Parashas Eikev

In this week’s parashah, Moshe says to the Jewish People (Devarim 9:4-5):
Do not say in your heart, when Hashem your God drives them out from before you, saying: “Because of my righteousness Hashem brought me in to possess this land, and because of the wickedness of these nations Hashem drove them out from before you.” It is not on account of your righteousness and the uprightness of your heart that you are coming to possess their land; rather, it is on account of the wickedness of these nations that Hashem your God drove them out from before you, and in order to establish the word which Hashem swore to your fathers, to Avraham, to Yitzchak, and to Yaakov.
The Maggid notes that Moshe’s statement seems to contradict itself: Initially it rules out two possible reasons why Hashem gave Eretz Yisrael to the Jews, but afterward it affirms the second reason and comes close to affirming the first. The Maggid sets out to explain what Moshe is saying.
He brings out the point with an analogy. Suppose you are in the marketplace and you see someone buying an item from someone else. There are two possible reasons behind the sale. One possibility is that the buyer is buying because he has a pressing need for the item. The other possibility is that the seller is selling because he has a pressing need for the money, while the buyer is buying because he is getting a good deal on the price, although he has no immediate need for the item. Initially you may not know which of these two reasons is behind the particular sale that you saw. But if afterward you see the buyer selling the item to someone else for a modest profit, you now know that the seller sold the item at a low price because he urgently needed the money, and the buyer bought it only because of the low price. If the buyer needed the item, he would not have let it go.
The parallel is as follows. Hashem took Eretz Yisrael away from the Canaanites and the other nations that occupied the land. There were two possible reasons behind this transfer: the Jews’ merits and the Canaanites’ wickedness. The reason had implications for the future status of the land. If the transfer was because of the Jews’ merits, it would be quite conceivable that they would possess the land forever. In this vein, the Gemara in Zevachim 102a says that when a person is put in a position of eminence, his descendants, throughout all generations, are also put in a position of eminence. The Gemara in Yoma 87a presents a similar teaching. On the other hand, if the transfer was because of the Canaanites’ wickedness, it could well be that when the Jews sinned, the same Attribute of Justice that took the land away from the Canaanites would take the land away from them. Moshe was telling the people that, at the juncture in time when he was speaking, the main reason for the transfer was the Canaanites’ wickedness, while the Jews’ merit was a subsidiary reason. Accordingly, Moshe said, that in speaking of this transfer the Canaanites’ wickedness should be mentioned first and the Jews’ merit second.
Chanah says in her prayer (Shmuel Alef 2:7): “Hashem impoverishes and enriches; He brings low and also (אף) raises up.” The Midrash comments (Bamidbar Rabbah 22:8): “With the anger (אף) that He brings upon one person, He raises up another.” The Maggid interprets this Midrash as reflecting the principle that sometimes Hashem takes an action that is primarily designed to bring some people low while also having the secondary effect of raising others up.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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