There are many people who claim to be Haredi Jews, but they aren’t Haredi at all. In the Torah portion of “V’Etchanan,” which we read on Shabbat, we learn from Rashi’s commentary the true nature of a Haredi Jew, epitomized by Moshe Rabeinu himself. On the verse which describes how Moshe set aside three cities of refuge on the eastern bank of the Yarden, Rashi states, “Being that his heart was God fearing (hared) to set them aside, even though their status wouldn’t take effect until those in the Land of Canaan were set aside first – Moshe said, ‘A mitzvah that is possible to observe, I will observe it’” (Devarim, 4:41).
In other words, we learn from Moshe that the true meaning of Haredi is someone whose fear and reverence of God so fills his being that he rushes to do every single mitzvah as speedily and as completely as he can, not wanting to miss the slightest opportunity in serving God.
We also find this Haredi quality in Moshe’s great desire to live in the Land of Israel. Moshe wanted to make aliyah more than anything else. This is a sign of a true Haredi Jew – a towering love for the Land of Israel and a passionate desire to live there. As we wrote in a previous blog, our Sages tell us that Moshe begged God again and again, 515 times, to enter the Land of Israel. This was his life’s supreme desire – not merely to long for the Land of Israel, but to go there to perform the commandments of the Torah the very first opportunity he had. This is what being a true Haredi Jew is all about. A person who wants to fulfill the will of God as completely as he can, rushes to perform every mitzvah he can. He doesn’t wait for a mitzvah to come his way – he hurries to be first on line. Loving God and fearing him with a burning reverence and awe, Moshe yearned to fulfill God’s will in everything, especially regarding the mitzvah of living in the Land of Israel, a mitzvah which our Sages tell us is equal in weight to all the commandments of the Torah (Sifre, Reah, 12:29), as it says over and over again in the portion we read on Shabbat:
“Now therefore, hearken O Israel, to the statutes and to the judgments which I teach you to do them, that you may live and go in and possess the Land which the L-rd G-d of your fathers gives you (Devarim, 4:1).
“Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the L-rd my G-d commanded me, that you should act accordingly in the Landwhither you go in to possess” (Devarim, 4:5).
“And the L-rd commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and judgments, that you might do them in the Land into which you go over to possess (Devarim, 4:14).
“Thou shall keep therefore His statutes and His commandments which I command thee this day, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee, and that thou may prolong thy days upon the Land which the L-rd thy G-d gives thee, forever” (Devarim, 4:40).
“I will speak to thee all of the commandments and the statutes and the judgments, which thou shall teach them, that they may do them in the Landwhich I gave them to possess” (Devarim, 5:27).
“You shall walk in all the ways which the L-rd your G-d has commanded you, that you may live, and that it be well with you, and that you may prolong your days in the Land which you shall possess (Devarim, 5:30).
“Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the judgments, which the L-rd your G-d commanded to teach you, that you might do them in the Land into which you go to possess it (Devarim, 6:1).
“Hear therefore, O Israel, and take care to do it, that it may be well with thee, and that you may increase mightily, as the L-rd G-d of thy fathers has promised thee, in that Land that flows with milk and honey” (Devarim, 6:3).
Just from a straightforward reading of this Torah portion alone, it is obvious that God wants the Jewish People to keep the Torah in the Land of Israel. After all, the holy Torah is meant to be kept in the Holy Land, not in Egypt, or the Sinai wilderness, not even in America. Because of our sins, when we were exiled from our Land, our Prophets and Rabbis told us to continue to keep whatever mitzvot we could, so we wouldn’t forget them, saying, “Set up waymarks for yourself, make yourselves signposts” (Yermiyahu, 31:20), but the true, intended place for the observance of the commandments is in Eretz Yisrael, as the Torah clearly repeats again and again (See, Sifre, Ekev, 11:18. And Rashi and the Ramban, Devarim, 11:18). So, of course, a true Haredi, in the original meaning of the term, would rush to do everything he could to fulfill the will of God in keeping the commandments of the Torah in the Land of Israel – giving it at least the same passionate effort as he exerts in securing the most glatt kosher food for his family, and in finding the straightest, most perfect lulav for Sukkot.
Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, Rosh Yeshiva at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva in Yerushalaim, would emphasize the proper relationship that a Jew should have to Torah by saying, “Thank G-d, we don’t choose which mitzvot we do like some people do. We don’t say, ‘This mitzvah is pleasing to me, so I’ll do it, but this mitzvah is too difficult so I won’t. We keep all of the Torah with complete emunah and faith in the Lord.”
We should all strive to be Haredi like Moshe, our teacher, who rushed to do every mitzvah he could and who wanted to observe the Torah in the Land of Israel more than anything else. And one other point – Moshe didn’t want his children to be Haredi in Egypt, or in the wilderness of Sinai. He wanted them to be Haredi in the Land of Israel.
And definitely not in the United States of America.
About the Author: Tzvi Fishman was awarded the Israel Ministry of Education Prize for Creativity and Jewish Culture for his novel "Tevye in the Promised Land." A wide selection of his books are available at Amazon.The author's opinion does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Jewish Press.
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