“You became Fat, Thick, and Corpulent”
By: Rav Mordechai Greenberg
Rav Kook zt”l wrote in a letter to his father-in-law, the Aderet, who was the Chief Rabbi of Yerushalayim:
I will reveal to you, Sir, even though it is probably not new to you, that I am afraid of what it says in Sifre Ha’azinu, “His land was filled,” etc., which is based on the pasuk, “You became fat, thick,” etc., which is three generations before the coming of Mashiach. You understand my thoughts. Nevertheless, G-d will do on behalf of His Name, and hasten the time of His salvation, “and Hashem alone will be exalted on that day.”
Rav Kook refers here to what it says in the Sifre on our parsha, on the pasuk, “Yeshurun became fat and kicked. You became fat, thick, and corpulent” (Devarim 32:15):
When they are satiated, they rebel. You find the same with the people of the generation of the flood, who rebelled against G-d only from food and drink and tranquility...
When Yisrael enter the Land, they are destined to rebel out of eating and drinking, and out of tranquility, as it says, “For I shall bring them to the Land that I swore to their forefathers, which flows with milk and honey, but they will eat, be sated, and grow fat, and turn to the gods of others.” (Devarim 31:20) Moshe said to Israel: When you enter the Land, take care that you do not rebel against G-d out of eating, drinking, and tranquility, as it says, “Lest you eat and be satisfied.” (8:12) What does it say about them, “Your heart will become haughty and you will forget Hashem, your G-d.” (8:14)...
Another interpretation, “You became fat, thick, and corpulent,” These are the three generations before the era of the Mashiach, as it says, “Its land became full of silver and gold ... its land became full of horses ... Then its land became full of false gods.”
The Sifre refers to what is said in the beginning of Yeshaya (2:7-9):
Its land became full of silver and gold, with no end to its treasures; its land became full of horses, with no end to its chariots. Then its land became full of false gods; each one of them bows to his own handiwork, to what his fingers have made. Humankind will have bowed and man will have humbled himself.
There are three stages in this moral decline. The first stage is when the land is full of money, wealth and economic boom. The second stage is the excessive and exaggerated use of money; there is no end to the horses and chariots, the cars and other luxuries. In the end comes the third stage, the most awful of all, “Its land became full of false gods,” when the silver and gold become society’s god. It is bowed down to and worshiped. These will be the three generations before the coming of the Mashiach. This is what frightened Rav Kook zt”l, because, as described in the Sifre, this was the root of sin already from the days of the flood – the chase after luxuries and love of money.
Chazal also saw this as the root cause of the destruction of the Second Temple:
Why was the first Temple destroyed? Because of the idolatry, adultery and murder that was in it. However, the latter one, we know that they toiled in Torah ... why were they exiled? Because they loved money and hated each other. (Tosefta, end of Menachot)
“One who seeks his lust will separate.” (Mishlei 18:1) One who is full of lust, loves himself. One who loves himself finds it hard to love his friend, because it always seems to him that his friend is encroaching upon him, and deprives him of what he deserves. Therefore, a lustful person separates from others and causes enmity.
The Netziv writes about this in the beginning of Sefer Devarim (4:17), “This was the love of money in the Second Temple, and it is still rampant among us.”
Yet, the conclusion of Rav Kook’s letter is optimistic: “G-d will do for His Name and hasten the time of His salvation, ‘and Hashem will be exalted alone,’ speedily, soon,” because the prophet Yeshaya also concludes this way: “Humankind’s haughtiness will be humbled and man’s arrogance will be brought down; and Hashem alone will be exalted on that day.” (2:17) In the end, everyone will understand how perverse this path of chasing after money is, and “On that day man will throw away his false gods of silver and his false gods of gold, which they made for him to prostrate himself.” (2:20)
Shiur ID: 3897