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Friday, August 26, 2016

Parashat Eikev 5776

Our parasha has a verse that begins, “All of the mitzvah,” being odd both in its singular use of mitzvah and the word “כל” meaning “all”. The Rabbis, noticing this, create a principle that to get credit for a mitzvah, you actually have to complete it. But it goes further, by giving an example from Tanach where those who finish a mitzvah are the ones who are treated as if they actually started it.
דברים פרשת עקב פרק ח
Deuteronomy Chapter 8
(1) All of the mitzvah that I command you today you shall keep in order to perform in order that you will live, multiply, and arrive and inherit the land that Hashem promised to your forefathers.
(א) כָּל הַמִּצְוָה אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ הַיּוֹם תִּשְׁמְרוּן לַעֲשׂוֹת לְמַעַן תִּחְיוּן וּרְבִיתֶם וּבָאתֶם וִירִשְׁתֶּם אֶת הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּע יְקֹוָק לַאֲבֹתֵיכֶם:

When Israel leaves Egypt, Moses begins fulfilling the oath made to Joseph to take his bones to Israel. Yet, in Joshua, when the bones are actually buried, the text claims the children of Israel took the bones.
שמות פרשת בשלח פרק יג
Exodus Chapter 13
(יט) וַיִּקַּח מֹשֶׁה אֶת עַצְמוֹת יוֹסֵף עִמּוֹ כִּי הַשְׁבֵּעַ הִשְׁבִּיעַ אֶת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לֵאמֹר פָּקֹד יִפְקֹד אֱלֹהִים אֶתְכֶם וְהַעֲלִיתֶם אֶת עַצְמֹתַי מִזֶּה אִתְּכֶם:
(19) Then Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for he made the children of Israel swear, saying, “God will surely remember you and you shall take my bones from this [place] with you.”

יהושע פרק כד
Joshua Chapter 24
(לב) וְאֶת עַצְמוֹת יוֹסֵף אֲשֶׁר הֶעֱלוּ בְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל מִמִּצְרַיִם קָבְרוּ בִשְׁכֶם בְּחֶלְקַת הַשָּׂדֶה אֲשֶׁר קָנָה יַעֲקֹב מֵאֵת בְּנֵי חֲמוֹר אֲבִי שְׁכֶם בְּמֵאָה קְשִׂיטָה וַיִּהְיוּ לִבְנֵי יוֹסֵף לְנַחֲלָה:
(32) And the bones of Joseph that the children of Israel took up from Egypt they buried in Shechem in the portion of the field that Jacob purchased from the children of Chamor father of Shechem for one hundred coins; then it was for the children of Joseph as an inheritance.

The Torah Temimah points out that even though Moses was preventing from completing the burial of Joseph by outside factors (although perhaps his own fault), he nonetheless gets no credit.
תורה תמימה הערות שמות פרק יג
Torah Temimah, Notes on Exodus 13
Barukh HaLevi Epstein, 20th Century Lithuania and America
גמר הדבר הוא קבורת העצמות, וזה לא היה יכול משה לעשות כיון שלא נכנס לארץ...
The completion of the matter is burying the bones, and this Moses was unable to accomplish since he did not enter the land...
ומוכח מכאן דאע"פ שאין בהמתחיל כל אשמה שלא גמר כמו הכא במשה שלא גמר מפני שלא נכנס לארץ...
And it is proven from here that even though that the one who began has no fault in not completing, like here with Moses who did not complete because he did not enter the land...

