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Video 51 of 54
The first silence, the farmer takes his basket, he comes to the temple, he gives it to the kohen, v’amarta elav, and he says, higadti hayom laHashem Elokeicha, ‘I have declared before God but I have come to the land that God has sworn to my forefathers’. What that seems to mean is that even before he has opened up his mouth, just the simple fact of his presence is a kind of declaration. The only thing that happened before he started talking was he was standing there. It must be that, that ‘Standing there’ says something, it says what he then gives voice to through words just a moment later that ‘I have come to the land’. The greatest testimony is that he has come to the land is just the fact that he is standing there, even before he opens his mouth. What does it say, look at exactly what it is that the farmer says when holding it. He doesn’t just say that ‘I have declared that I have come to the land’, which land?
The land asher nishba Hashem La’avoteinu latet lanu. ‘The land that the God swore to my forefathers;’ why is he saying that? The fact that God has sworn the land to his forefather seems to be the issue that the farmer is addressing. What he seems to be saying is that God is the promise keeper, the one who has kept his oath to my forefathers, I am here to tell those forefathers wherever they are in heaven now, that God did keep his oath and if you look a little bit back in the history, you can have a sense of why that something had must be said. You can almost imagine Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all of their descendents sitting there in heaven with the lord of hosts, saying over the edges, ‘well, when will it finally happen?’ That promise that Abraham’s progeny was going to get the land, was made so many centuries before it happened. It was a promise that would have frustrated Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and all of their descendents.
Your Abraham, God comes and tells you, it is going to be great, you are going to have land, you are going to have children. You think it is going to happen and it doesn’t happen. By the end of your life, the only land that you have is the burial plot that you have bought for Sarah and for even that you had to haggle with Evan for it. You are Isaac, you think it falls to you to actualize Abraham’s promise, you are going to be the one who is finally going to be able to take possession of this land. Here you are, you are spending your life digging wells and then the Philistines comes and they stop up the wells and at the end of your life, you have actually lost yardage, you have nothing to show for it in terms of actual kinyan, possession of the land. And what about children, all you have is two kids and now, in the next generation, you are Yaakov, it falls to you to actualize the promise and you think it is finally going to happen but at the moment that you get the mandate to carry on the great legacy of Abraham, you find yourself on the run, escaping from the land of Israel to escape the wrath of the brother you tricked and suddenly you are in exile and you are not in the land and at that moment that you are leaving the land, you have this dream and God comes to you and says, ‘Don’t worry. I am going to bring you back, you are going to have lots of children. Your children are going to be like the dusts of the earth and you will have the land, as far as you can see’ and you say to yourself, ‘Yes, I am going to be the one, finally it is going to be me’ and decades later, you do come back to the land and you have all these children and you think it is you and vayeshav Yaakov be’eretz meguray aviv, you hear the exhilaration of the text. Yaakov finally settles down. Where does he settles, he settles in the land that his fathers and till then just been given, they have just been sojourners. ‘I am finally going to settle down to actualize the promise that they failed to actualize only to see that slipped to his grasp.
When Joseph is taken down to Egypt and sooner then later, he and his entire family follow and on the way to Egypt God comes to him in a bone chilling prophecy and says ‘don’t worry about going to Egypt, I am going to make you into a great nation there’. Sounds so wonderful until you remember the promise. Land and nationhood and God is saying that I am splitting up the promise. You are going to be a nation, great people but not happening in Israel, it is happening here in Egypt where you and your entire family are going to be on exile for a long, long time.
