them, and thank Hashem that we have merited to have made nice progress already.

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