The Tanchuma makes our point, but it goes further comparing the one who does not finish to Judah in his failure to properly return Joseph to his father and instead has him sold to the Ishmaelites. Judah subsequently loses his status and his wife and two sons die. This section plays a bit on the root בצע which can mean “profit,” but can also be the root uses to mean “breaking bread.”
מדרש תנחומא (ורשא) פרשת עקב
Midrash Tanchuma (Warsaw edition), Parashat Eikev
Another matter: “All of the mitzvah.” If you began a mitzvah, finish all of it.
דבר אחר כל המצוה אם התחלת במצוה הוי גומר את כלה
Why? Said Rebbi Yochanan, “Anyone who began a mitzvah and afterwards another came and completed it, it is attributed to the one who completed it.”
למה? אמר רבי יוחנן כל מי שמתחיל במצוה ואחרי כן בא אחר וגמרה נקראת על שם גומרה,
From whom do you learn this? From Moses. When Israel left Egypt, what is written? “Then Moses took the bones of Joseph.” The entire nation was engaged in looting [the Egyptians] and Moses was caring for the bones of Joseph. He came and stood amongst the coffins, cried out and said, “Joseph, Joseph, the time has come that the Holy Blessed One is redeeming his children. God’s presence is holding back Israel and the Clouds of Glory are holding you back. If you reveal yourself, good. And if not, we are clear of your oath.” Immediately his coffin shook, he [Moses] took it and went. Moses was taken in the desert and did not enter the land. Israel brought the bones of Joseph into the land and buried them and the mitzvah was credited to them, as it says, “And the bones of Joseph that the children of Israel took up from Egypt they buried in Shechem.” Therefore he said to them, “All of the mitzvah.”
ממי את למד ממשה כיון שיצאו ישראל ממצרים מה כתיב? "ויקח משה את עצמות יוסף" (שמות יג) כל העם עוסקין בבזה ומשה היה מטפל בעצמות יוסף, בא ועמד בין הארונות צעק ואמר יוסף יוסף הגיעה השעה שהקב"ה גואל את בניו השכינה מעכבת ישראל וענני כבוד מעכבין לך אם אתה מגלה את עצמך מוטב ואם לאו אנו נקיים משבועתך, מיד נזדעזע ארונו נטלו והלך, נסתלק משה במדבר ולא נכנס לארץ הכניסו ישראל עצמות יוסף וקברו אותן ותלה המצוה בהן שנאמר (יהושע כד) ואת עצמות יוסף אשר העלו בני ישראל ממצרים קברו בשכם, לכך אמר להם כל המצוה,
Said Rebbi Yanai, “Anyone who begins a mitzvah and does not finish it buries his wife and two children.” From who do you learn this? From Judah, as it says, “What is the profit [בצע] [if we kill our brother]?” They sat to break break. He said to them, “We kill our brother and bless?” As it says, “The one who breaks bread blesses and angers Hashem,” (Psalms 10:3). Therefore it is written, “What profit [using the root בצע for breaking bread]?” “Let us go and sell him to the Ishmaelites.” And they listened to him, for he was a king. And if he had said to them to return him to his father, they would have listened to him. Rather, he began in a mitzvah and did not finish it. Therefore one who begins a mitzvah should finish all of it.
אמר רבי ינאי כל המתחיל במצוה ואינו גומרה קובר אשתו ושני בניו, ממי אתה למד מיהודה שנאמר ויאמר יהודה אל אחיו מה בצע וגו' (בראשית לז) ישבו לפרוס על הפת אמר להם הורגים אנו את אחינו ומברכים שנאמר ובוצע ברך נאץ ה' (תהלים י:ג), לכך כתיב מה בצע וגו' לכו ונמכרנו לישמעאלים ושמעו לו שהיה מלך ואלו אמר להם להחזירו אל אביו היו שומעין לו אלא התחיל במצוה ולא גמרה לפיכך המתחיל במצוה יהא גומר את כלה.

The Gemara has a potentially significant difference from the midrash in Tanchuma. Instead of talking about mitzvah, it uses the word דבר meaning anything. It really stresses the idea that people need to finish what they start.
תלמוד בבלי מסכת סוטה דף יג עמוד ב
Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sotah 13b
Texts challenge one another. It is written, “Then Moses took the bones of Joseph with him.” And it is written, “And the bones of Joseph that the children of Israel took up…”
קשו קראי אהדדי, כתיב: ויקח משה את עצמות יוסף עמו, וכתיב: ואת עצמות יוסף אשר העלו בני ישראל וגו'!
Said Rebbi Chama son of Rebbi Chaninah, “Anyone who does something and does not finish it, and another comes and finishes it, the text considers the one who finished as if he did it.”
א"ר חמא בר' חנינא: כל העושה דבר ולא גמרו ובא אחר וגמרו, מעלה עליו הכתוב על שגמרו כאילו עשאו.
Rebbi Elazar says, “They even remove him from his greatness, as is written, ‘And it was at that time that Judah descended.’” Rebbi Shmuel son of Nachmani said, “He even buries his wife and children, as is written, ‘Then bat Shua the wife of Judah died…’ And it is written, ‘Then Er and Onan died.’”
רבי אלעזר אומר: אף מורידין אותו מגדולתו, דכתיב: ויהי בעת ההיא וירד יהודה. רבי שמואל בר נחמני אמר: אף קובר אשתו ובניו, דכתיב: ותמת בת שוע אשת יהודה וגו', וכתיב: וימת ער ואונן.

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