Parshat Va’etchanan 5782: What Exactly Was Moshe’s Sin?

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShavua, Parshat Va’etchanan is being sponsored by Dov and Bracha Moses of Ramat Beit Shemesh dedicated Lilui Nishmas for Dov’s Father, Avraham ben Chaim Mordechai, z”l, and also for a refuah shleima for Rachel bat Chaya Perel and Shmuel ben Rivka.. To the Moses family, many thanks for your sponsorship and for your continued kindnesses and good wishes.

You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring (or as the case may be, co-sponsoring) a Parshat HaShevua.

Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt

Parshat Va’etchanan 5782: What Exactly Was Moshe’s Sin?

by Moshe Burt

The Haftorah for our Parshat begins:

“Nachamu, Nachamu Ami yomar Elokeichem” — “Comfort, comfort my people — says your G’d.” (Sefer Yishaiya, Perek 40, posuk 1)

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

This author now excerpts from Rabbi Shmuel Goldin’s Parshat Va’etchanan Parsha summary, in his sefer “Unlocking The Torah Text,” Sefer Devarim (page 31):

Moshe highlights his pleas to Hashem for a reversal of the Divine Decree prohibiting him from entering the land [Eretz Yisrael]… Although request is refused, Hashem will allow him to view the length and breadth of the land from atop a mountain.

In a sense, the opening posukim of the Haftorah for our Parsha parallels (adjective: having the same direction, course, nature, or tendency; corresponding; similar; analogous) the opening posukim of our Parsha which seems to provide Moshe solace (noun: comfort in sorrow, misfortune, or trouble; alleviation of distress or discomfort, something that gives comfort, consolation, or relief) and consolation (noun: the act of consoling; comfort; solace] from Hashem in being able to view the entirety of Eretz Yisrael from afar.

Rabbi Goldin provides a context on our Parsha which, in part, seems to hint at an earlier Parsha (ibid, page 32):

As the curtain rises on Parshat Va’etchanan, Moshe recounts his unsuccessful pleas to Hashem to reverse the Divine Decree prohibiting him from entering rhe land of Cana’an:

“And I beseeched Hashem at this time 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 land that is on the other side of the Jordan, this good mountain and the Lebanon.’ But Hashem turned angrily against me for your sakes and He did not listen to me; and Hashem said to me: ‘It is too much for you! 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.'” (Rabbi Goldin rendering to English Sefer Devarim, Perek 3, posukim 24-27)

“The Saperstein Edition, The Torah: With Rashi’s Commentary” renders to English Sefer Devarim, Perek 3, psosuk 26 and provides commentary (pages 48-49) :

“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…'”

Rashi’s commentary (ibid, pages 48-49)

“Hashem became filled with anger because of you. ” This means — because of you. You caused it to me. And similarly, it says, “They provoked [His] anger at the Waters of Strife, and Moshe suffered because of them.”

“It is too much for you.” So that they [presumably the Am], should not say, “How harsh is the Master — and how obstinately the student pleads even after the Master has made it clear that he will not relent.

Note: The verse could have said only “do not continue to speak to Me further about this matter.” The apparently superfluous “It is too much for you,” indicates why Hashem wanted Moshe to stop pleading. Had he continued it would have been unseemly for Hashem and Moshe. (Note on the Rashi commentary citing Sotah 13b and referring to Be’er HaSadeh)

But, was Hashem’s prohibition against Moshe going into Eretz Yisrael attributable to Moshe’s anger in striking the rock at the Waters of Strife? Or could there have been another incident which triggered Hashem’s Decree?

Back in Parshat Korach, when Korach and the assembly of the two-hundred and fifty men…, “leaders of the assembly…, men of renown” came before Moshe, Korach began his tirade toward Moshe and Aaron, Korach and the assembly said to Moshe, “It’s too much for you! For the entire assembly — all of them — are holy and Hashem is among them; why do you exalt yourselves over the congregation of Hashem?” (this author citing Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 16, posuk 3 as rendered to English in the Artscroll Stone Chumash, page 821)

The Artscroll Stone Chumash records Moshe’s response to Korach and the assembly:

“In the morning Hashem will make known the one who is His own and the holy one, and he will draw him close to Himself, and whomever He will choose, He will draw close to Himself. Do this: Take for yourselves fire-pans — Korach and his entire assembly — and put fire in them and place incense upon them before Hashem tomorrow. The man whom Hashem will choose — he is the holy one. It is too much for you, O offspring of Levi.” (Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 16, posukim 5-7 as rendered to English in the Artscroll Stone Chumash, page 821)

Rav Avishai David, Rabbi of Beit Tefillah Yona Avraham in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel, cited the Netziv’s commentary on the Torah, in speaking about Hashem’s prohibition against Moshe going into Eretz Ysrael in his Shabbos Drasha on Parshat Korach. Rav David makes a possible presumption that Moshe’s retort toward Korach and the assembly, which possibly seems superfluous, could presumably have been the original trigger resulting in Hashem’s decree against Moshe and Hashem’s similar use in our Parsha Va’etchanan of the phrase “It is too much for you.”

Rabbi Goldin, in his discussion of approaches in his Sefer, “Unlocking the Torah Text,” Sefer Devarim on Parshat Va’etchanan (pages 34-37) cites commentators with varying reasons for Hashem’s Decree against Moshe going into Eretz Yisrael. This vort will cite three of the commentators:

The Da’at Zekeinim Miba’alei Hatosfot offers a poignant Midrashic play on Hashem’s rejoiner to Moshe, “Rav lecha, It is too much for you.” Departing dramatically from the pshat of the text, the Tosafists note that the words “Rav lecha” can be interpreted to mean “[Moshe,] you have a master.”

…The Abravnel argues… that the events at Mei Meriva do not truly determine the fate of Aaron and Moshe. …The Abravnel maintains… that these great leaders 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 actions of these great leaders are well-intentioned; and yet in each case they inadvertently contribute to the national disasters that ensue.

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

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 Aaron and the rest of his generation, excluding only Yehoshua and Caleiv — the two spies who withstood the evil counsel of their colleagues]..

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, that the thrice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes and the oft-destroyed Yeshiva buildings in Homesh be rebuilt, all at total government expense; due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. Baruch Hashem that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard is now free of his parole and restrictions and that he is now in his second year at home in Eretz Yisrael. May Esther Yocheved bat Yechiel Avraham have an aliyah in Shemayim and may her memory continue to lift Jonathan to at least 120 years. May 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 eight 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. And may we soon and finally see the total end to the Communist Chinese corona virus pandemic and all like viruses. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nei 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.