Parshat Va’etchanan 5780: Possible Alternative Reasons for the Divine Decree Denying Moshe Entry into Eretz Yisrael

Shalom Friends;

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Moshe Burt
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Parshat Va’etchanan 5780: Possible Alternative Reasons for the Divine Decree Denying Moshe Entry into Eretz Yisrael

by Moshe Burt

The Haftorah for our Parshat begins:

“Nachamu, Nachamu Ami yomar Elokeichem” — “Comfort, comfort my people — says your G’d.”

This sentiment seems to be silent, but yet a theme of Parshat Va’etchanan.

Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, in his sefer “Unlocking The Torah Text,” Sefer Devarim renders to English the opening posukim of our Parshat Va’etchanan (page 33):

“And I beseeched Hashem…, saying: ‘My Lord, Hashem, You have begun to show Your servant Your greatness and Your strong hand…. Let me now cross and see the good the good land that is on the other side of the Jordan, this good mountain and the Lebanon.’ But Hashem turned angrily against me… and He did not listen to me; and Hashem said to me: “It is too much for you! [Rav Lach = as it appears in posuk 26] Do not continue to speak to Me concerning this matter. Ascend to the top of the cliff and raise your eyes westward, northward, southward, and eastward, and see with your eyes, for you will not cross this Jordan.'” (Sefer Devarim, Perek 3, posukim 23-27)

In the beginning of our Parshat, Moshe Rabbeinu recalls for the B’nei Yisrael how he entreated Hashem for permission to cross the Jordan River but that his request was denied. Instead, he was consoled by viewing the Land from Mount Pisgah. (L’lmod Ul’Lamed – Parsha Va’etchanan, page 161).

The theme of this vort may not necessarily jive with the overriding theme of Nachamu — consolation of our Parshat Va’etchanan.

The lesson most prevalently learned as to why Hashem Decreed that Moshe be denied entrance into Canaan (Eretz Yisrael) is derived from the incident at Mei Meriva documented in Torah in Sefer Bamidbar, Parshat Chukat. There, Moshe struck the rock to produce water in violation of Hashem’s Command to speak to the rock:

“Hashem spoke to Moshe, saying, ‘Take the staff and gather together the the assembly, you and Aaron your brother, and speak to the rock before their eyes that it shall give its waters….”

“Moshe took the staff from before Hashem, as He had commanded him. Moshe and Aaron gathered the congregation before the rock and he said to them, ‘Listen now, O rebels, shall we bring water for you from this rock?’ Then Moshe raised his arm and struck the rock with his staff twice: abundant water came forth and the assembly and their animals drank.”

“Hashem spoke to Moshe and to Aaron, ‘Because you did not believe in Me, to sanctify Me in the eyes of the B’nei Yisrael, therefore you will not bring this congregation to the Land that I have given them.’ They are the waters of strife [Mei Meriva], where the B’nei Yisrael contended with Hashem, and He was sanctified through them.” (Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 20, posukim 7-13 as rendered to English in the Artscroll Stone Edition Chumash, pages 843-845)

However, Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, in his sefer “Unlocking The Torah Text,” Sefer Devarim provides citings whose indications are that both Moshe and Aaron may well have been denied entry into the Land either as punishment for earlier offenses, or that the denial of their passage into the Land was meant as punishment, not of them, but, as punishment of Am Yisrael (“Unlocking The Torah Text,” Sefer Devarim, pages 35-38):

…The Abravenel argues… that the events at Mei Meriva do not truly determine the fate of aaron and Moshe. …The Abravenel maintains, contrary to the apparent evidence of the text, that… [Aaron and Moshe] are actually punished for earlier offenses: Aaron for his involvement in the sin of the golden calf and Moshe for his participation in the sin of the spies. In each of these cases, the[ir] actions… are well-intentioned, and yet in each case they inadvertently contribute to the national disasters that ensue.

