Next Video Playing In ×
Video 43 of 52
Last week I left you with a few questions, let me just review them quickly. Moses in last week's Parsha, as well as in this week's Parsha, seems to blame the people for the fact that he can't go into the land. Gam bi hitanaf Hashem biglalchem - G-d became angry at me on your account. Why was it the people's fault? They didn't force him to hit the rock back in the Book of Numbers. What we suggested last week that if you take a close look at the Book of Deuteronomy it doesn't seem like the Book of Deuteronomy is relating to that sin of hitting the rock at all, it seems to locate the reason why Moshe can't go into the land, seemingly in the story of the spies. Somehow Moses is held accountable for that, despite the fact that he was a good guy. He, along with Joshua and Kalev, were exhorting the people to have faith in G-d, and yet somehow Joshua and Kalev, they're allowed to go into the land, but not Moses. Why of all things would Moses be held accountable for what happened with the spies?
Now, I suggested to you last week that maybe the answer to all of these questions has to do with an apparent digression that Moshe makes in the speech that he makes to the people at the very beginning of Deuteronomy. Right there in that speech Moshe is explaining to the people why it is that it's taken them 40 years to get to the land, because of the sin of the spies, but right before he talks about the spies, he inserts a digression, he speaks about one other event that happened long ago, an apparently trivial event. The story of Yisro's intermediate judges. It happened all the way back in Parshat Yisro in the Book of Exodus. Yisro suggests that Moses would probably do a lot better if he had some help in judging the people, he's standing there from morning until night just judging them and answering all their questions and explaining the laws to them. If there was a system of judges underneath him, Moshe would be much more effective, they could handle the small stuff and Moshe could handle the big stuff. Moshe accepted this advice and proposed it to the people and the people accepted this advice.
For some reason, Moses here in Deuteronomy, 40 years later, feels compelled to tell us that whole story in detail, right before relating to the people the disaster of the sin of the spies. The great question is why? Why is that digression included in the speech?
Unless it's not a digression. We theorized last week that perhaps you can't understand the sin of the spies without understanding the story of the intermediate judges. In Moses' mind 40 years later, looking back on everything, those two stories are inextricably linked. Last week I suggested to you that as just a possible theory, but this week I'd like to show you what I think is ironclad evidence in the text for that theory. If you read the story of the intermediate judges as Moses relates it here in Deuteronomy, you will find parallel after parallel after parallel to Moses' account of the story of the spies which he gives right after this. If it were just one connection or two you might dismiss it as a coincidence, but it's multiple connections. The Torah seems to be interweaving all of the language of the intermediate judges into the story of the spies, indicating that in fact these two stories are intimately connected. Let me show you what I mean here.
Let's start at the beginning of the story of the intermediate judges. Moshe says, there we were at Sinai and G-d told us it was time to go into the land. Re'ei natati lifneichem et ha'aretz - see I've given you the land; Bo'u u'reshu et ha'aretz - come, take possession of the land. Now stop right there and go to the very beginning of the story of the spies, just a few verses later; Re'ei natan Hashem Elokecha lefanecha et ha'aretz - see, G-d has given you the land; Aleh resh - go up and take possession of it. It's like exactly the same thing, but it's not just this first element, it continues being exactly the same.
Look at what happens after this in the story of the intermediate judges. Moshe makes a request for some help, he says, it's hard for me to judge all of you, could I have some intermediate judges who would help me in this task? Vata'anu oti vatomru tov ha'davar asher dibarta la'asot - and you answered me and you said, that's a good idea. Now go to the story of the spies a few verses later. The people make a request of Moses, do you think Moses we could send out some people before us who would help spy out the land for us? Please. Here's Moshe's response; Vayitav b'einai ha’davar - and it was good in my eyes the thing that you asked for. We've heard that language before, it was good in my eyes, it's good the thing you asked for. In each case a request and in each case a response, it's good what it is that you propose.
So back to the intermediate judges, so what did Moses do? Va'ekach et roshei shivteichem - so I took the heads of your tribes, I made them judges. Now to the story of the spies; Va'ekach mikem shneim asar anashim - and I took from you 12 people; Ish echad la'shavet - one from each tribe. One more time the taking of representatives from tribes. The first time as judges, the second time as spies.
Let's keep on reading. Back in the intermediate judges Moses then instructed the judges. Moses told them; Ka'katon ka'gadol tishma'un - treat little people just like big people, give everybody a fair shake before the law. In the story of the spies why were the people scared? It's because they failed to treat little people like big people. Look at Moses' description. The people said our hearts are melted; Am gadol va'rom mimenu - they were huge, big people, much taller than us. Arim gedolot u'b'tzurot bashomayim - cities that were big with walls up to the heaven, and we, we feel small, and the people are so big. But the people are making an error, little people are just like big people according to Moses, but somehow it doesn't ring true for them. Little people are little people and big people, well, they're big people.
