| Parshah |

Cat’s out of the Bag

The conquest of Eretz Yisrael was much more than mere appropriation of real estate


“And Hashem, your G-d, will drive out those nations from before you, little by little. You will not be able to destroy them quickly, lest the beasts of the field outnumber you.” (Devarim 7:22)

The above pasuk lends itself to several questions. Firstly, Moshe promised Bnei Yisrael that they’d conquer the land through Hashem’s miracles. As it says three pesukim before: “Just as your eyes beheld the great miracles, marvels, and signs (7:19)… Hashem will do the same to all the nations whom you fear.” If so, why couldn’t Hashem perform the same miracles to chase away the wild beasts?

Secondly, we know that if Klal Yisrael fear Hashem, then they have no need to fear animals, as it says: “Your fear and trepidation will be cast over all the beasts on earth” (Bereishis 9:2).

And lastly, the fact that Hashem slowed the conquest to avoid the wild animals resulted in several years’ postponement of fulfillment of the mitzvos that depend on living in Eretz Yisrael. Why was this worth it? (Rabbi Dovid Hofstedter, Doresh Dovid)

The minute I heard my friend Tzivia over the phone, I knew something was wrong. Tzivia’s generally soft-spoken and sweet, but now there was a note of hysteria in her voice.

“Faigy! The cats! I need your help!”

Katz? Cats? “What are you talking about?”

“That cat I was feeding in my backyard!”

I bit back a sigh. Tzivia’s a gooey-softie with all living creatures. But with our city’s wild cat population, feeding a stray cat generally doesn’t bode well.

“She had babies! Three times! My yard’s full of kittens! And they’re yowling at night! The neighbors… I tried to taking them on a long walk to a different neighborhood. But they all came back! Twice!”

“Where do I come into this feline fiasco?”

“Your car. I thought if we drove far away then—”

“Oh, no! I’m not driving anywhere with a score of scary cats! Not even for you, Tzivia!”

“I’ll get a crate. I just need transportation. Far away. Like to the moon.” Her words were still choppy, but I detected hope.

Despite my better judgment, I couldn’t turn her down. “Have car. Will travel. You contain the creatures.”

All these questions can be resolved by understanding that the conquest of Eretz Yisrael was much more than mere appropriation of real estate. It was a war of spiritual forces, driving impurity out of Eretz Yisrael to transform it into Hashem’s domain filled with kedushah.

So here I was, on my way to being a cat burglar. How do I get myself into these things?

Tzivia waited, holding in each hand — seriously? — a moving and swaying suitcase.

“Where’s the crate?” I opened my trunk reluctantly.

“I couldn’t find one. But I lined each suitcase with a blanket. And there’s food, water, and plenty of air.”

“They don’t sound so happy.”

“That’s their singing mode!”

My mazel. A genuine caterwauling cat chorus.

Therefore, the battle for the land was actually reflected in the conquest of the inner beast within each member of Klal Yisrael. As the Gemara says (Shabbos 151b): No beast attacks a man unless he appears in his eyes to be an animal.

Moreover, until Klal Yisrael reached that ultimate spiritual level, then they also weren’t on the level to fulfill the special mitzvos of Eretz Yisrael.

Consequently, although Hashem obviously could have performed a miracle to wipe out the animals, that wouldn’t have accomplished the greater goal of Klal Yisrael attaining sufficient personal sanctity to merit owning all of Eretz Yisrael.

After 15 minutes driving along back roads, I was pretty sympathetic to Tzivia’s neighbors. The canvas walls of the suitcase were undulating with movement, and the yowls and shrieks of the feline luggage pulsated through the car.

Despite my need to get this over with, I kept to a slow pace, petrified of a special fine for feline felony if I got pulled over.

We reached a small wooded area that bordered a few farms. Tzivia unloaded the two suitcases, and popped the locks. Zzzip. As one, the cats leaped out and went flying toward the trees. Within seconds, all was blessedly silent.

Tzivia stood, the suitcases flapping against her legs. Then, as our eyes met, we both erupted, almost competing with the cats as we shrieked with hysterical laughter over the hilarity of the past hour.

I’ve done some funny favors for friends. But this was definitely the cat’s meow.

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 656)

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Tagged: Parshah