The Dead Sea and the Land of Israel as It’s seen from Nevo Mountain.
Rabbi Mira Raz lingers on the moment where Moses asks God if he can see the good land. What is Moses’ view? And how does the same fateful moment before entry into the Land of Israel encompass so many mythical and social insights for the rest of the journey? Dvar Torah on Parshat VaEthanan
At the beginning of parashat “Vaethanan” Moses beseeches God:
“Let me go over, I pray Thee, and seethe goodland that is beyond theJordan…”
God replies to Moses: ”Get thee up into the top of Pisgah, and lift up thine eyes westward, and northward, and southward, and eastward, and behold with thine eyes…”
It is strange that, when Moses is on the top of the mountain, he is asked to cast his eyes up to see the land, when we would expect that from the top of Pisgah he would look down to see the land which he is prevented from entering.
We learn from this that in order to seethe goodland of Israel, we must look up to the heavens. We should rise up from the actual world to see the desired world with the eyes of the spirit. EretzIsrael, the Promised Land, demands the vision in order to be good. In the Book of Proverbs, 29:18, is written: “Where there is no vision, the people cast off restraint.” And indeed, inthe lifeofthe community andin our private lives, when there is vision there is meaning – it is the meaning that creates the vision.
“Nishma Ve’Na’ase” (We will hear and we will do)
When the Torah usesthe root”shema” the meaning is “mashmaut” (meaning) which comes not from the organ of hearing, the ear, but from “an understanding heart” as Solomon requests God to give him: “Give Thy servant therefore an understanding heart to judge Thy people, that I may discern between good and evil; for who is able to judge this Thy great people?” (Kings1 3:9).
In the Book of Deuteronomy, the commands begin with “hear” and end with “Do.” For example: “And now, O Israel, hearken unto the statutes and unto the ordinances, which I teach you, to do them; that ye may live, and go in and possess the land whichthe LORD, the God of your fathers, giveth you.”
“And Moses called unto all Israel, and said unto them: Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the ordinances which I speak in your ears this day, that ye may learn them, and observe to do them.”
“Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe to do it; that it may be well with thee, and that ye may increase mightily,”
The deed is the tool, the meaning is the tool’s purpose. The deed exists only to contain the meaning. A deed with no meaning does not renew anything. It repeats itself, is routine, banal, without imagination, boring! A meaningful deed brings renewal, a new creation, holiness. The Torah, according to the verses cited above, teaches us to understand the meaning before the deed and so we will be blessed with life, success, and fruitfulness.
We find four verbs connected to the performance of mitzvoth, in the following order: hear, learn, keep and do. How does each one connect us to mitzvah? ”Hearing” is the experience that expands our consciousness and connects us to what is hidden in us and is still waiting to be realized. The children ofIsraelheardthe voiceof God speaking to them fromMount Sinai, awakening their inner voice,the voiceof their souls which had been sleeping when they were slaves of Pharaoh and were only materialistic. They said: “if we will continue to hear God our Lord’s voice we will die.”
The experience of “hearing” is so shattering that a person might repress it because it makes them panic, ignore it as if it wasn’t there, deny it. In this situation he must learn. It is not frightening,the personis in control, the intellect reacts, asks and examines, criticizes and acquires knowledge, in the hope of reaching spiritual meaning by experimentation and consideration.
“Keeping” is the condition of consciousness, like keeping in a safe, like keeping a secret. The experience and the learning exist and are known in man’s consciousness, what remains now is action in the full meaning of the word.
Moses, this great man, who brought us fromEgypt, brought us to theJordanand completed his role. His entreaties (Meaning: Grant me from your grace, not because I deserve it) did not help him. He was the process.
His book – the Book of Deuteronomy – perpetuates the process as it is: Hear and act. As if he is telling his people before entering the land to build a community there: When ” action” precedes “hearing” you have made a golden calf.
Inthe lifeof “hearing and doing”: ye may live, and that it may be well with you, and that ye may prolong your days in the land which ye shall possess”
Shabbat Shalon U’Mevorach