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This Week's Peninim In Memory of
Let me now cross and see the good land that is on the other side of the Yarden...And Hashem said to me, "It is too much for you! Do not continue to speak to me further about this matter." (3:26,27)
Moshe was not permitted to enter into Eretz Yisrael regardless of the sincerity of his abundant prayers. It just was not to be. The Midrash adds a profound insight into Hashem's refusal to sanction Moshe's request to enter Eretz Yisrael. Rabbi Levi comments, "Moshe Rabbeinu said to Hashem; Ribbono Shel Olam the bones of Yosef Ha'tzaddik shall enter Eretz Yisrael (for burial) and I shall not?'" Hashem responded, "He who acknowledged his land merits to be buried there; he who did not acknowledge his land is not buried there." When Yosef was falsely accused of making advances to the wife of Potifera, she said, "See he brought to us a Hebrew man." When Yosef was questioned regarding his origins, he said that he had been kidnapped from the land of Hebrews. He did not deny his Jewishness. On the other hand, Yisro's daughters referred to Moshe as "an Egyptian man (who) rescued us," a description which he did not disclaim. Consequently, Yosef, who was not afraid to acknowledge a connection to his land was buried there. Moshe, who seemingly evaded this connection, was denied burial in Eretz Yisrael.
The Midrash apparently condemns Moshe for not demonstrating greater allegiance to his land. Horav Avraham Kilav, Shlita, suggests a unique interpretation of this Midrash, which presents Moshe in a totally different light. Yosef and Moshe were charged with two disparate missions as Klal Yisrael's leaders. Yosef, as the viceroy of Egypt, was to prepare Bnei Yisrael for the Exodus, so that they would leave with remarkable wealth and material possessions. He was to mold the physical dimension of Klal Yisrael. Moshe was charged with developing Klal Yisrael into a mamleches kohanim v'goi kadosh, a nation of priests and a holy people. He was enjoined to prepare them for their eternal destiny.
Moshe's mission as developer of Klal Yisrael's spiritual stature prompted him to request access to Eretz Yisrael. After all, should he not have taken precedence over Yosef, who focused only on Bnei Yisrael's material issues? Hashem explained to Moshe that it was precisely because he was charged with caring for Klal Yisrael's spiritual destiny that he had no reason to enter Eretz Yisrael. Yosef acknowledged Eretz Yisrael: This means that Yosef viewed the land in a fundamental way. Klal Yisrael were to leave Egypt and go to their Promised Land - Eretz Yisrael. This was his goal, his focus; this is what he achieved. Consequently, he was awarded a place in the land that was an integral part of his mission. Moshe transmitted the Torah specifically in the wilderness, as an indication of the Torah's character; it held no connection to a specific place. The place is not primal in Torah; rather, the law is dominant in Torah. Moshe, therefore, had no concern with the reference to him to as an Egyptian. Moshe would be able to enter Eretz Yisrael only when his mission was accomplished, when the land had reached the pinnacle of holiness, when Yerushalayim was rebuilt and the Bais Hamikdash was functioning in its consumate spiritual majesty. The Bais Hamikdash can attain its spiritual zenith only when Klal Yisrael are similarly at their spiritual summit. After the sin of the Golden Calf, which was followed by the sin of the spies and other incidents demonstrating their spiritual shortcomings, Hashem told Moshe that, regrettably, his mission had not been successfully completed. He would not be permitted to enter Eretz Yisrael.
And make known to your children and your children's children - the day that you stood before Hashem at Choreiv. (4:9,10)
In the Talmud Kiddushin 30A Chazal infer from this pasuk's command to teach Torah to one's grandchildren that one who does so is considered as if he received the Torah from Har Sinai. This is derived from the juxtaposition of the revelation at Har Sinai to the mitzvah of talmud Torah. In a lecture in Hilchos chinuch, Horav Reuven Grosovsky, zl, explains that one who teaches Torah becomes a shaliach, agent, of Hashem to transmit Torah to future generations. He parallels Moshe Rabbeinu, the quintessential teacher and lawgiver, who transmitted the Torah to Bnei Yisrael.
This unique relationship gives rise to Chazal's statement in the Talmud Nedarim 37A, that those who teach Torah should do so for no charge. Since Torah educators are agents of Hashem who taught the Torah to Moshe "free of charge," they should follow suit.
Being Hashem's agents for transmitting His Torah creates enormous responsibility for the teacher. He must be conscious of his character, degree of spiritual intensity, indeed, his total demeanor. Chazal assert that only if one views his rebbe, Torah teacher, as an angel of G-d should he study Torah from him. After all, since he is Hashem's agent, he should be G-d-like.
