For the week ending 4 August 2012 / 15 Av 5772

Parshat Va'etchanan

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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Although Moshe is content that Yehoshua will lead the nation, Moshe nevertheless prays to enter the Land of Israel in order to fulfill its special mitzvot. Hashem refuses. Moshe reminds Bnei Yisrael of the gathering at Sinai when they received the Torah that they saw no visual representation of the Divine, but only the sound of words. Moshe impresses on Bnei Yisrael that the Sinai revelation took place before an entire nation, not to a select elite, and that only the Jews will ever claim that Hashem spoke to their entire nation. Moshe specifically enjoins Bnei Yisrael to "pass over" the Sinai event to their children throughout all generations.

Moshe predicts, accurately, that when Bnei Yisrael dwell in Eretz Yisrael they will sin and be scattered among all the peoples. They will stay few in number but will eventually return to Hashem.

Moshe designates three "refuge cities" to which an inadvertent killer may flee. Moshe repeats the 10 Commandments and then teaches the Shema, the central credo of Judaism, that there is only One G-d. Moshe warns the people not to succumb to materialism and thus forget their purpose as a spiritual nation. The parsha ends with Moshe exhorting Bnei Yisrael not to intermarry when they enter Eretz Yisrael, as they cannot be a treasured and holy nation if they intermarry, and they will become indistinguishable from the other nations.



"Ascend to the top of the cliff, and raise your eyes westward, northward, and see with your eyes, for you shall not cross this Jordan." (3:27)

Picture the feelings of longing that Moshe must have had as he stood on top of the cliff, gazing out over the land that he given so much to enter.

There it was stretched out in front of him like a map. The Land of Israel. So close and yet so far. G-d knew how much Moshe wanted to go into Eretz Yisrael, so why did He 'tantalize' Moshe by telling him to go up and gaze at this land that he knew he was never going to enter?

Furthermore, our Sages tell us that by prophetic insight G-d showed Moshe every single square inch of Eretz Yisrael — which only must have increased his longing!

What was G-d's purpose?

Each of the Avot, the Patriarchs, are associated with a specific quality: Avraham with Chesed, Kindness; Yitchak with Gevurah, Self-control; etc. The quality that is associated with Moshe is Netzach - Eternity.

Everything that Moshe did was forever.

If Moshe had gone into the land of Israel with the Jewish People, then their entry would have been an ‘eternal entry’. Everything that Moshe did had the touch of eternity. After such an entry, the Jewish People could never again leave the Land. G-d knew that the Jewish People would have to go into exile, for they would not be able to maintain the high spiritual standards that the Land requires. If they could not leave, and they could not stay, they would be caught, as it were, in a spiritual vise and they would be in the very real danger of annihilation.

Thus, Moshe could not enter the Land of Israel.

However, G-d made Moshe’s non-entry into the Land serve a positive purpose. G-d wanted to sear the memory of the Land of Israel into the collective psyche of the Jewish People. By showing Moshe every blade of grass, by taking him and showing him every corner of the land he was never to enter, G-d planted in Moshe’s heart a longing for the Land of Israel which would be eternal.

Look at our daily prayers. Look at the blessings after eating a meal. Our petitions to G-dare saturated with the name of the Land which we long to return to as a Holy People.

Throughout the long, long night of exile, the Jewish People have never lost that same longing for Eretz Yisrael that Moshe felt when he stood on the top of the cliff and gazed into the Land he would never enter.

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