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Moses' request of:
'Let me pass (over the Jordan) so that I may see the… Land… (But) G-d said to me: "Enough! Do not speak to me again about it… You shall not pass the Jordan"'. (3:25)
- is immediately followed by his recounting to the Israelites:
'We lived in the valley, facing Baal Peor' (3:28).
What is the connection between the two? And what may be learnt from Moses putting them together.
Rashi explains that the reference to Baal Peor is to the Israelites' succumbing to the daughters of Moab - charming them into adultery and idolatry (following Num. 25:1-9). Whereas the Spies and the Golden Calf involved a generation that was no longer alive, Baal Peor was fresh in the memory of the next generation - the generation about to enter the Promised Land; the generation Moses was actually addressing. Unlike Joseph - who in a similar situation declared: 'How can I do such an evil thing and sin against G-d?' (Gen. 39:9) - they indulged in the pleasures of Moab. And nevertheless, G-d continued to be involved with them, declaring that it would go well with them if only they would consistently observe the commandments (Deut. 4:1 and Rashi ad loc).
However, it may be argued that the words 'We lived in the valley, facing Baal Peor' (3:28) may also be explained in the context of the preceding verses: 'Let me pass (over the Jordan) so that I may see the… Land… (But) G-d said to me: "Enough! Do not speak to me again about it… You shall not pass the Jordan"'. (3:26). For the following reason.
As a spiritual leader, Moses' task was to teach the Israelites the standards G-d demanded of them as His Chosen People. His did not fully succeed in that mission with the first generation - those who had already reached the age of twenty by the time of the Exodus. The shortcomings of a 'class' do reflect on the 'teacher'. to a considerable degree. Thus after the Spies, Moses related that G-d was angry with him - Moses - as well.
In contrast, Moses seems to have been more successful with the second generation. They confronted the powerful forces of Sichon, and Og. They did not panic and rebel, as with the Spies, and prepare to 'appoint a leader and return to Egypt' (Num 14:4). But they did confront formidable enemies and defeated them in battle, accepting with faith G-d's words to Moses: 'Do not fear him (Og), for I have put him and his people into your hands'.
As the shortcomings of a class reflect on the failings of the teacher, so do the achievements of the teacher reflect on the success of the teacher. It was that success that encouraged 'at that time': for Moses 'ask for favor from G-d' (3:23) to allow him to cross the Jordan and enter the Promised Land. He had shown himself successful in easing the next generation to a higher spiritual plane.
G-d refused. True, it was Moses privilege to ask. But G-d said 'No!'. Rav Lach - You have achieved a great deal - but not you did not fully bring the Israelites up to My Standards. For what reason? (Moses said by means of hint and explanation). 'We lived in the valley, facing Baal Peor'… despite the improvements, they Israelites did not pass the supreme test - as did Joseph the Righteous…
So - a person can still have done very well, even if aspects of his work fall into the 'could do better' category, preventing his reaching his final target…
Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.
Parashiot from the First, Second, and Third Series may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site: http://www.shemayisrael.co.il/parsha/solomon/archives/archives.htm
Also by Jacob Solomon:
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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