For the week ending 20 July 2013 / 12 Av 5773

Parshat Va'etchanan

by Rabbi Pinchas Kasnett
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In the beginning of the Parsha, we are faced immediately with a perplexing situation. Moshe has already been told explicitly that he would not be allowed to enter the Land of Israel. Moshe however beseeches G-d to allow him to enter the land, saying, “My Lord, you have begun to show your servant your greatness and your strong hand…Let me now cross and see the good land that is on the other side of the Jordan, this good mountain and the Lebanon.” This is a reference to the conquest of the mighty rulers Sihon and Og which Moshe interprets as the beginning of G-d’s demonstration of his might which would eventually result in the conquest of the Land of Israel as well. Moshe had referred to this idea previously in Parshat Devorim when G-d told him, “This day I shall begin to place dread and fear of you on the peoples under the entire heavens.” Moshe understands this to mean that his involvement in the final conquest of the land is not finished with the conquest of Sihon and Og. Yet, since he has already appointed Yehoshua to be the leader in his place when they cross the Jordan, he beseeches G-d only to allow him to “…cross and see the good land that is on the other side of the Jordan…” Moshe’s only request is to be allowed to enter the land as simply one of the people, not as their leader. G-d rejects his plea, however, and tells him, “This is enough for you; don’t speak to Me further about this matter.” Since Moshe’s punishment to not be allowed to enter the land is the result of his culpability for the peoples’ rebellion at the incident of the spies, He has allowed him to conquer Sihon and Og and will give him the opportunity to miraculously see the land as if he were actually there, but no more.

Moshe had four specific reasons to enter the land: First of all, he wanted to enjoy the merit of keeping those numerous mitzvoth which could only be observed in Israel. Secondly, he wanted to see his efforts of the last forty years come to fruition. His entire purpose has been to bring about the fulfillment of the promise that G-d had made to the forefathers to give their descendants that Land of Israel as an inheritance. By entering the land with them, he would complete his mission. Thirdly, he wanted to prove to the people that the land was good, as he says in his request, “Let me now cross and see the good land…”. In so doing, he could personally refute the spies’ slander. Finally, Moshe wanted to reveal to the people the exact location of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple. Again, this is hinted at in his request, where he asks to see, “…this good mountain and the Lebanon.” The mountain is a reference to the Temple Mount and the Lebanon is a reference to the Temple itself, since the word ‘lebanon’ in Hebrew refers to ‘whiteness’ and the purpose of the Temple is to ‘whiten’ (cleanse us) from sin.

What remains to be understood is why doesn’t G-d respond favorably to Moshe’s request. There is a basic principle that G-d can forgive transgressions that are between Man and G-d, but transgressions between Man and Man are not forgiven by G-d, not even on Yom Kippur. It is up to the individuals who were wronged to grant forgiveness. Since it was Moshe who initiated the mission of the spies and since he was ultimately responsible for leading the nation astray, G-d would not grant his request.

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