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Friday, August 15

The Weekly Shtikle - Eikev

The Weekly Shtikle is dedicated to the following Israeli soldiers (list expanded to include family members): Amir ben Tzipporah, Daniel Aharon ben Esther, Binyamin Avraham ben Mindel Sarah, Elichai Aryeh ben Sarah Rivkah, Asher Refael ben Dinah Leah, Yechiel David ben Gella Rachel im kol chayalei Yisrael.

     In this week's parsha, Eretz Yisrael is praised as (8:8) "A land of wheat and barley and grapes and figs and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey." These species are given a special status when it comes to making berachos. Shulchan Aruch (OC 211:4), based on the gemara (Berachos 41,) rules that if you have in front of you two foods that are both of the aforementioned seven species, the berachah should be made on the one that comes earliest in the pasuk. For example, if you have a grape and a fig, you should make the berachah on the grape. However, the determining factor is the proximity of the food to the word eretz in the pasuk. The word eretz is repeated before olive oil and honey. Thus, if you have a date (the source of the honey) and a grape, the berachah should be made on the date because it is the second food from the second eretz whereas the grape is the third from the first eretz. Why, though, did the Torah specifically repeat the word eretz?

    The GR"A writes that the pasuk is split into two categories. The first five species are all mentioned for their very essence. It is the fruit or grain itself for which Eretz Yisroel is praised. However, the last two species refer to the olive and the date but are only mentioned for the substances that are extracted from them. This is why the pasuk is divided by two instances of the word eretz.

    Meshech Chachmah offers an alternate interpretation. He suggests that the first five species were available in Mitzrayim as well. His support for this is the dialogue preceeding the incident of Moshe and the rock, when the nation complained (Bemidbar 20:5) "And why have you taken us out from Mitzrayim to bring us to this terrible place, not a place of grain or figs or grapes or pomegranates and there is no water to drink." It is evident from here that the first five species were also abundant in Mitzrayim. The pasuk is therefore singling out olive oil and honey as the two species that are uniquely abundant in Eretz Yisrael by repeating the word eretz.

    There is a slight difficulty with this interpretation. When Dasan and Aviram refused to appear before Moshe, they exclaim (Bemidbar 17:13) "Is it not enough that you have brought us out of a land flowing with milk and honey to kill us in the dessert!" It seems from here - assuming Dasan and Aviram were not simply "throwing stones" and there was some truth to their statement - that there was an abundance of honey in Mitzrayim as well. Why then should the Torah single it out along with olive oil as unique to Eretz Yisroel?

    A friend of mine showed me a quote from a sefer Shomer Emes endeavouring to answer this question. He references Rashi in a number of different locations (Vayikra 2:11, Sukkah 6a) who writes that any sweet substance derived from fruit is called devash. Indeed, in the gemara (Kesubos 111a) we find a reference to devash te'einim, fig honey. He suggests, therefore, that what Dasan and Aviram were referring to was other forms of fruit honey that might have been available in Mitzrayim. But the abundance of date honey was still unique to Eretz Yisrael. As for why bee honey is not suggested, perhaps the reason is that even though it originates as nectar from plants and is minimally processed by the bee (otherwise it would not be kosher), since it isn't produced from the ground in a form that may be harvested by humans, it would not qualify as something by which to praise the land. 

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: To Afflict the Corrector
Dikdukian: To Make a Misnaged Cringe
Dikdukian: Those Bad Egyptians

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