Moshe continues his last speech to his people in the Torah portion of Vaetchanan with an unusual statement;
“O Hashem G-d, You have begun to show Your servant Your greatness and Your strong hand, for who is like G-d in heaven or on earth who can do as Your deeds and Your might?.” (Deuteronomy 3:24 .)
Moshe was the man who started as a baby sent adrift on the Nile and moved from despondency to spiritual leadership. He then became the man that G-d describes “And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I Hashem will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. My servant Moshe is not so, who is faithful in all mine house. With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of Hashem shall he behold: wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moshe?”(Numbers 12:6-8).
Yet Moshe says “You have begun to show Your servant Your greatness and Your strong hand”. What more was he yearning to experience?
Moshe continues to explain ;”Pray let me cross over (Eh-Evrah) and see the good land that is on the other side of the Jordan , this good mountain and the Lebanon .” (ibid:25)
Moshe is pleading that Hashem would let him cross over and enter the land where though
G-d’s mighty hand will be cloaked but yet will be so ever-present and evident. He is asking’ Let me cross over into a place wherein the actions of mortals will have consequences that will be more clearly seen than anywhere else in the world. Let me enter the land that will be both a place of great blessing for your people and other G-d fearing people who live in it and yet will be a burdensome stone for many other nations of the world.’
Yet Moshe describes ” But Hashem was angry with me for your sake,(Lemaanchem) and He did not listen to me…… But command Joshua and strengthen him and encourage him, for he will cross over (Ya-Avor) before this people, and he will make them inherit the land which you will see. ( Ibid :26-28) The repeated use of the word LeAvor( to cross over) is striking. It is striking also in its similarity to the word used to describe G-d’s decision not to let Moshe “cross over” ,” But Hashem was angry (Va-Yitaber) with me for your sake,(Lemaanchem) (ibid) . Moshe was not destined to be the right leader to lead his people in their “crossing over into destiny”
The use of the root of crossing over is not a foreign concept for this people. Abraham was called an Ivri,( a Hebrew) which means “one who has crossed over.”And the fugitive came and he told Abram the Hebrew(Ha Ivri) , and he was living in the plain of Mamre the Amorite.. (Genesis14:13). We see that Joseph is called an Ivri as well,” And there was with us there a young man, a Hebrew, servant to the captain of the guard; ( ibid41:12 and also 39:14),
Abraham was called an “Ivri (Hebrew)”because when the whole world was on one side of the river, he had the courage to cross over ( La-Avor) and stand alone with his truth on the other side. That was true of Joseph as well. It is this characteristic that would become part of the genetic makeup of Abraham’s descendants as well. Bilaam the evil “prophet of the nations” was actually blessing the people, against his will, and not cursing them when he declared that this people will be “A nation that will dwell in solitude and not be reckoned among the nations.” (Numbers 23:9).That is to say this people will be gifted with the stubborn courage to stand alone against all the politically correct ideologies and theologies that will try to undermine and assail this people.
On Tisha B’Av I listened to a lecture given by Yosef Mendelevich, Mr Mendelssohn was one of the famous “refuseniks” who stood against the Soviet Empire and its secret diabolical KGB in a stubborn demand to be allowed to emigrate to Israel. He described in wonderment how as a young man, he suddenly found himself in a position wherein he represented a people. That was almost too much for him as he had to endure the hardships, torture and seclusion of KGB imprisonment. At one point he described how during one of the interrogations he almost succumbed to the demands of the KGB officers. Yet suddenly some spark of inner courage bubbled up from a deep part of his soul. Suddenly he found himself standing straighter and with greater determination. He crossed over into his “Ivri(Hebrew) character and essence .He did so regardless of what the results of such a stand may be.
Yosef Mendelevich crossed over his own Jordan River and found the courage to stand straighter and with more purpose. The Soviet empire is gone and so is the KGB, yet Yosef Mendelevich now lives in Israel as a Torah faithful Jew with his growing family,
May we in this country facing European boycotts, Iranian threats and American pressure, develop the courage to step into and cross over into our destiny. As Moshe so eloquently prayed;”Pray let me cross over (Eh-Evrah) and see the good land that is on the other side of the Jordan , this good mountain and the Lebanon .” ( Deuteronomy 3:25)
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May my people never forget:
Haven’t I ordered you, ‘Be strong, be bold’? So don’t be afraid or downhearted, because Adonai your G-d is with you wherever you go.”
One of my favorites. It is on the cup that I am drinking coffee from this day.