When Genesis ends and the promises unfulfilled, when the five books of Moses end and the promise is unfulfilled, it takes centuries for the promise to be fulfilled until we meet this little farmer. The little farmer feels like nothing, Jewish history is about Abraham, it is about Isaac, about Jacob, about Jews and Egypt. It is not about me, I am just a little old farmer somewhere west of Nariya; but it is about you, you are the end and the end makes all the difference. Higadati hayom, ‘I say, I declare, my very presence, my being here in the land with this basket testifies to the forefathers up in heaven with you God, that you are a promise keeper, you didn’t say this in vain, it is true. I am here and my basket of fruits proves it to be true’. And now, he lays down that basket and then, he answers the question. What question is the answer of, no question was asked except maybe a question was asked in the silence. He laid down the basket before the alter, he put it before God. That basket sitting there on the ground in that silence a question has been asked to the farmer, by God. The question is, ‘you claim that your presence is a statement, do you understand that statement? Do you understand the larger context for your existence here? Show me that you understand’. V’anita v’amarta, and then you answer and you go throughout Jewish history, starting from the very beginning and you show that you understand that this long deferred promise is twisted and turned through the ages and that you are the combination of that promise and when you are don with that, you are done with the declaration and then, you can finally rejoice with these first fruits knowing what their significance truly is.
1. Noach: Why Did God Destroy the World?
2. Lech Lecha: Covenant With God
3. Vayeira: Abraham's Struggle With Loyalty
4. Chayei Sarah: What Makes For A Successful Life?
5. Toldot: A Conversation For the Ages
6. Vayeitzei: Consequences of Jacob's Deceit
7. Vayishlach: Becoming a Person of Integrity
8. Vayeishev: Who Really Sold Joseph?
9. Miketz: Why Didn't Joseph Write Home?
10. Vayigash: The Epic Confrontation Between Judah and Joseph
11. Vayechi: Who is Joseph's Real Father?
12. Shmot: If Midrash is Real, Why Isn't It Peshat?
13. Va'era: Did God Take Away Pharaoh's Free Will?
14. Bo: Did God Really Need Ten Plagues?
15. Beshalach: What Does It Mean to Have Faith?
16. Yitro: The Marriage of God and Israel
17. Mishpatim: Female Servitude...Wait, What?
18. Terumah: Is There a Face Hiding in the Tabernacle?
19. Tetzaveh: Where Is God In a Physical World?
20. Ki Tisa: Moshe's Benevolent Chutzpah
21. Ki Tisa: Epilogue
22. Vayakhel-Pekudei: God In Space, God In Time
23. Vayikra: Can Leaders Make Mistakes?
24. Tzav: What Does It Mean To Survive?
25. Shemini: Why Did God Reject Nadav and Avihu?
26. Tazria: The Bizarre Purification of the Metzora
27. Metzora: Living Within the Community
28. Kedoshim: How Can I Achieve True Love?
29. Emor: What Sabbath Is All About
30. Behar: Why Does Land Have To Rest?
31. Bechukotai: Why Would God Curse His People?
32. Bamidbar: Who Cares About Genealogy?
33. Shelach: Is Hope Irrational?
34. Korach: Can We Influence God?
35. Chukat: Was Hitting the Rock So Horrible?
36. Balak: Balaam, Prophet For Hire?
37. Pinchas: What Does It Mean To Be Zealous For God?
38. Matot: Why Is The End of Bamidbar So Anticlimactic?
39. Masei: Why Is The End of Bamidbar So Anticlimactic? II
40. Devarim: What Does It Mean To Have Faith?
41. Va'etchanan: Seeing Layers in the Ten Commandments
42. Eikev: What Does It Mean To Be A Good Person?- Part 1/2
43. Eikev: What Does It Mean To Be A Good Person?- Part 2/2
44. Re'eh: The Strange Laws Of Jewish Slavery
45. Shoftim: The Line Between Murder And Apathy
46. Shoftim: Epilogue 1
47. Shoftim: Epilogue 2
48. Ki Teitzei: The Hated Wife- Part 1/2
49. Ki Teitzei: The Hated Wife- Part 2/2
50. Ki Tavo: The Soliloquy Of The Farmer- Part 1/2
51. Ki Tavo: The Soliloquy Of The Farmer- Part 2/2
52. Nitzavim-Vayeilech: Where's the Happy Ending? - Part 1/3
53. Ha'azinu: A Unique Nation - Part 2/3
54. V'Zot Habracha: Looking Towards the Future - Part 3/3
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