Back to the judges, right after Moses says little people are just like [big 6:33] people, he says; Loh taguru mipnei ish - don't be afraid of any people, you judges, nobody can harm you. Why? Ki hamishpat l'Elokim hu - because G-d is right behind you, G-d is the ultimate Judge and He stands behind you, don't be afraid. Now in the spies, the same theme echoes and Moses says, and then I told you when you were worried about the big people and you thought you were small people; Loh ta'artzun v'loh tire'un meihem - don't be afraid of them. Why? Hashem Elokeichem haholech lifneichem hu yilachem lachem - because G-d is in front of you, He will war on your behalf. You have nothing to fear.
But the people were fearful and you might ask why though? Why were the people so fearful? Why in the story of the spies did the people not listen to Moshe's desperate entreaties? So they're big people, who cares, there's G-d behind you, G-d is going to be there for you. Why did that desperate plea on the part of Moshe fall on deaf ears? It was so logical.
Listen to how Moshe puts it. Loh tire'un meihem - don't be afraid of these huge giants that you see in the land. He says; Hashem Elokeichem - the L-rd your G-d; Haholech lifneichem - that even now is walking before you; Hu yilachem lachem - that G-d is going to battle on your behalf. You know how I know that, Moshe says, just look at your own experience; K'chol asher asah itchem b'Mitzrayim l'eineichem - He's going to do for you just what He did for you in Egypt before your very own eyes. I'm not asking you to trust in something you didn't see, you saw this. U'bamidbar asher ra'ita - and in this desert that you yourself have seen; Asher nesa'acha Hashem Elokecha - that G-d has carried you through the desert; Ka'asher yisah ish et beno - like a man would carry his child; B'chol haderech asher halachtem - this whole way that you've travelled; Ad bo'achem ad hamakom hazeh - until you come to this place. Look at your experience. Your experience shows that you can count on G-d. U'ba'davar hazeh einechem ma'aminim baHashem Elokeichem - but somehow in this you did not have faith in G-d. It made so much sense but you wouldn't listen. Why didn't they listen?
Moshe in his words here, if you read them carefully, teaches you why. Look at the most emotional part of Moses' appeal to them, G-d has carried you through this desert like a man carries his child, why wouldn't you trust a father who steadfastly carried his child? G-d hasn't faltered, He never put you down, why would you mistrust Him now? Now look at the story of the intermediate judges, see if you can find that theme. The theme of a child being carried and a theme of being put down because it's too hard to carry you anymore. Look at what Moshe says to the people when he requests the intermediate judges. Loh uchal levadi se'eit etchem - I cannot carry you anymore. Eicha esah levadi torchachem u'masa'achem ve'rivchem - how can I possibly carry all of your burdens anymore, I need the judges, I need some help, I've got to put you down.
So in the end, as it turns out, the people had experienced a father of sorts who had put them down when it was too hard to carry them, but that father wasn't G-d, it was Moses. Moshe hadn't intended it, but he had laid the precedent in the events of the intermediate judges for the sin of the spies. He had been the father who put the child down because it was too hard and now the child no longer trusts father. Doesn't make a difference earthly father, Father in Heaven, I no longer trust father, if I've been put down once, I can be put down again. Moshe rails and says how could you not trust in G-d who has been carrying you this whole time, don't you see your experience? Yes, that's true, but they had experienced a father who had put them down. If it happened once, it could happen again, and they can't bring themselves to trust G-d.
Not in a million years had Moshe intended to cause this tragedy, he just wanted a little help, it was exhausting, morning till night he judged the people. But that judgment in a way was loving, it was their connection to G-d, that's how Moshe describes it back in Exodus; Ki yavoh eilai ha'am lidrosh Elokim - the people are coming to me to seek out G-d. It's not just a matter of judgments, it's a matter of connecting to G-d and Moshe would lovingly teach them the laws. And now that connection would be compromised through these intermediates that have no business being there. Then, the people would ask for intermediates that have no business being there, spies, that get in the way of the loving connection between the people and G-d. G-d was going to lead the people in directly, but now the people say no, we need these people in between us and G-d, these spies, let's just do it the normal way. Any normal country with a military operation would send out scouts and spies, well why can't we have those spies? Recoiling from the direct connection to G-d, and somehow it all traces back in Moshe's own mind to the story of the intermediate judges. It couldn't have happened without that story.
