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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Va'etchanan

Moshe’s Military Message

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For all his greatness & closeness to G-d, Moshe still was a human being. He had feelings & he had failings; he experienced joy as well as sadness & frustration. His greatest disappointment was being told by Hashem that he would not be allowed to enter Eretz Yisrael. Moshe pleaded, but it was to no avail. He was willing to enter as a private citizen, rather than as leader of the nation, but that was rejected. He even asked to become a bird & fly over the border, but Hashem nixed that, too!

Many reasons are given for Moshe’s desperate desire to live in Israel, the main one being that he wished to fulfill the Mitzvot that can only be earned in Israel. Others say it wasn’t about any specific Mitzvot; it was simply Moshe’s steadfast belief that each & every Jew should live in the Holy Land, surrounded by the Kedusha that permeates this - & only this - land. As a Jew, he wanted to be here.

This helps answer why Moshe wasn’t content to reside in the land east of the Jordan where, says G’mara Bikkurim, the Mitzvot T’luyot B’Aretz apply no less than west of the Jordan. While that is true, that area is still not quite Israel proper, & is not connected directly to Yerushalayim, so Moshe would not have been satisfied with that.

Yet there is another reason why Moshe did not want to "settle" for settling in trans-Jordan. Some commentaries say Moshe also wanted to be part of the war of conquest that would be fought against the 7 Canaanite nations who then resided within the land. He wanted to join a brigade & fight side-by-side with Israel’s brave soldiers, under Yehoshua’s command, & be one of those to liberate Eretz Yisrael & claim it People forever. This z’chut of being a chayal, Moshe felt, was among the greatest merits he could ever gain in this world. That was a central part of his determination to cross over the border into Israel along with the rest of the nation.

This past week, the IDF entered into its ranks hundreds of new draftees, including many "lone soldiers" who have volunteered to come from abroad to serve Israel. Our holy chayalim are Hashem’s messengers who guard our land & exemplify the fullest expression of mesirat nefesh, self-sacrifice, Judaism’s highest value. No one - not the greatest Rosh Yeshiva, the most respected professor or most prominent political leader - can stand in the company of the soldiers & not be humbled by their bravery & love for their country & people. All must stand gratefully in respect of them.

This week’s Haftora ends: "Hashem brings forth the troops, calling each by name, instilling them with great strength & courage; not a single one is missing." May it be so; may our soldiers prevail in their Avodat HaKodesh.
Rabbi Stewart Weiss
Was ordained at the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Illinois, and led congregations in Chicago and Dallas prior to making Aliyah in 1992. He directs the Jewish Outreach Center in Ra'anana, helping to facilitate the spiritual absorption of new olim.
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