God Appears to Moses in Burning Bush. Painting from Saint Isaac’s Cathedral, Saint Petersburg
Guest post by Ariel Natan Pasko
This week’s Shabbat, is known as Shabbat Nachamu, based on the week’s Haftarah reading from the prophet Isaiah. The Haftarah follows the weekly Torah reading Va’etchanan in synagogues around the world. It begins seven weeks of prophetic readings of consolation (Sheva D’Nechamata); starting after Tisha B’Av (the Jewish people’s national day of mourning over the destruction of Jerusalem, the Beit HaMikdash on the Temple Mount, their murder, and exile from the land), till Rosh HaShanah (the Hebrew calendar New Year).
This same week, Ben and Jerry’s announced their boycott (more on that later).
The prophet Isaiah opens with, “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her time [of exile] has ended…” (Isaiah 40:1-2).
Va’etchanan itself, follows last week’s Torah reading Devarim/Deuteronomy, where Moses began his five week long sermon to the Jewish people, before his death. In it, he summarized the forty year desert experience, reminding the younger generation about to enter the Land of Israel, of the failed mission of the spies. And why, God punished their parent’s generation (for lack of faith in Him and His promise to give them Israel), (Deuteronomy 1:19-46).
In this week’s reading, Va’etchanan, we find nineteen references to the Land of Israel. They include entering, inheriting (a euphemism for conquering), possessing and living in the Promised Israel, or as the Torah calls it several times, HaAretz HaTova (the good land).
Proving the centrality of the Land of Israel to Judaism, and probably the most references to the land, of any parsha in the Torah.
Moses begs God, “let me go over, and see the good land that is on the other side of the Jordan, that goodly mountain (the Temple Mount in Jerusalem – Rashi), and the Lebanon (the Holy Temple – Rashi), (Deuteronomy 3:25).
But God answers no, “…you shall command Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he will lead this people across and will cause them to inherit the land…” (Deuteronomy 3:28).
Then Moses tells Israel, “…hear the decrees and laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take possession of the land, the Lord, the God of your forefathers, is giving you,” (Deuteronomy 4:1).
Moses continues, “See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the Lord my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession, (Deuteronomy 4:5).
“…the decrees and laws that you shall perform in the land that you are crossing [the Jordan] to inherit,” (Deuteronomy 4:14).
Then Moses returns to why he won’t lead them, “The Lord was angry with me because of you, and he solemnly swore that I would not cross the Jordan and enter the good land, the Lord your God is giving you as your inheritance. I will die in this land; I will not cross the Jordan; but you are about to cross over and take possession of that good land,” (Deuteronomy 4:21-22).
Moses then warns against sinning and its consequences, “…and have lived long in the land, if you then become corrupt and make any kind of idol…that you will quickly perish from the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess.” (Deuteronomy 4:25-26).
Then Moses tells the Jews, “Because He loved your forefathers and chose their descendants [you] after them, he brought you out of Egypt… [He will] drive out before you nations greater and stronger than you, and bring you into their land to give it to you for your inheritance…” (Deuteronomy 4:37-38).
He again warns, “Keep His decrees and commandments, which I am giving you today…that you may live long in the land that the Lord your God gives to you for all time,” (Deuteronomy 4:40).
God then tells Moses, “…all the commands, decrees and laws that you shall teach them to do in the land I am giving them to possess.”
And Moses tells Israel, “Be careful to do what the Lord your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left…so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess,” (Deuteronomy 5:28-30).
Moses reminds them again, “These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live…”
“Listen Israel, and be careful to perform [the commandments], so that it may go well with you, and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your forefathers, promised you…When the Lord your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you…” (Deuteronomy 6:1-10).
Moses then tells them, “Do what is right and good in the Lord’s sight, so that it will be good for you, and you may go in and take over the good land the Lord promised to your forefathers, driving out all your enemies before you, as the Lord said…”
“And in the future, when your son asks you, What is the meaning of the testimonies, decrees and laws the Lord our God has commanded you? Tell him, We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. Before our eyes the Lord sent signs and wonders – great and terrible – on Egypt and Pharaoh and his whole household. He brought us out from there, to bring us in and give us the land he promised on to our ancestors,” (Deuteronomy 6:18-23).
Moses concludes, “When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations, the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you, and when the Lord your God has delivered them over to you, and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally.”
“Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy,” (Deuteronomy 7:1-2).
Earlier God had told Moses to warn Israel, “But if you [Israel] do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live,” (Numbers 33:55).
Sounds a lot like today; think, recent riots across Israel.
So, thirty nine years earlier, the spies destroyed the Jewish people’s enthusiasm to enter the Land of Israel. Then, Moses describes God’s promise to bring them into the land, the conditions to successfully live there, i.e. keep His Torah and Mitzvot; conquer the land and drive out the evil inhabitants. Moses then warns that sinning will bring exile, and finally the prophet Isaiah promises consolation will come. He descibes the time the exile will end and the Jewish people’s return to the land will begin.
We today, are living those prophecies of return to Israel… that’s the real consolation to the Jewish people, not whether we eat ice cream or not!
So when recently, Ben & Jerry’s announced that it planed to boycott “the Occupied Palestinian Territories,” it should have caused Jews around the world to laugh with joy…
It seems, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield’s ice cream, like themselves, will not be sharing in the consolation any longer. Their loss!
“The Occupied Palestinian Territories,” it was assumed, meant Jewish towns and villages in Judea and Samaria, (West Bank settlements), and Jewish neighborhoods of eastern Jerusalem. Anuradha Mittal, chairwoman of Ben & Jerry’s Independent Board of Directors, later clarified, “The statement released by Ben & Jerry’s regarding its operation in Israel and the Occupied Palestine Territory, does not reflect the position of the Independent Board, nor was it approved by the Independent Board.”
Truth be told, the Ben & Jerry’s Board, wanted to boycott Israel entirely, but was stopped from doing so by Unilever, the parent company. Pity, just after Tisha B’Av, the spies’ sin has been repeated again, and just after we read about it last week in the Torah, how interesting.
Avi Zinger, CEO of Ben & Jerry’s Israel, the franchise owner in Israel, said he was unwilling to boycott Israeli citizens in Judea and Samaria, and was legally prevented from doing so. As a result, Ben & Jerry’s plans to cancel the franchise in 2022.
Ben & Jerry’s decision might cause them problems in the US though, as it may violate “anti-boycott of Israel” laws in many US states.
With rising global anti-Semitism, and anti-Zionism (the most pernicious Jew hatred today), the real irony will be, when their decendents flee the exile, to the Land of Israel, they will be welcomed with open arms. The country they wanted to boycott.
So whether we eat this or that ice cream, the unfolding Redemption of the Jewish people continues unabated. Jewish national life has returned to the Land of Israel, and will continue long past the extinction of Ben & Jerry’s, and their founders.
Now that’s real consolation!
Ariel Natan Pasko, an independent analyst and consultant, has a Master’s Degree specializing in International Relations, Political Economy & Policy Analysis. His articles appear regularly on numerous news/views and think-tank websites and in newspapers. His latest articles can also be read on his archive: The Think Tank by Ariel Natan Pasko.