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   by Jacob Solomon

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G-d said to Moses: 'Go up Mount Avarim and view the land I am giving to the Israelites… you will then be gathered to your people as your (deceased) brother Aaron.' (27:12-13)

Moses was barred from entry to the Land by Higher Authority for his role in the incident of striking the rock to activate the spring - when told to do otherwise. It appears that he was told on three occasions to 'go up the mountain and view the Land'. These occasions, in chronological order are:

(a) After the Israelite defeat of Sihon and Og (21:21-35). There is no reference to it in the Book of Numbers. However that narrative is recounted in Deuteronomy (2:20 ff.). Hoping that G-d might have relented after the conquest of the area for settlement by the two and a half tribes (Rashi to Deut. 3:23), Moses appealed to G-d to let him enter the Promised Land. G-d rejected his petition, but instead told him to 'go up Mount Pisga' (ibid. 3:27) and view the Land.

(b) After G-d gave Moses the details of how the Promised Land was to be divided amongst the tribes - in this Parasha. G-d said to Moses: 'Go up Mount Avarim and view the land I am giving to the Israelites… you will then be gathered to your people as your (deceased) brother Aaron.' (27:12-13)

(c) After Moses communicated his final song to the Israelites - beginning with 'Listen O Heavens and Earth…' (Deut. 32:1-43). G-d told Moses 'in the might of that very day' (ibid. 32:48) 'to go up to Mount Avarim, that is Mount Nebo… and see the Land… which I am giving to the Israelites' (ibid. 32:49). Rashi explains that the force of 'in the might of that very day' means that Moses was to leave the Israelites for ever despite their desperately wanting him to stay.

Yet Moses went up the mountain and viewed the Land only once from Mount Nebo - and did not come back (ibid 34:1 ff.). What may be learnt from G-d giving Moses that order on three separate occasions?

A clue may be found by looking at Moses reaction after each incident:

(a) On the first occasion, Moses appealed to G-d to let him enter the Promised Land. He did his best for himself - but his wish was rejected. Instead, G-d told Moses to 'order Joshua' (ibid. 3:28) to succeed him and give him the necessary moral support.

(b) Moses did not appeal on the second occasion. G-d told him simply to ascend the mountain and see the Land. Moses' reaction implied accepting the inevitable, and focusing on how his leadership might be continued after his death. 'Commanding Joshua' would not be enough: the leadership had to be made attractive for him. That is what G-d meant by agreeing that Moses would 'take Joshua' rather than 'command Joshua'. Taking Joshua meant persuading him that he was indeed the ideal successor, rather than merely a stop gap (implied by Rashi to 27:18).

(c) And Moses did not appeal on the third occasion. When told to 'go up the mountain', Moses response was to bless the people in the tradition of Jacob several generations earlier. With the final words: 'Happy are you O Israel - a people saved by G-d…' (Deut. 33:29), he gave positive words of encouragement and moral support to each tribe - so that they would have a final message from Moses to take away with them for posterity. Thus Moses put his people's minds at rest: even though he would not be with them in person, he would continue with them in spirit.

The above is an important message for established spiritual leaders for all time. However great they are, and however much they achieve, they do not live forever. When the end is in sight, the correct approach is first to prolong life and leadership as far as possible, then to show concern in nominating a suitable successor in a suitable manner within his or her lifetime, and finally psychologically preparing the people at large for the inevitable departure.

'The Congregation of Israel must not be left as a flock without a shepherd.' (27:17)

Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: 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:

Also by Jacob Solomon:
From the Prophets on the Haftara

Test Yourself - Questions and Answers


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