Is Moshe to blame for the story sin of the spies? Blame would probably be too strong of a word, Moshe was a good guy in that story, he desperately pleads with the people to have faith in G-d. But when the people fail, and when, because of that failure, an entire generation cannot enter the land, Moshe cannot enter too. As the unwitting facilitator of the sin of the spies he, along with the people, are subject to its bitter consequences.
Why in the end can't Moshe go into the land? There's two answers to that question because there's two reasons why Moshe might have been able to go into the land. He might have been able to go into the land just as an ordinary citizen like anyone else might have, or he might have been able to go in the land because he was the leader that needed to lead them there. If you look at the Book of Numbers Moshe can't take the people in the land because he hit the rock. But look at the language there, Moshe can't take the people into the land, in the language of the verse; Lachein loh tavi'u et ha'kahal hazeh - therefore you shall not lead the people into the land. It wasn't a decree against him as a private citizen, he just couldn't be the leader anymore.
But that left open a tantalizing question didn't it? Maybe Moshe couldn't lead the people into the land, but couldn't he just go in as a private citizen? That's actually what he asks for in this week's Parsha; E'eberah nah v'ereh - couldn't I please just go in, just cross over and see the land? Couldn't You just allow me to do that? But G-d does not allow even this and the reason why has nothing to do with hitting the rock, it's because just as the generation of the spies could not go into the land, so Moses could not as well.
The speech that we get here from Moses is a speech informed with 40 years of hindsight; Eicha - how could it be? Lamenting the time, that almost without even realizing it, while seeking nothing but respite from the task of judging and teaching an entire nation all alone, Moshe had put the child down when that child had seemed too heavy to carry.
1. Bereishit: Thank You, God...For Not Making Me A Woman?
2. Noach: Why Aren't Dinosaurs In the Torah?
3. Lech Lecha: The Battle For Abraham's Legacy
4. Vayeira: Abram, Sarai, Hagar, Ishmael and...Exodus?
5. Vayeira: Epilogue
6. Chayei Sarah: Eliezer and Samuel's Surprising Connection
7. Toldot: What Is Isaac's Legacy?
8. Vayeitzei: Understanding Rachel's World
9. Vayishlach: From Jacob to Israel
10. Vayeishev: Does God Speak To Us Today?
11. Miketz: Reversing the Sale of Joseph
12. Vayigash: Understanding Pharaoh's Dream
13. Shmot: Does God Really "Love" Us?
14. Va'era: Seeing God in Science
15. Bo: God's Justice In Action
16. Beshalach: Fruit Trees In the Sea?
17. Beshalach: Epilogue
18. Yitro: Seeing Ten Commandments in the Burning Bush
19. Mishpatim: Does Our History Become Laws?
20. Mishpatim: Epilogue
21. Terumah: Angels In the Tabernacle? Part I/2
22. Tetzaveh: Angels In the Tabernacle?- Part 2/2
23. Ki Tisa: A Closer Look At Kiddush
24. Vayakhel-Pekudei: God In Space, God In Time
25. Pekudei: A Giant Chiasm In Sefer Shmot
26. Vayikra: How Can We Relate To Sacrifices Today?
27. Tzav: A Deeper Look At The Priestly Role
28. Tzav: Epilogue
29. Shemini: What Does Aaron Teach Us About Loss?
30. Tazria-Metzora: Rejoining the Community
31. Acharei Mot-Kedoshim: Social Justice...and Sacrifices?
32. Emor: An Epic View of Jewish Holidays
33. Behar-Bechukotai: Walking With God
34. Bamidbar: Why We Count
35. Beha'alotecha: Where It All Went Wrong
36. Shelach: How Can We Relate To Such a Vengeful God?
37. Korach: Why Did Korach Rebel?
38. Chukat: Why Did Moses Hit The Rock?
39. Balak: What Is Israel's Purpose In The World?
40. Pinchas: What Is True Leadership?
41. Matot-Masei: The Art of Negotiation
42. Devarim: What Did Moses Do Wrong?- Part 1/2
43. Va'etchanan: What Did Moses Do Wrong?- Part 2/2
44. Eikev: Why Does The Nation Of Israel Merit The Land?
45. Re'eh: Why Do We Need Both Oral and Written Law?
46. Shoftim: The Significance of Saving Private Ryan
47. Ki Teitzei: How To Merit Long Life
48. Ki Tavo: The Pursuit of Happiness- Part 1
49. Nitzavim: The Pursuit of Happiness- Part 2/2
50. Vayeilech: Moses' Farewell To Israel, Part 1/3
51. Ha'azinu: Moses' Farewell To Israel, Part 2/3
52. V'Zot Habracha: Moses' Farewell To Israel, Part 3/3
Are you a day school educator?
We have many exciting opportunities.
Not now, just take me to the mobile website