Hashem, therefore, calibrates his responses carefully. In order to protect the reputation of both Moshe and Aaron, He does not punish them immediately, together with those guilty of intentional rebellion. He instead waits for them to commit an intentional sin, however minor, in order to punish them for their original transgressions. When Moshe deviates from Hashem’s Commandment at Mei Meriva, by striking the rock instead of speaking to it, Hashem seizes the opportunity to exact retribution upon [them]… for their previous more substantial failings. (Rabbi Goldin citing Abravanel on Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 20, posukim 1-14)

Now, as he recounts his unsuccessful attempts to overturn Hashem’s Decree, Moshe turns to the nation and declares: I am being punished “for your sake.” Because of your flawed reaction to the report of the spies, I must now pay the price for my initial involvement in that tragic episode. (Rabbi Goldin citing Abravanel on Sefer Devarim, Perek 3, posuk 26)

The Sforno and the Kli Yakar, … maintain that Moshe wants to prevent, through his towering presence and personal involvement

…The Malbim makes a revolutionary claim. Hashem’s decree concerning Moshe is not the result of any sin on his part at all. Moshe’s fate is instead sealed by the failings of the nation. Under Hashem’s original plan, the Jews were to conquer the land of Canaan under Moshe’s continuing leadership. Moshe’s very involvement would have resulted in a miraculous chain of events. No physical battles would have been fought, as Hashem would have miraculously destroyed the nation’s enemies before them. Moshe would have supervised the building of a Beit Hamikdash destined to stand in perpetuity. And, finally, the Messianic era would have been reached.

The realization of these miracles, however, remained dependent on the nation’s continuing faith in Hashem.

When the nation, through the sin of the spies, tragically demonstrates itself unworthy of Hashem’s supernatural intervention, Hashem has no choice but to ensure that Moshe will not enter the Land. (Rabbi Goldin citing Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 14, posuk 30) ….For their part, Moshe and Aaron are to share the fate of the rest of their generation.

One last chance for redemption… remains. If the next generation, the generation that matures in the wilderness, can prove the strength of its commitment to Hashem, the decree sealing Moshe’s and Aaron’s fate can yet be reversed. They [would yet] be able to lead the nation into the Land and all of the promised miracles will still unfold.

These final hopes, however are dashed at the scene of Mei Meriva. …Once again, …they “gather against Moshe and Aaron.” The people prove prove unworthy of Hashem’s trust. Moshe…, affected by the turmoil, misses the opportunity to fully sanctify Hashem’s name by speaking to the rock.

Confronted again by the bitter complaints of the B’nei Yisrael, Moshe flashes back to Refidim. He sees before him not the nation of today, but their parents and grandparents of yesteryear. And in that one fateful instant, as Moshe lifts his staff to strike the rock, he fails to transition with his people from one generation to the next, from one relational level to another. This failure seals his fate [along with Aarib and the rest of his generation, excluding only Yehoshua and Caleiv — the two spies who withstood the evil counsel of their colleagues]..

Consequently, the original decree against Moshe and Aaron is reaffirmed and raised to the status of a Divine Oath that cannot be reversed. Moshe and Aaron will perish “for the sake of” and “because of” the people. (Rabbi Goldin citing Malbim on Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 20, posukin 7-13, Sefer Devarim, perel 3, posuk 26)

Rabbi Goldin concludes (ibid, page 38):

“For the sake of the people,” Moshe cannot enter the Land. A new generation needs a new leader — who will be able to transition with his people in their march towards a glorious future.

B’Ezrat Hashem, as we pray and hope for each year, that the Tisha B’av just past FINALLY be the last Tzom for B’nai Yisrael.

May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them and that the thrice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. May our dear brother Jonathan Pollard be liberated and truly free, as Naama Issachar is now free and home — which can only occur when Jonathan is home in Israel and carrying for his ill wife Esther Yocheved bat Rayzl Bracha, and that the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem — as with the return in April, 2019, via Russia, of the remains of Zachariah Baumel, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of five and a half years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos!!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.