Planting an Esrog Tree: Building for the Future
Rabbi Maury Grebenau
Our parsha contains the bridge from
ory words to the review of theTorah which take sup the rest of Sefer Devarim (Deuteronomy). This transition is not smooth. Infact, it seems to be interrupted by a short narrative of Moshe setting aside three cities of refugefor those who murder accidentally. This incident seems to interrupt the natural flow of the
pesukim. What is its relevance to Moshe’s
introduction or his review of the Torah? The Ibn Ezra(Devarim 4:41) tells us that it simply took place on the same day as Moshe began this speech butit would seem that the placement should be more purposeful than simply a chronologicalcoincidence.The Seforno (Devarim 4:41) gives us a more substantial connection between these twosections of our parsha. The Seforno says that once Moshe had finished his introduction to the
Torah he wanted to give them a practical display of the importance of Hashem’s commandments.
The Gemara (Makkos 10a) tells us that Moshe understood full well that these cities would beineffective until much later when Yehoshua finished designating the other cities of refuge inIsrael. Despite this, he rushed to complete even a partial command of Hashem. There was nopiece of mitzvah too small for Moshe to involve himself. If it was divine will, then it wasimportant.The Midrash (Devarim Rabbah VaEschanan), playing upon the words of Koheles (5:9)
‘one who loves money will never be satiated with money’, says that Moshe’s love for Mitzvot
caused him to always be hungry for another opportunity. The Midrash says that even in the days
immediately prior to Moshe’s death he displayed this drive. The Midrash quotes exactly our
incident. It was this example of excitement for even the smallest piece of a Mitzva which Moshewanted to impart to the Jewish peopleRabbi Shlomoh Efraim of Luntchitz (Kli Yakar Devarim 4:41) goes even farther in hisconnection of Moshe
to Moshe’s words
. He points to Moshe’sstatement in the pasuk immediately before Moshe designated the cities. Moshe says ‘
You shallguard His statutes and His commandments that I command you today which will be beneficial toyou and to your children after you and so that your days will be lengthened in the land thatHashem, your G-d, gives you all the days (Devarim 4:40).
Luntchitz points out that the lessonhere was more specific than just love of Mitzvot. Moshe sought to be an exemplar for Mitzvotwhich would only benefit later generations. He compares it to planting an Esrog tree with fullknowledge that only later generations would be able to complete the Mitzva by actually using theripe Esrogim. He also makes the comparison to Dovid who began the building of the foundationof the Temple even though he understood that his son, Shlomo, would be the one who really
built the Beis HaMikdash. This was what Moshe meant by ‘the commandments which are
beneficial to you and to your children
It was this type of long range planning andbuilding of the Jewish people that Moshe wished to model.