The book of Devarim is referred to by the Talmud as Mishneh Torah - a
repetition of the Torah - a concept alluded to by its Greek name,
Deuteronomy. This fifth and final book of the Torah is Moshe's recounting,
prior to his death, of the events of the previous forty years. The
significance of the repetition of these events is discovered in nuances
between the wording describing the events here and the language used when
they were previously recorded. These fine distinctions teach us valuable
lessons about life.
After relating how the tribes of Reuven and Gad would inherit the portions
of land that they had chosen on the eastern side of the Jordan River, Moshe
reminded them of their responsibility to join the rest of the nation in
crossing the Jordan and conquering the land of Israel. He charged them to
stay with the other tribes "until G-d will give rest to your brothers as
unto you, and they will also possess the land..."(3:20). This is somewhat
different from what he said at the moment (Bamidbar/Numbers 32:22) when he
told them that they only had to stay until they were finished conquering
land, but did not have to wait until everyone divided up their possessions
and felt secure. Why did Moshe determine he must add this new obligation?
Malbim (1) explains that Moshe's initial decision was based on his
understanding that the war they would fight would be "before G-d" (ibid
32:21). Moshe anticipated a miraculous victory, the likes of which would
leave the rest of the Jews feeling no need for Reuven and Gad to stay with
them since it would be clearly evident that G-d was the one who fought on
their behalf. Ultimately, however, Moshe realized that the wars would not
be so blatantly miraculous and Reuven and Gad would have to cross "before
your brothers" (Devarim 3:18) and conquer the land in a more natural way.
Thus, even after the land would be conquered the Jews would still feel
insecure until they divided their inheritance and settled the land. With
his reevaluation of the circumstances, Moshe reacted by appropriately
refining the course of action.
Interestingly, the question was the academic one of determining the
appropriate degree of human effort to expend relative to the miraculousness
of the victory. Either way, they had been given a Divine guaranty that they
would succeed and rested assured that if they simply fulfilled their due
diligence and maintained their allegiance to and relationship with G-d,
would conquer the Holy Land and not suffer casualties.
While G-d's presence in our daily lives appears much more hidden than
the miraculous wars of conquest 3277 years ago, we, too, possess G-d given
guaranties: He will give us all the financial sustenance we need; He will
give us challenges to help us grow, but He will only give us challenges we
can master; He will give us mitzvah situations to allow us ample
opportunities to forge and foster our relationship with Him. The question
is: How do we respond? Do we become agitated and aggravated because we
delude ourselves into believing that we truly control the outcome of life's
situations (when we know that we cannot really control anything other than
our own emotional responses to these situations)? Or do we progress through
life, happy and serene in the knowledge that if we do our due, G-d will do
all the rest?
Have a Good Shabbos!
(1) acronym for (Rabbi) Meir Leibush ben Yechiel Michel; 1809-1879; Rabbi
Germany, Romania and Russia, he was one of the preeminent modern Bible
commentators, often demonstrating how the Oral Tradition is implicit in the