Ritual Wisdom 8-23-19
This week’s Torah reading, Eikev, records Moshe’s final words to the Jewish people before his death.
Knowing that he will not enter the Promised Land, Moshe spends his final days preparing the Jewish nation for the future. He cautions them to adhere to all the mitzvot (commandments) of G-d when they enter Israel, for their physical and spiritual welfare depends on their actions.
He reminds them of the importance of keeping the mitzvot for which, in return, G-d too, will fulfill His promises to them; “And He will love you and bless you and multiply you; He will bless the fruit of your body [children] and the fruit of your land…” Moshe reminds them of the sin of the Golden Calf and warns the Jewish people not to repeat their past mistakes.
Moshe was forbidden to go into Israel because he hit the rock so that it would produce water, instead of addressing it, as G-d told him. Moshe hit the rock in frustration with the people of Israel, as a result of their rebellion against G-d. Since he did not follow G-d’s command precisely, he was forbidden to enter the land of Israel.
Moshe’s love for the Holy Land was enormous. He invoked 515 prayers, asking G-d to rescind the decree. But, nothing helped. G-d told Moshe, “Speak no more to Me concerning this matter!”
Realizing that he would not enter into Israel, Moshe asked G-d to allow him at least to be buried in Israel, but even this request was refused.
Q. Why didn’t G-d answer Moshe’s prayers and requests to at least be buried in Israel?
- A. The Midrash offers the following parable: A man walking on a dark street lost a bag of small change. He knew that if he asked people to provide light and help him search for his small change, they would decline. They would consider it a waste of their time.
What did he do? He took a golden coin and placed it on the ground. He then begged the people around him for light and to help him find his lost golden coin. When they heard that he lost a golden coin they lit their lanterns and stopped to search. Now, while the street was lit, in addition to the golden coin, he also collected the smaller coins.
The same was with Moshe and the people of Israel. The generation whom he took out of Egypt had committed many sins (Golden Calf, rebelling against G-d, sending the spies etc.). As a result, they may not have merited to be resurrected at the time of the coming of Moshiach.
For this reason, G-d wanted Moshe to be buried in the desert along with the rest of his generation. In Moshe’s merit, everyone else buried there will be resurrected together with him. May we merit the coming of Moshiach speedily in our days! Amen.
This week’s Torah reading is Eikev. Knowing that he would not enter the Promised Land, Moshe spends his final days on this world, preparing the Jewish nation for the future. He cautions them to adhere to all the mitzvot (commandments) which G-d commanded them, as their physical and spiritual welfare in the Land of Israel, depends on their actions.
In the reading, Moshe reminds the Jewish people that when they will keep G-d’s commandments, G-d will fulfill His promises to them; “And He will love you and bless you and multiply you; He will bless the fruit of your body [children] and the fruit of your land.”
Moshe tells them that even their negative experiences during their 40 years in the desert, was a result of G-d’s love for them. He says, “And you shall know in your heart that just as a man reproaches his son so the L-rd your G-d chastised you.”
Moshe compares G-d’s dealings with the Jewish people to a father dealing with his son. When a father punishes his child, it is not to cause him pain and suffering. The opposite is true. When the child strays, the father will punish him, out of love, in order to direct him back on the right path. So too, the trials that the Jewish people endured during their journeys through the desert were in order to lead them to the right path and bring them into the Holy Land.
“As a man reproaches his son so the L-rd your G-d chastised you.” Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Barditchev was once traveling and stayed overnight in an inn. A number of Jewish merchants traveling to the fair to buy and sell their goods were also staying in the same inn.
In the morning the merchants rose very early to pray and continue to their destination. Being in a hurry, the merchants prayed very fast, mumbling their words hurriedly. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak was bothered by their rushing through the prayers.
When they finished, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak called over one of the merchants and said, “ma, ma, ba, ba, na, na, ta, ta…” The man looked at Rabbi Levi Yitzchak, puzzled. “I cannot understand a word you’re saying.” Again Rabbi Levi Yitzchak repeated the sentence, even faster than before. The merchant shrugged his shoulders, “How can I understand a word you’re saying when you speak so fast?”
“Isn’t this exactly the way you just recited your prayers?” asked Rabbi Levi Yitzchak. “How do you expect G-d to understand your prayers when you spoke to Him exactly as I have spoken to you?”
The merchant replied: “A child chatters and blabbers and no one understands what he is saying. Yet, the child’s parents know exactly what the child wants. We are G-d’s children and as our Father, he understands exactly what we want, what we need, and what we are praying for. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak was very impressed with the reply and would repeat this story time and again!