The Book of Devarim ( Deuteronomy ) begins with the following description;
“These are the words ( Devarim) that Moses spoke to all Israel, on the other side of the Jordan, in the wilderness, in the Arabah, opposite the Sea of Reeds, between Paran and Tofel, and Laban and Hazeroth, and Di-zahab; eleven days from Horeb, by way of Mount Seir to Kodesh-Barnea.” (Deut. 1:1)
One wonders why we need such a complicated location description. Rashi quoting the Sifri explains the following;
These are the words: Since these are words of rebuke and he [Moses] enumerates here all the places where they angered the Omnipresent, therefore it makes no explicit mention of the incidents [in which they transgressed], but rather merely alludes to them, [by mentioning the names of the places] out of respect for Israel .
In the words of the Sifri ; “In the desert”—the time they complained: “If only we would have died in the desert” (Exodus 17:3).
“In the Aravah (Plain)”—their worship of Baal Peor in the Plains of Moab (Numbers 25).
“Opposite Suf”—the complaints and crying out they made at the shores of Yam Suf, the Red Sea (see Exodus 14:11 )
“Paran”—the sin of the spies, who were dispatched from Paran (Numbers 13 ).
“Tofel” and “Lavan” (meaning “libel” and “white”)—their libeling the white manna (Numbers 21:5).
“Chatzerot”—where Korach’s mutiny against Moses took place.
Yet as Rashi explains Moshe reminded them of the pitfalls and failures of their long voyage through the wilderness without giving too many details, but Moshe did not want to demoralize the people . What was important was they would remember their history.
Yet we must deal with another perplexing issue with this chastisement. His words were being spoken to the wrong people. The generation that began the Exodus and participated in all the great successes and also in the great failures Moshe alludes to have already died out in the desert.
Yet therein lies the great secret of mankind and the Jewish people in particular. The cycles of history are just that, “cycles in time”.
One way which has overwhelmed western thinking comes from Hellenist roots. In the Hellenist way of thinking that has dominated western concepts, “Time” is viewed as a linear line moving from point A to point B. It is always moving ahead leaving the past behind.
Yet in the Jewish and Biblical view of the world specific dates and appointed times are gates through which time flows in a cyclical and upward spiral fashion, toward a purpose. Rabbi Moshe Shapiro of Jerusalem teaches that the Hebrew word for “time” – “zman” is derived from the same root word as the word hazmana which means invitation .Time is not a raging river that carries us into the unknown away from our beginnings. It is actually an invitation into an appointed destiny, a Moed.
As a result the cyclical framework enables us to revisit past events or experiences. In fact those events, experiences and challenges are relived. The reason for this is because Hashem wants to achieve our purpose and to fix what needs to be fixed in our walk in this world.
The events Moshe was hinting at were not isolated events. They came as a result of faulty thinking and passion. Moshe was not just reminding people of what the previous generation failed at but actually was warning them that in the future that would be faced with similar challenges and conflicts.
Those cycles of events would continue to recur until that people as a faithful whole would do the Tikkun-Fixing that would repair the conflict.
As we approach the Mourning of Tisha B’av ( The Ninth day of the Month of Av) due to the destruction of the Jerusalem Temples we should that Moshe spends an inordinate amount of time on that fateful sin of the spies
At the borders of the biblical land of Israel Moshe wanted the twelve scouts to explore the land reveal its greatness and bring back tidings of its promise. Ten of these men did not have the vision to do that. All they saw was their own unworthiness.
“And there we saw the Nephilim, the sons of Anak, who come of the Nephilim; and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.” (Numbers 13:33)
All that they were able to see were their own fears and insecurities; That occurred on the ninth day of Av.
The 9th day of the Jewish month of Av, Tisha b’Av, consequently became a day that exemplifies sadness. It is a time appointed for sad things to possibly occur. It is the day that we commemorate the destruction the two Temples in Jerusalem. Regrettably it has become a day of recurring tragedies.
It will continue to be so until we learn to correct the root of the sin of the Spies.
The problem was rooted in their self-perception . The problem focused on their vision.“In our eyes, we seemed like grasshoppers. “ These words seem to touch a responsive chord in this people recently liberated from slavery.
On Shabbat Chazon or the “Shabbat of Vision” that precedes Tisha B’Av we read the Haftara portion from the prophecies of Isaiah (1:1-27). This haftara is the final of the “three of readings of affliction,” preceding Tisha b’Av and next Shabbat we begin the series of haftara readings called the “Haftarot of Consolation”.
The reading begins with the words ” The vision ( Chazon) of Isaiah the son of Amotz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem, “( Isaiah 1:1).
Shabbat Chazon is not only a description of the vision of what went wrong and how unworthy we were. It is more a vision of what we could be and what we truly can achieve in our journey’s mission.
As we read in the haftara;
” And I will return My hand upon you and purge away your dross as with lye, and remove all your tin. And I will restore your judges as at first and your counselors as in the beginning; afterwards you shall be called City of Righteousness, Faithful City. Zion shall be redeemed through justice and her penitent through righteousness” ( Isaiah 1:25-27).
It is the lack of vision and our impaired ability to truly “see” that keeps blocking us from our goal. Yet it is the rebuilding of the Temple in Hashem’s time that will prove to be the remedy. It is in that place that we would learn to truly see again.
On that mount that the promise of that vision was first established “And Abraham called the name of that place Adonai-Yireh; as it is said to this day: ‘In the mount where Hashem is seen.”( Genesis 22:14)
LeRefuat Yehudit bat Golda Yocheved