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Moses' parting words to the Israelites include:
'I know your rebelliousness, and your stubbornness. While I am still alive, you have been rebellious against G-d; how much more so after my death! ... I know that… you will completely corrupt yourselves, and turn aside from the way I commanded you. Evil will befall you in the latter days; because you will do what is bad in the sight of G-d, to provoke Him to anger… (31:26,28).
It may be suggested that what made Moses certain that the Israelites would 'forsake the path' in the Holy Land is as follows. When the Israelites were in the desert, they knew that their survival depended on their keeping to G-d's revealed code.
He (G-d) afflicted you, let you go hungry, and fed you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers knew. That was so you should know that man does not live by bread only, but on every word that proceeds from G-d (8:3).
However, the Hebrew word – Vayaancha for 'He afflicted you' may also be rendered 'He made you humble' – coming from the Hebrew: ani (poor) and anav (humble). Those who feel dependent of the goodwill on others do not normally bite the hand that feeds them. All the worse when they do, as Moses reminded them: While I am still alive, you have been rebellious against G-d; how much more so after my death! And similarly when in exile, the Jews tend to be vigilant and circumspect to avoid upsetting the local population on whose goodwill they depend for survival.
But in contrast, Moses had already warned that when they settle:
Be on your guard… lest you become proud, and you forget G-d… who led you through that great and terrible wilderness of venomous serpents, scorpions, and drought; who brought you water out of the rock of flint. And you say to yourself (as you are well-established in the Holy Land), I became wealthy through entirely my own power (8:11-17).
Thus Moses fear of the Israelites losing touch with The Source arises out of the following notion. Being settled and comfortably off promotes the feeling of taking the following for granted. Firstly, material success is in direct proportion to your own hard work and initiative. Secondly, things will continue as they are: life will settle into its contented, everyday, pattern - with prosperity being utterly routine. And connection to the Source gradually downgrades to empty ritual. It reduces the Torah, in the words of Isaiah, to mere soulless rote worship:
G-d said (to Isaiah), This people draw near Me. They honor Me with their lips and mouth, but their hearts are far removed from Me. There fear of me is merely commandment… learned by rote (Isaiah 29:13).
That is the challenge of the Yamim Noraim – the Days of Awe. It is a period when one has to make a conscious effort to break out of routine and make sure that next year is lived on a higher plane than the previous one.
For those looking for more comprehensive material, questions and answers on the Parasha may be found at http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/questions/ and on the material on the Haftara at http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/haftara/ .
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.com/parsha/solomon/archives/archives.htm
Also by Jacob Solomon: