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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Ekev

Ekev

749
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Moshe’s discourse to the children of Israel at the end of his life continues in this week’s parsha. I think that it has to be said that Moshe presents a "fair and balanced" review of the events that have befallen Israel during its desert sojourn. The good and the bad, the exalted and the petty are all recorded for us in his words. And his view of the future of his beloved people is also a balanced mixture of woeful warnings and of great reward, of unlimited opportunity and of crushing defeats. As always, he is forced to leave the choice of behavior and direction to the people of Israel themselves but he attempts surely to guide their choices in the right direction through his words and predictions. This is perhaps the greatest quality of a leader - the ability to clearly outline significant choices in life and society and give guidance to one’s people to make wise and beneficial decisions. Leaders who portray only one side, the bright one, of the coin - who promise only utopian lower taxes and yet increased welfare programs, peace without sacrifice and social systems of equality and blind justice that do not take into account the realities of human nature - only encourage inevitable disappointment, cynicism and apathy in their people and constituents. On the other hand, leaders who govern by dire threats, terrible predictions, scapegoating imagined causers of all of society’s ills and generating only drabness and a bleak view of the future destroy human initiative in a fog of pessimism. Moshe, the paradigm of the great and wise leader presents throughout his discourse here in the book of Dvarim the coin as a whole.

Unfortunately over the ages the Jews have not always chosen wisely. People hear what they wish to hear no matter what the speaker really said. We are prone to misquote, misunderstand, repeat phrases out of context and generally ignore what we do not wish to hear and understand. Moshe’s attempt to portray the great achievements of the desert and especially of Sinai and balance them with the reminders of the tragedies and wars that also marked Israel’s journey through the desert in the long run had only limited influence on the people. Our sages taught us that the Jewish people simply did not believe that the dire predictions that Moshe warned them about if they sinned would ever really occur. God simply had too much invested in the Jewish people. It was a forerunner of our modern "too big to fail" philosophy regarding otherwise corrupt financial institutions. So Moshe’s darker side of the coin was never really believed by the Jewish people. They heard only the good - what they wanted to hear - and ignored the rest. There are many Jews today that unfortunately listen to the opposite strains of Jewish life. They despair of our future and our wonderful state. They also only hear what they wish to hear and fueled by a biased and ignorant media and screwy intellectualism see no grand future for Israel, the people, the state and the land. A well considered study of Moshe’s words and realistic and balanced message would certainly be in order for everyone.
Rabbi Dov Berl Wein
The rabbi of the "HANASI" congregation in Yerushalim, head of the Destiny foundation, former head of the OU, Rosh Yeshiva of 'sharai Tora" and rabbi of the "Beit Tora" congregation, Monsey, New York.
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