Blog Devarim 9 Av 5778 בלוג דְּבָרִים, ט’ אב תשע”ח
We are now beginning the fifth book of the Torah. This book is totally different than the other four books. It contains the words that Moshe would personally deliver to the second generation of Israel who were then ready to enter the Promised Land. He, as the father, grandfather and leader of this generation, wanted to make them aware of everything they had been through on their journey from Egypt. We don’t know much about all that transpired during their last thirty-eight years in the desert but here Moshe would mention the names of the many places where they had been disobedient, along with the consequences. He would now be leaving them, and he was acting like a parent who wants to give his children all the last-minute instructions in order to protect them from any harm when he could be not there to supervise them. He was feeling desperate about what final advice to give them and knew that he had to reiterate the initial principles of the Bore Olam, the Ten Commandments, given to them at Har Sinai. This new generation would have to make the same promise to do and obey them as their fathers had done.
The only two left of that first generation to enter the Promised Land were Joshua, a native-born Israelite and Caleb, a Kenizzite, a ger toshav, stranger who dwelled among us. Each would have their role. Joshua would lead the people of Israel into the land and Caleb would inherit a portion of the land and be the example of having a spirit of trust in the Creator. We will watch the people go through the process of having a simple faith, emunah in the Creator to bitachon, faith in action or trust. We may say that we believe in something but if we do not act upon that faith, they are simply empty words. “Faith without works is dead!” Moshe reminded them that they had seen the Creator work among them night and day, in fire and cloud but now they would no longer see this; they would now have to depend upon themselves to create something new. The Creator would always be with them as long as they kept true to His principles but if they strayed from them, He would lift off His protective covering from them and they would suffer the consequences. It is so important to know that it was always up to us!
We parents want to protect our children as much as we can and hope that they will apply our teachings when we are not around. We cannot supervise our children 24/7; they need to be responsible for themselves. It has been so exciting to witness two young men recently become “Bar Mitzvah”, sons of the Commandment. They have passed from being children to becoming responsible adults in the eyes of the Creator. This is a similar process to what the children of Israel would now be passing through. Judaism teaches us that the Creator made us in His likeness and image in order to exercise our own free will, so that we can be responsible for our own actions and not blame others for our failures.
The Creator placed before them the choice of either life or death and Moshe would now implore his people to choose life by following His Commandments, otherwise their life would become so difficult. This doesn’t mean however, even though they followed His Torah, that they would never have problems. Aside from our own disobedience, life itself brings tsuris (troubles) but the Creator will always be with us and never abandons us.
Today Israel is changing; instead of being a beacon of light for all to see, the people prefer to be like the other nations. We are not called to live in the shadows but to shine the light of our Creator. What are the consequences of Israel being the opposite of what the Creator has called us to be? This is not new. The prophets constantly warned Israel that they would fall into the hands of the enemies, be persecuted and almost be destroyed due to their own disobedience. Being part of Israel puts us in the position where the world will either love us or hate us. Most people hate Israel because of what we represent in the world; we have been chosen to be Ohr L’Goyim, Light to the Nations. Moshe was aware of that and here he was telling the people not to destroy this mission. The world is attacking Israel today for two reasons: one because of Who they represent but mostly because they are doing the same thing they did at the time of the Judges; each was doing what was right in their own eyes. This causes the Creator to lift His cover of protection from them and allows the other nations to overpower them. That is why Moshe Rabeinu was warning us then and now, not to repeat the mistakes of the past.
The principles of the Creator are eternal and for everyone. When we don’t follow them, we reap the consequences. Why did Moshe mention all those stations where the Israelites had stopped over the past forty years (instead of eleven days). Sometimes we need time to learn, in order to rid ourselves from our past. Unless we acknowledge our failures, we can never change. The problem with this is that we then pass them on to our children so that they inherit curses instead of blessings. Moshe’s great desire was to have his people avoid that. “Guerra avisada no mata gente…” “To be forewarned is to be forearmed!” Once we know, we become responsible. The promises of the Creator are eternal, and He will never abandon us. Let us heed the warnings of our teacher Moshe and be intelligent enough to learn from the past so that the next generation can walk in the light and not in darkness.