This week in Parshas Eikev there is a very interesting Torah portion in which Hashem promises to drive out the nations that lived in Eretz Canaan as it is written: “Hashem, your G-d will thrust these nations from before you little by little; you will not be able to annihilate them quickly, lest the beasts of the field increase against you”(Devarim 7:22). It is also written in Parshas Mishpatim (23:29-30) “I shall not drive them away from you in a single year, lest the land become desolate and the wildlife of the field multiply against you. Little by little shall I drive them away from you, until you become fruitful and make the land your heritage.”
We are aroused to ask a few interesting questions of how we can possibly understand the simple reading of these pasukim which implies that the wild animals, as threatening as they can be, could be considered more of a danger to us than the well fortified, strongly armed calculating Canaanite nations? After all don’t we find that throughout history enemy nations have always posed a much greater threat than any type of wild animals? What therefore are these “beasts of the field” that are so dangerous that the Torah announces that it is seemingly preferable to allow the potentially hostile Canninite nations to continue dwelling in the land temporarily until we “become fruitful and make the land our heritage”?
Perhaps these Torah sections can be understood in the following way that will teach us a wondrous lesson: Eretz Yisrael can be seen to correspond to the body for our nation and we are its soul as is alluded to within the name of Israel which is the name of both our nation and our land. How do we see the spiritual DNA of this connection? The letters yud, shin, reish, alef and lamed which form the word “Yisrael” are amazingly the exact acronym for the names of the Avos and Imahos of the Jewish people: Yitzchak, Yaakov, Sara, Rivka, Rachel, Avraham and Leah (according to the Ari HaKadosh, Likutei Torah, Kisvei Ari, parashas Vayishlach, d’h, Vayikra es shemo Yisrael).
If this is so, then let us ask if we are the soul and Eretz Israel is the body then what do the Canaanite nations and the beast of the field symbolize?
Perhaps we can venture to say that the powerful “Canaanite nations” can be understood to correspond to that part of human intellect which views life only through a lens of intellectual understanding of ephemeral values, while the “beasts of the field” can be seen to represent those baser emotions which are concerned with corporal pleasure seeking.
The Torah is therefore perhaps giving us an awesome teaching that when a Jewish neshoma begins its entry into the realm of mitzvos, as expressed in our nations entering the land of what will become Eretz Israel, there will be waiting for us two fierce adversaries which have to be subdued and controlled or expelled: One is the powerful, well fortified intellect which uses its powers of subjective reasoning and rationalization to ratify and justify its lifestyle choices, while the other even more potentially licentious adversary is here referred to as the “beasts of the field”.
Therefore the Torah is informing us, that because the self willed intellect and the unbridled emotions will not meekly yield to this yoke without a struggle, that only as quickly as we “increase” our levels of Torah and yerias Shamiem, will Hashem correspondingly help us to safely remove “little by little” the influence of those foreign ideologies that up until now “inhabited the land”. [Of course when referring to those kinds of thoughts allowed to temporarily remain, we are only referring to only those kinds of thoughts that are in the permissible range.] From here we can derive awesome lesson in life that human mind, like the land, is never a vacuum and therefore if the intellect is not occupied with some kind of mindful thoughts it will easily become inundated with an onslaught of corporeal desires as is so evident especially in these last few generations.
May we, the Bnei Israel, all merit soon in our days to reach the ideal level of Eretz Israel, as our Avos and Emos did, where our minds and hearts will only yearn to be constantly filled with the will of Hashem.