27 Tevet 5768
January 5, 2008
Ezekiel advanced the belief that God would restore the ideal condition in which there would be security and abundance for Israel\’s inhabitants: \”Thus said the Lord God: When I have gathered the House of Israel from the peoples among which they have been dispersed, and have shown Myself holy through them in the sight of the nations, they shall settle on their own soil, which I gave to My servant Jacob, and they shall dwell on it in security. They shall build houses and plant vineyards, and shall dwell on it in security, when I have meted out punishment to all those about them who despise them. And they shall know that I the Lord am their God.\” (28:25-6)
This promise is already found in the Torah, where these blessings are linked to Israel\’s proper maintenance of God\’s will: \”You shall observe My laws and faithfully keep My rules, that you may live upon the land in security; the land shall yield its fruit and you shall eat your fill and you shall live upon it in security.\” (Lev. 25:18-19). This promise also found voice in the messages of Isaiah (65:21): \”They shall build houses and dwell in them. They shall plant vineyards and enjoy their fruit\”; of Jeremiah (29:5): \”Build houses and live in them, plant gardens and eat their fruit\”; and even earlier in the prophecy of Amos (9:14): \”I will restore My people Israel. They shall rebuild ruined cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine; they shall till gardens and eat their fruits.\”
Rabbi Meir Simcha of Dvinsk, one of the Talmudic and intellectual giants of Lithuanian Jewry at the turn of the 20th century, understood these promises in a political utopian vein and saw in the above prophecies a social-political agenda for attaining the Jewish vision of the ideal world. In his commentary to the Humash, \”Meshech Hochmah\”, he noted that in the unredeemed world there were two things which disrupted the life of every nation. One of these was the disunity caused by the variety of different beliefs found among the nation\’s citizens. The other was the economic disparity and consequent jealousy found among the different social strata in society. The answer to these unrelenting problems, according to the Meshech Hochmah, was to be found in the promises cited above. If human beings would commit themselves to the life of Torah and form a partnership with God, then hatred between people would cease to exist and God\’s providence would provide such abundant bounty that there would be no economic and social jealousy between people. (See Meshech Hochmah Lev. 25:18-19, Cooperman ed. p.737)
This vision is not beyond possible fulfillment. The success of the partnership that God offers is in our hands and so is the future of the world that He has endowed us with.
This study piece is offered as a service of the United Synagogue Conservative Yeshiva. It is prepared by Rabbi Mordechai (Mitchell) Silverstein, senior lecturer in Talmud and Midrash at the Conservative Yeshiva. He is a graduate of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.
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