Horav Grosovsky continues, to pose the dilemma of the director of a Torah oriented school who is faced with the moral dilemma of choosing between two teachers. One is an experienced pedagogist whose level of yiraas Shomayim is limited. The second teacher, although lacking in experience and pedagogical skills, is a devout yarei Shomayim and talmid chacham. It is obvious whom he should choose. While it may be obvious to Rav Reuven, is it obvious to us? What is the obvious answer? Based upon the premise that a rebbe who teaches Torah is a shaliach of Hashem, his pedagogical skills, although yet unrefined, necessarily take a secondary position to his fear of Hashem. When a person is ill, he chooses a doctor, regardless of his level of competence, not a lawyer. The Chofetz Chaim once said that if a person must choose between two trains which are traveling to a specific place, he should not take the faster train if it is not headed in the right direction. He will obviously select the train that is traveling his way, regardless of its lack of speed or shabby interior. Likewise, while some of us might be inclined to have a greater sense of confidence in the teacher with impressive pedagogical skills, he, however, may not be going in the direction we hopefully seek for our children. Pedagogic competence in Torah is impossible without Yiras Shomayim.
Only beware for yourself and greatly beware for your soul, lest you forget the things that your eyes beheld, and lest you remove from your heart all the days of your life, and make them known to your children. (4:9)
We are admonished to retain focus on Torah study, lest we forget any part of it. It is not easy to remember everything that we learn. After all, we are only human, so we forget. A chasid once came before the Chidushei Ha'rim with such a complaint. How was he to be expected to remember everything that he had learned? The Rebbe responded, "Tell me, my dear friend, did you ever forget to do something that your life depended on, such as eating or sleeping?" The chasid responded emphatically, "Of course not!" The Rebbe countered, " Eating and sleeping are functions upon which your life depends. Consequently, you would never forget to do them. Is the Torah any different? Your life also depends upon it. Without Torah you have no life!" Our problem with remembering what we learn is not associated with memory, but, rather, with our attitude towards the indispensability of Torah to our lives.
Horav Chaim M'Krasna, zl, who was a close confidant of the Baal Shem Tov, once told the story of a man who came to his city. He declared that he would walk across a tightrope suspended across a river, if he would be given one hundred gold coins. As is to be expected, a large crowd assembled at the banks of the river to see the tightrope walker perform this most daring feat. Indeed, even Rav Chaim was among the spectators. He stood in complete awe, solemnly observing every step of this daring exhibition with unusual intensity. His close friends were taken aback at the rav's extraordinary engrossment in the man's bold walk. When they asked him for an explanation, he said, "I looked at the man who was risking his life to walk across a tightrope, and I realized that he was doing this for a bag of gold. He was risking his life for money. Nonetheless, while he was walking across the rope, in danger of losing his life with every step, his mind was completely, totally and unequivocally upon one thing - his next step on the rope. Once he had begun his trek, the money no longer had any value, nothing mattered but his performance. He maintained absolute concentration upon his act. One wrong move, and he would plunge into the river. All of this undivided attention, this total abnegation of any unrelated thought, was directed for one purpose- money. If someone can divorce himself from any extraneous thoughts in order to amass money, how much more so is it demanded of us that we maintain total concentration and devotion when serving Hashem? Nothing should be able to sway our minds, nothing should penetrate and compromise our relationship with the Almighty."
In a thoughtful play on the text of the pasuk, Horav Y. Trunk M'Kutna, zl, infers a practical and timely message. The primary concern of some people is the education of their children. They do everything to provide the finest rebbeim and chavrusos, study partners, for their children. They, regrettably, forget that they still have a responsibility to themselves. They must also study Torah. Indeed, if the father does not learn Torah, he will not appreciate it. The Torah tells us, "Beware for yourself - lest you remove from your heart - and make known to your children." One must realize that it is incorrect to concern oneself only about his children's Torah study, while neglecting his own. For, if he does not learn, his value judgment regarding his child's Torah study will be impaired.
Only beware of yourself and greatly beware for your soul, lest you forget the things that your eyes have beheld, and lest you remove them from your heart all the days of your life, and make them known to your children and your children's children - the day that you stood before Hashem, your G-d, at Choreiv. (4:9,10)
During Matan Torah, the receiving of the Torah, Klal Yisrael reached an unparalleled spiritual level - the level of Adam Ha'rishon before he sinned by eating of the Eitz Ha'daas. This level, however, was short lived. The sin of the Golden Calf mitigated Bnei Yisrael's spiritual stature. After Adam sinned, Hashem asked him, "Ayeca?" , literally translated as, "Where are you?" but interpreted by Chazal as "How were you?" This infers that Adam was constantly to reinforce his original persona in his psyche. He was never to forget what he was, how high he had reached, his spiritual level of refinement and his closeness to Hashem, as well as his presence in Gan Eden. Horav Yitzchak Hirshovitz, zl, posits that this is the underlying meaning of our pasuk. We are cautioned to remember what it was like, who we were, the spiritual zenith to which we had climbed, and the awesome revelation we had experienced at Har Sinai.
The Torah does not admonish us to remember the words that we heard, but rather, the things that we saw. We are to etch the epoch experience of that day into our minds and hearts. While we did not merit to remain on that level, we must not permit ourselves to forget it. It should serve as an impetus for us, a goal to achieve, an objective to realize. As long as our past stands before us, our future is hopeful. Alas, many of us have relegated the past to antiquity and integrated what we might have become in the future into the culmination of a vacuous present.
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