Torah Portion of DEVARIM Deuteronomy 1:1–3:22

Moshe kempinski

We are living in a world wherein life rushes past us in a frightening pace. We are confronted with the inevitable unknown and are holding on to whatever anchor we can grasp. That has been the sense when confronting all the hatred and distrust in the world. It continued to be the experience through the pandemic that engulfed the world. That sense  of discomfort and trepidation also appears at times ,as we navigate through our own personal lives in the midst of challenges  and confusion.

The ultimate response for many has been to hunker down. To find a safe harbor and solidify our stay.We attempt to build walls and dams to protect the quiet place we have found and ignore the signs that the next wave will soon engulf us again.

As a result we stay stuck in a spiritual exile.We cease to grow.

In the book of Deuteronomy we read;  “Hashem our G-d spoke to us in Horeb, saying, ‘You have tarried long enough at this mountain. Turn and journey for your sake ( Pnu U-SEU Lachem)… ( Deuteronomy 1:6-7)

One might ask, what would be the problem  with that?

 The people of Israel tarried at the foot of Mount Sinai where they experienced what no other people had everexperienced, the revelation of Hashem,

“And all the people saw the voices( et HaKolot) and the torches, the sound of the shofar, and the smoking mountain, and the people saw and trembled; so they stood from afar. (Exodus 20:15)

What would motivate someone to leave such place of Awe and Majesty?

We are in the midst of the nine days approaching the Ninth of Av wherein we mourn for the loss of the House of Hashem.

That day is irrevocably connected to the sin of the Spies that Moshe sent out to explore the land of Israel. Instead of reinforcing the plan of destiny that Hashem had proclaimed , they instead focused on their unworthiness to be part of that destiny.

The sin of the spies was not another example of disobedience, it reflected a much deeper malaise. It was so impactful that the date upon which it happened remained a day of sorrow and danger throughout Jewish history.

The Torah tells us that ” all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night.” Our sages teach on that verse that this night was the 9th day of Av. Said G-d to them: You have wept without cause, therefore I will set aside this day for a weeping throughout the generations to come.(tractate Taanit 29b).The litany of disasters that occurred on the day throughout Jewish history is simply staggering.

The Baal HaTanya ( Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Ladi) asks, “What led the other ten spies who were clearly chosen because of their spiritual greatness, to fail? Why would men of such great spiritual awareness not want to physically enter the land of Israel?”

He then explains that these men experienced the highest spiritual experiences that mortals can envision in their walk with Hashem through the wilderness.

They experienced G-d’s great hand in Egypt and at the Red Sea and they heard the Divine voice at Mount Sinai. They lived in the desert but they drank from the miraculous well of Miriam and ate of the manna from heaven and were protected in their voyage by the very clouds of Glory.

Why would they want to leave all of that purely spiritual experience and lower themselves into a land where they would by necessity become involved with the physicality of reality.

As the Gaon of Vilna taught we are all plagued by the spiritual underpinnings of that sin.  Unto this very generation, most of humanity is comfortable with the world view they know and the patterns of life that they have become accustomed to.

They have stopped to yearn, and they have stopped to grow. There are times that the uncertainty and mystery of the future induces people to want to return to the miseries of the past simply because it is something they know; ” They said to each other, “Let us appoint a leader and return to Egypt!”( Numbers 14:4)

Such stagnation inevitably leads to corruption which always leads to destruction.

That is the power of the verse we began with. The verse that Moshe chose as part of his introduction to his final words found in the Book of Devarim/Deuteronomy

“Hashem our G-d spoke to us in Horeb, saying, ‘You have tarried long enough at this mountain. Turn and journey for your sake ( Pnu U-SEU Lachem)… ( Deuteronomy 1:6-7)

The word LACHEM is critical here, Just as it is when Abraham is told LECH :ECHA -Go forth for yourself( Genesis 12:1). The reason hashem wants us to move on from Mount Sinai is not only about keeping wth the plan, it is all about elevating the spiritual potential of the people involved in the “plan”.

That is the lesson of Tish BÁv. Moving forward, correcting mistakes and yearning to achieve our own Destiny.

LeGeulah Shleima VeRefuat Kol HaCholim uBetocham Yehudit bat Golda Yocheved

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