The Temple Institute: Temple Talk: Av 2, 5771/August 2, 2011

"These are the words which Moses spoke to all Israel"
(Deuteronomy 1:1)

The book of Devarim, (Deuteronomy), opens as Israel's forty year journey through the desert concludes. Devarim, meaning "words," taken from the book's opening verse, "These are the words of Moshe..." is a most appropriate title for the book, as the entire book is comprised of Moshe's farewell address to his people. These word were spoken from the first day of the month of Shvat, and concluded on the seventh day of the following month of Adar, the day of Moshe's death.

Moshe has by now internalized the fact that he himself will not be entering into the land of Israel, as per G-d's decree. We all face disappointments in life, some of them so severe that they are unfathomably difficult to accept and even more difficult to move beyond. Yet even with our own personal histories of disappointments to reference, it is hard to imagine the magnitude of Moshe's disappointment. He himself makes mention of it in the book of Devarim, and it was he himself who admits that he only desisted from petitioning G-d to repeal His decree, after G-d rebuked him for doing so. (ibid 3:26)

From the initial description of Moshe's birth and childhood, as recorded in the book of Exodus, we have been acquainted with a person, whose strengths and weaknesses make him a very recognizable human being. Now, for the first time since he received his prophetic calling, Moshe, (who initially demurred due to his inability to express himself through speech), is communicating at length to the people his own thoughts and prayers. Yes, he still has many commandments to convey, but much of the book of Devarim is made up of Moshe sharing his own thoughts and insights with Israel.

No prophet or leader has ever risen with the stature of Moshe rabbenu, (Moses our master), yet, remarkably, in his foibles and in his disappointments he is extraordinarily approachable. But perhaps the greatest lesson to be learned from Moshe's example in the book of Devarim is how he dealt with disappointment. By his own admission the disappointment of not being able to lead his people into the land of Israel was almost more than he could bear. And he makes it clear in the early verses of Devarim that he assigns some responsibility for his punishment to the people themselves, for the lack of faith they revealed in the incident of the spies. (ibid 1:37) But Moshe soon gathers himself together and delivers, literally, the speech of his lifetime. He chastises and he exhorts the people of Israel. He points out their shortcomings and he praises their strengths. He describes the unparalleled beauty of the land which they are to inherit and instructs them as to how they are to enter the land, conquer it and apportion it to all the tribes. In short, Moshe has come to the conclusion that, if he can't be the one to physically lead Israel into the land, he will do all that is in his power, limited only by the shortness of days remaining to him on this earth, to prepare the people, and push them from behind, as it were, into the land of Israel.

A fundamental, time-honored tradition of basic training in the Israeli army involves a series of marches, ever increasing in length, in which the recent inductees carry upon their persons all their army-assigned equipment. The stronger ones have the task of carrying not only their personal ordnance, but also the supplies that belong to the entire division. As the marches increase in length and stretch out from before sunset to after sunrise, they become, naturally, increasingly difficult to perform. Soldiers who are assigned the stretchers will inevitably be carrying upon their shoulders fellow soldiers who have sustained injuries or have succumbed to sheer exhaustion. But the very strongest soldiers, the ones leading the pack, are ordered by their commanders to go all the way to the back to help the stragglers whose strength is failing. There they are to do whatever is necessary to keep their comrades moving forward, to keep them in eye contact of those who have moved on ahead, and to prevent them from being separated from the unit. They take their fellow's equipment upon themselves to lighten their load, they push them from behind, they pull them from in front, and if need be, they throw them over their shoulders and carry them to the finish line.

Perhaps this was the real nature of Moshe's punishment: G-d's commandment not to lead Israel into the promised land from the front, but to ensure their entrance from behind. How fitting that Moshe, described by Torah as the most modest man on the face of the earth, would take upon himself so humbling a task. To cede the glory, as it were, but to make certain that the people whom he brought out of Egypt would make it into the land of Israel, even if he himself wouldn't. From standing before Pharaoh, to leading Israel out of Egypt, across the Sea of Reeds and to the foot of Mount Sinai, Moshe's leadership is unparalleled in the annals of mankind. But it is how Moshe dealt with what he could not achieve, and in spite of the disappointment entailed therein, that may well be Moshe's finest moment. This is the book of Devarim.

Tune in to this week's TEMPLE TALK, as Rabbi Chaim Richman and Yitzchak Reuven, in the subdued spirit of the solemn days leading up the the ninth of Av, speak of Moses' words of rebuke and words of love that he expresses to Israel as we open the book of Deuteronomy. How appropriate to the nature of the month of Av!

As the month of Av begins, the perennial housing shortage in Israel is once again making waves as protesters are taking to the streets. It is a very serious issue, indeed. But this year's self-appointed, righteously indignant ringleaders are the very same people representing the very same organizations that exactly six years ago orchestrated and applauded the forced homelessness of ten thousand Jewish souls from Gush Katif. Yes, these are the same folks that fight to destroy every Jewish house, kindergarten, synagogue or gazebo that a Jew, any Jew, dares to build in Judea and Samaria. Yes, these are the very same self-indulgent cadres that wage war against Jewish neighborhoods in the heart of Jerusalem. And yes, these are the very same hire political guns who DO NOT WANT TO BUILD A HOUSE FOR HASHEM! These would-be architects of a G-dless world possess a mixed-multitude of college degrees, but anyone who has taken Housing 101 knows that the root and the cause of all our housing ailments is in the fact that we still have not solved our Creator's housing problem. The prophet Chaggai said it best: "Is it a proper time for you yourselves to sit in your ceiled houses, when this house is in ruins?" Tough words of rebuke, but uttered with love in our hearts!

Next week, G-d willing TEMPLE TALK will be recorded on Tish'a b'Av after the Rabbi and Yitzchak have paid an early morning visit to the Temple Mount.

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