Thursday, September 02, 2010

Length of days

Summary: Does it refer to long life, or long dwelling in the land of Israel?

Post: In Nitzavim, Devarim 30:18:

יח  הִגַּדְתִּי לָכֶם הַיּוֹם, כִּי אָבֹד תֹּאבֵדוּן:  לֹא-תַאֲרִיכֻן יָמִים, עַל-הָאֲדָמָה, אֲשֶׁר אַתָּה עֹבֵר אֶת-הַיַּרְדֵּן, לָבוֹא שָׁמָּה לְרִשְׁתָּהּ.18 I declare unto you this day, that ye shall surely perish; ye shall not prolong your days upon the land, whither thou passest over the Jordan to go in to possess it.
Length of days (or lack thereof) is mentioned in connection to "upon the land which you pass over the Jordan to possess." So too in Vayelech, in Devarim 31:13:

יג  וּבְנֵיהֶם אֲשֶׁר לֹא-יָדְעוּ, יִשְׁמְעוּ וְלָמְדוּ--לְיִרְאָה, אֶת-יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם:  כָּל-הַיָּמִים, אֲשֶׁר אַתֶּם חַיִּים עַל-הָאֲדָמָה, אֲשֶׁר אַתֶּם עֹבְרִים אֶת-הַיַּרְדֵּן שָׁמָּה, לְרִשְׁתָּהּ.  {פ}13 and that their children, who have not known, may hear, and learn to fear the LORD your God, as long as ye live in the land whither ye go over the Jordan to possess it.' {P}

We have days, we have living, and we have the land. This seems, then, to be speaking of staying in the land and not being kicked off of it. Indeed, in Nitzavim, in Devarim 29:27, we have:

כז  וַיִּתְּשֵׁם יְהוָה מֵעַל אַדְמָתָם, בְּאַף וּבְחֵמָה וּבְקֶצֶף גָּדוֹל; וַיַּשְׁלִכֵם אֶל-אֶרֶץ אַחֶרֶת, כַּיּוֹם הַזֶּה.27 and the LORD rooted them out of their land in anger, and in wrath, and in great indignation, and cast them into another land, as it is this day'.--

This idea of staying on the land, or being kicked off the land, is thus explicitly mentioned in this parasha.

What then shall we make of the following in parashat Yitro, Shemot 20:11, from the Aseret Hadibrot:

יא  כַּבֵּד אֶת-אָבִיךָ, וְאֶת-אִמֶּךָ--לְמַעַן, יַאֲרִכוּן יָמֶיךָ, עַל הָאֲדָמָה, אֲשֶׁר-יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ נֹתֵן לָךְ.  {ס}11 Honour thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee. {S}

There are two ways of parsing this pasuk. The way it is typically understood is that this is a promise of long life, and the long life will be upon the land Hashem has given you. But given these other pesukim, another straightforward parse would be that by doing this, the nation of Israel will merit a lengthy stay upon the land, and will not be exiled. So too perhaps by shiluach haken, in Ki Teitzei (Devarim 22:7):

ז  שַׁלֵּחַ תְּשַׁלַּח אֶת-הָאֵם, וְאֶת-הַבָּנִים תִּקַּח-לָךְ, לְמַעַן יִיטַב לָךְ, וְהַאֲרַכְתָּ יָמִים.  {ס}7 thou shalt in any wise let the dam go, but the young thou mayest take unto thyself; that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days. {S}

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