Sign In Forgot Password

:"Evil Mountain?"

02/08/13 10:05:42


R Pesach Siegel

Parshas Re'eh

 "Evil Mountain?"

Moshe Rabeinu addresses the Bnei Yisroel. He says to them, “Re’eh anochi nosayn lifnaychem hayom bracha u’klallah”. See, I have placed before you today blessing and curse. The commentators take note of the change in tense. The word for see, re'eh, is the singular form of the word, while the word lifnaychem (before you) is a plural one. 


Upon entry to Eretz Yisroel, they will come upon two mountains, Har Gerizim and Har Eival. They will place a blessing upon Har Gerizim and a curse upon Har Eival.


The actual description of this event is to found in Parshas Ki Savo.[1] The tribes of Shimon, Levi, Yehuda, Yissochor, Yosef, and Binyomin are to be positioned on Har Gerizim. Reuven, Gad, Asher, Zevulun, Dan, and Naftali will stand on Har Eival. The Kohanim and Levi’im will be between the two mountains, along with the aron kodesh. The Kohanim and Levi’im will turn towards Har Gerizim and Har Eival alternately, pronouncing a series of blessings and curses. 


Rashi states that although half the tribes were on one mountain and half of them were on the other, the blessings and curses were to placed upon all the tribes equally.[2] (with the exception of the tribe of Shimon).


The gemara notes that the tribe of Levi is mentioned twice, once as the ones in the middle of the two mountains and also as standing on Har Gerizim. It reconciles the apparent contradiction by differentiating between those Levi’im who were fit for service in the Bais Hamikdash and those who were disqualified.[3]


The Levi’im have a dual role. They act as a part of Klal Yisroel like any other tribe, and also as the one in the "middle" by virtue of their service in the Bais Hamikdash.


The Maharal explains that the word echad is comprised of the letters aleph, ches, and daled. The numerical value of the letter ches is eight. It represents the tribes of Reuven, Shimon, Yehuda, Yissochor, Zevulun, Menashe, Ephraim, and Binyomin. The daled refers to the tribes of Gad, Asher, Dan, and Naftali. The aleph represents the tribe of Levi who unites Klal Yisroel into one unit, echad. 




What is the purpose of placing a curse upon a mountain?


If the blessings and the curses were being placed upon all the tribes, what is the need for two mountains?


Why were the tribes split up in this specific manner?


Why is this to be their first encounter upon entering Eretz Yisroel? 




The Ramban draws a parallel between Har Gerizim and Har Eival and another instance of a blessing and a curse.[4]


On Yom Kippur, the Kohen Gadol performs a service in the Bais Hamikdash with two identical goats. One is designated as a korban to Hashem. Upon the other one he places the sins of the Bnei Yisroel and sends it off to be thrown to its death from a cliff.


The medrash points out that the two goats represent the identical twins, Yaakov and Eisav.[5]


Evil also has a place in the Bais Hamikdash. Its purpose is to be destroyed.


Eisav had a natural affinity to evil. Had he succeeded in his life's task he would have used his abilities to smash the evil of the world. Instead, he embraced evil.


This task is now left for the descendants of Yaakov to perform. Yom Kippur is the time when we break the essence of Eisav. We are doing what Eisav should have done. 


The gemara describes how the determination was made which animal would be dedicated for a korban and which one would be sent off and killed.[6] The Kohen would set the animals one to his right and one to his left. He would simultaneously draw two lots, one with his right hand and one with his left. On one it would be written the name of Hashem on the other the word Azazel. Whichever lot came up in his right hand would determine the fate of the animal on his right, and so for the left. 


The gemara quotes a braisa that during the forty years of the reign of Shimon Hatzaddik a miracle took place. Each and every time the lot with Hashem's name came up in the right hand of the Kohen.


Hashem created good and allowed for the prospering of evil. Each one has its unique purpose in the world. But they are not equal. The purpose of evil is to be overcome and ultimately lead to a greater good. They can be compared to a right hand and left hand. Both are integral to the functioning of a person, but the main one of the two is the right hand. The left hand's role is to provide assistance to the right hand. The powers of tov are the right hand of creation. The ko’ach hora (evil) is the left hand. 


When Klal Yisroel have their priorities straight, they view the power of evil in its true light. Then, they merit a miracle. The lot for the goat of Eisav comes out in the left hand of the Kohen and the name of Hashem in his right. During the forty years that Shimon Hatzaddik served as kohen gadol, the level of the generation was reflected in the successful outcome of the Yom Kippur service. 




The Ramban tells us that when the Bnei Yisroel entered Eretz Yisroel, Har Gerizim was on the right and Har Eival was on the left. They were not cursing the mountain, but rather were assigning the ko’ach hora its proper position. It belongs on the left. Its fate is to be overcome and to become non-existent. In a sense they were cursing the ko’ach hora.


(The Ramban adds that when facing East, the country of Bavel is on the left. Bavel was the source of misfortune that befell the Bnei Yisroel with the destruction of the Bais Hamikdash.) 


There are certain tribes of Klal Yisroel who possess the natural ability and the potential to fulfill Eisav's role in creation. The Even Ezra says that the tribes of Gad, Asher, Dan, and Naftali were assigned the position of the left by virtue of being bnei shfachos.[7] They were children of the maidservants. The origin of slaves is the curse that Noach placed upon his grandson, Canaan (the son of Cham). They are the lowest beings in the scheme of creation. They are the closest to klala, non-existence. It is specifically through these tribes that the power of evil will be overturned. The will meet evil and overcome it. They will transform it into a positive force. 


Reuven and Zevulun join the bnei hashfachos on the left side.


The gemora says the definition of the name Reuven is "See the difference", and enumerates the differences between him and Eisav. Reuven is an anti-Eisav.[8] 


Zevulun is the tribe that financially supports the Torah learning of shevet Yissochor. The Torah says "B'smola osher v'kavod"[9] - wealth and honor are on the left.  He is the true manifestation of what Eisav should have been. Perhaps this is why Reuven and Zevulun are aligned with the bnei hashfachos on the left. 


In order to achieve the abovementioned goal, Klal Yisroel must function as a unit. Each tribe compliments each other. The shevatim on the right contribute their unique attributes and abilities to those on the left.


The gemara relates that it was at this point in time that all members of Klal Yisroel were forged together as one unit, and became responsible for one another.[10] 


This is why Moshe Rabeinu began his words to Klal Yisroel in the singular form and ended in the plural form. He wished to convey the message that the individual is responsible for the klal.[11] The entire klal must function as a unit. The ones who have a natural attraction to the powers of evil must work hand in hand with those who are attracted to tov.


Eretz Yisroel is a place of strong attractions. The potential for tov is great but so is the attraction for evil.


A fragmented Klal Yisroel would be ripped apart by the strong forces existent in Eretz Yisroel.


It was necessary for the nation to enter together as one, in one cohesive unit.



[1] Parshas Ki Savo, perek 27, posuk 11

[2] Parshas Re’eh, perek 27, posuk 24

[3] Meseches Sotah, daf 37a

[4] Parshas Eikev, perek 11, posuk 29

[5] Breishis Rabbah, perek 65, piska 15

[6] Meseches Yoma, daf 39a

[7] Parshas Ki Savo, perek 27, posuk 10

[8] Meseches Brachos, day 7b

[9] Mishlei, perek 3, posuk 15

[10] Meseches Sotah, daf 37b

[11] Kli Yakar

Mon, September 21 2020 3 Tishrei 5781