Good Erev Shabbos!

I dedicate this parsha-post as a refuah sheleima for Yosef Yisrael ben Rochel Raizel– one of the most perseverant people I know; a total shunner of pity; and someone who always finds contentment with, and gratitude for, the blessings in his life– even throughout the pain.


Moshe was one of the greatest teachers of all time: his lessons and examples, and his unflagging devotion to transmitting and upholding the word of Hashem, stretch into our generation, clearly resounding, and inspiring us– hence his title, Moshe Rabbeinu:  Moses, our master-teacher.

There are a few events in the Torah, that while recounting, we may initially wonder at what we perceive as unusual conduct for Moshe.  But, before we pass a conclusion of our own, it’s vital to search for a deeper and more accurate understanding, of what this leader’s intentions really were.

This morning, I picked up one of these connections, on which the Ramban (Nachmanides), shed a little light.  Let’s dive!


The beginning of the week’s parsha bursts with a passionate speech from Moshe to the nation.  He implants within their hearts and minds their mission and obligation to Hashem, the Torah, and to their nationhood.  He fortifies this, reminding them of the  treasure bequeathed to them, the Torah, and its infinite value.  He empowers them, reminding them that they were the people who heard G-d’s voice at Sinai, and lived to transmit what the voice spoke to them.  Moshe admonishes them to adhere faithfully to all the ordinances and statues of the Torah; it was not just their obligation, but their anchor and sustenance.  He warns them against infidelity to Hashem, and the gravity of creating and/or following idols and paganism.  With strong faith in the One Who made them His heritage, they would for sure flourish in the promised land, and throughout the generations.  These are messages that still speak to us today, as we sojourn through a world that has many a challenge to thrust at us, and lead us to sever our bond with who we are, what we are, and why we are here.

But even before this moving and strengthening oration, the following constituting the very opening of our parsha, Moshe Rabbeinu reminded the people that he would not be joining them in their epic crossing over the Jordan River, and into the Aretz haKadosh.

“Va’etchanan el-Hashem ba’eis hahiv laymor… Ebra-na ‘v’ereh et-ha’aretz hatovah aher ba’eiver haYardein… Vayitabeir Hashem bi l’ma’anchem v’lo shama aylai vayomer Hashem aylai rav-lach al-tosef dabeir aylai of badavar hazeh… V’sa ainecha yama v’tzafona v’taimana u’mizracha u’rei v’ainecha ki lo ta’avor…  V’tzav et-Yehoshua v’chazkeihu v’amtzayhu ki-hu ya’avor lifnei ha’am hazeh… et ha’aretz asher tireh. — I implored Hashem at the time saying… Let me now cross and see the good land that is on the other side of the Jordan… But Hashem became angry with me because of you and He did not listen to me; Hashem said to me ‘It is too much for you!Do not continue to speak with Me further about this matter…  Raise your eyes westward, northward, southward, and eastward, and see with your eyes, for you shall not cross…  But you shall charge Yehoshua, and strengthen him and give him resolve, for he shall cross before this people… the Land that you will see.'” {Devarim 3:23-28 [please note, the verses I have copied above, are not all complete verses, most are fragments]}

(*Briefly, I would like to share Rashi’s explanation of words I found rather perplexing:  “It is too much for you!”.  Rashi explains that Hashem wanted Moshe to realize, that although we should never hesitate to address Hashem in heartfelt tefillah, if Hashem decrees something, we must accept it.  Hashem’s concern, that with Moshe’s persistent plea to uplift the gezeirah (decree) prohibiting him from entering Eretz Yisroel, it might present itself to the nation that Moshe was like an ill-treated follower who was persevering hopelessly against a very harsh Master.  This was of course not the correct perspective.  Alternatively:  “Rav-lach”, ‘it is too much for you’, can be understood as ‘There is so much for you!’, as “Moshe, be content!  Know the great reward that still awaits you in the World-to-Come!”)

This was sobering…  The Bnei Yisroel’s great leader wouldn’t be joining the nation in the long-awaited promise land, that all had traversed such a great journey to merit?  Impossible!  Who wouldn’t pity their beloved Navi for his painful obstacle?

We see a second reference to Moshe’s unfortunate sentence soon following:

“Va’Hashem hitanaf-bi al-divreichem vayishava l’vilti avri et-haYardein ul’vilti-vo el-ha’aretz hatova asher Hashem Elokecha notein l’cha nachala.  Ki anochi mais ba’aretz hazos ayneni oveir et-haYardein v’atem ovrim virishtem et-ha’aretz hatova hazos. — Hashem became angry with me because of your deeds, and He swore that I would not cross the Jordan and not come to the good Land that Hashem, your G-d, gives you as a heritage.  For I will die in this land; I am not crossing the Jordan- but you are crossing and you shall possess this good land. {Devarim 4:21-22}

What is Moshe attempting to accomplish here?  Two times he announces his plight to the Jewish people…  The leader, teacher, prophet, and shepherd: he’s not trying to gain pity… is he?

Before we answer, let’s fit some puzzle pieces together, place things into context.

What does a loved one do before their time arrives to move on from the world?  They create a will and testament.  If it is a parent or other ancestral member, they will apportion an inheritance.  They bestow on their loved ones their last jewels of advice and familial guidance.  What might a Rabbi of a congregation do, before he retires from the pulpit, moves on to a different community, etc.?  Many will infuse their last dvar Torah/sermon with one final gift of unique inspiration.  The Rabbi will leave his congregants with this powerful gift as part of their bittersweet farewell.  You probably see now where I am headed with this.

Moshe, like a father of his people, and the tzadik that he was, only had the good of his people, his sheep, at heart, and was strengthening them for the future!  Ramban expounds (and I paraphrase) that just as a father must, he was giving the nation a bit of paternal chastisement.  Since Hashem had forbidden Moshe from entering the Chosen Land, he would no longer be able to guide them, to teach them, to personally (and certainly physically) be there for them when they needed rebuke and strength.  Of course, a new leader would preside over the Bnei Yisroel.  This would be Joshua, faithful student of Moshe.  But still, he felt compelled to prepare the nation for what lay ahead.  This is clarified in verse 23:  “Beware for yourselves lest your forget the covenant of Hashem, your G-d, that He has sealed with you, and you make for yourselves a carved image, a likeness of anything (as elaborated in earlier verses), as Hashem, your G-d, has commanded you.”  (I also suggest you take a peek at Devarim 5:25-28, which encapsulates the words of Hashem, running along a similar theme, on the Bnei Yisroel’s loyalty to Him, and if they conquer the challenges posed to it, and His charging Moshe with complete transmittal of the Mitzvos.)  The Land was presently riddled with paganism, and the neighbors of the terrain proved to be no better influence.  So Moshe, the father of his people, gave one last jewel of advice, for his beloved people to always carry in their hearts.

So now we can now see better, that Moshe telling the nation of his challenge, of being unpermitted to enter the Land, was by no means an attempt at eliciting pity.  In total contrast, he put himself forward as a leader bracing his followers for what rigors and temptations lay on the horizon.  He was simply assuring that the Bnei Yisroel were aware, that he would no longer be in their midst, to serve as an intermediary, judge, wellspring of wisdom…  With this, he primarily placed the responsibility, the challenge, and the mission, in their hands.

The Messenger Bird