Re'eh - A Tale Of Two Mountains - Part One
By Rabbi Aron Tendler
The days of mourning were over. Looking over my shoulder as we got underway
I could just make out the peak of Mt. Nebo through the hazy sunlight. It
was the last time I ever saw him.
As I watched Moshe our Teacher walk up the mountain, it was the silence I
will never forget. Not a sound! The wind was still, the birds seemingly
suspended in the sky, the towering mountains of Moav silent and brooding,
and the nation struck dumb, not knowing what to do, overwhelmed by the
moment they knew had to be, had to come.
Only later would the pain make itself heard. Moshe was gone. Never again
would there be one like our Moshe! Truly we felt like orphans bereft of our
identity, our parent, and our security. What would become of us?
As the days of mourning passed so did some of the fear. The loss was still
too fresh and so was the pain, but the fear of the future began to recede
with the anticipation of a dream soon to be realized.
With every passing day my sense of excitement and anticipation awoke. This
was it! We made it! The Promised Land! Soon we would begin a new era in
world history. Soon the promise of 500 years would be fulfilled.
The day before the day it happened we awoke to a feeling of hurried
expectation. There was movement all around as runners summoned the tribal
dignitaries to Yehoshua's presence.
"What's happening? Does anyone know what's going on?" "I'm not sure but I
heard a runner say something about breaking camp and crossing the Yarden
(Jordan) in three days!"
Soon enough the news spread like wild fire - G-d had spoken to Yehoshua and
we were preparing to cross the Yarden and enter the Promised Land! Little
did I know that we would soon witness miracles and majesty of a magnitude
not experienced since the first year of the Exodus.
Traveling from Shittim we arrived at the banks of the Yarden. I gathered my
children and took them to the edge of the river. Only a short time ago the
cloud cover would have obstructed our view, but Since the death of Aharon
the clouds had dissipated and the stark beauty of the plains of the Yarden
backed by what we would one day call the Judean Hills, could be seen by
all. It was the end of the rainy season and the river was pulsing with the
might of its swollen waters.
"Abba, Abba!" my youngest called, "I don't see it! I don't see it!" Not
knowing what he meant, I lifted him onto my shoulder so he could see the
Yarden and the lush plains surrounding her.
"Can you see it now?" I asked him. "No Abba, I still don't see it - it all
looks like water." His young voice was filled with such disappointment I
lowered him from my shoulder, put him on the ground, crouched down before
him and said, "I don't understand. What don't you see? What do you mean
that it all looks like water?"
Looking at me with perfect trust and innocence he said, "But Abba, I mean
the river. Moshe promised it would be flowing with milk and honey but it
looks like water!" Scooping him up in my arms I swung him around and then
hugged him tight. Kissing him on his head I lifted him high and said, "Soon
you will see, soon you will see. Together we will cross that river and we
will find the milk and honey that Moshe promised!"
Trumpets sounded and the tribes fell into their assigned places. Three days
had passed since we had been told to get ready and the time for the
crossing had come. Remembering the 40 years it took us to arrive at this
moment I could not help but reflect on the man who had brought us here. How
he longed to be here, how he so wanted to enter the Promised Land. He would
have cherished this moment. Looking over my shoulder I could just make out
the peak of Mt. Nebo through the hazy sunlight. It had been the last time I
In the distance I could make out the Kohanim carrying the Aron Hakodesh
(Holy Ark). As instructed, all the tribes had positioned themselves behind
the Aron Hakodesh allowing for a distance of 2000 Amos (cubit) (1 cubit =
approx. 21") between the Ark and the nation. All of a sudden Yehoshua
raised his hand and they stopped. The Aron was carried to the edge of the
river and we all could hear Yehoshua's voice.
"Draw near my beloved people. Fear not the future campaign to take the
Promised Land. When the inhabitants of the land flee before us you will
know that G-d dwells within our midst.
Now my people, behold the glory of G-d as He performs miracles before your
eyes and the eyes of your children! Choose from among you 12 men, one man
per tribe and they are to await my instructions. The rest of you get
ready! When the feet of the Kohanim carrying the Aron touch the waters of
the Yarden the water will split and you will be able to cross!"
"Abba, Abba! Did you hear what Yehoshua just said? G-d is going to split
the Yarden! Please Abba, lift me up so I can see!"
Again it was the silence that I can vividly remember. It was as if all of
creation stood at attention to witness G-d's revealed majesty. Behind us
stood the mountains of Moav and before us in the distance stood the
towering walls of Jericho. Among us were standing the many survivors who
had witnessed Kriyas Yam Suf (Parting of the Sea), and Matan Torah (Giving
of the Torah), and the many young upon whom G-d was about to leave His
indelible mark of awesome greatness.
As the Kohanim's feet touched the waters of the Yarden, an involuntary gasp
of astonishment resounded from the mouths of millions. "The water has
stopped flowing Abba and it's beginning to pile up!"
As we stood in awestruck silence the mighty swollen waters of the Yarden
were halted as if by an invisible hand. The lower waters continued their
mad rush southward while the upper waters came to an abrupt stop and began
to pile up. Higher and higher the water rose until the towering wall of
water blocked out the morning sun. Had Yehoshua not sounded the trumpets to
proceed we would have remained frozen in silence under the spell of the
ever-rising wall of water.
Before the people began to cross the dry river bed and enter the Promised
Land Yehoshua turned to the 12 chosen men and commanded: "From the river
bed in front of the place where the Kohanim are standing carrying the Aron,
lift onto your shoulders 12 large stones, one stone per man, one stone per
tribe. These stones will find their permanent resting place at this
evening's campsite. They will be a remembrance of this miracle when G-d
split the waters of the Yarden. When your children will ask you what these
twelve stones are you will tell them of this great and awesome miracle.
Additionally, Yehoshua took twelve other stones from beneath where the
Kohanim stood and erected them as a permanent monument on the spot where
the Kohanim had stood in the water carrying the Aron when G-d split the Yarden.
Quickly, the nation began to cross the Yarden. Granted, it could not have
equaled the spectacle of when the nation crossed the Yam Suf; but trust me
when I tell you that the awe with which we beheld this crossing bordered on
a primal fear that was barely concealed beneath the facade of our
fascination. As the people reached the western banks of the Yarden and
placed their feet on the hallowed grounds of their forefathers most did not
even sense the magnitude of the moment because of the overwhelming
spectacle of the rising wall of water. However, there were some of the
elders, men and even more women, who remained focused on the extraordinary
moment. As they touched the rocky shores of the Yarden they fell to their
knees, and with tears streaming down their faces bent their lips to kiss
the Promised Land. Digging their fingers into the mud and dirt they all but
forgot the majesty of G-d's revealed awesomeness as they immersed
themselves in the fulfillment of His promise.
To merit that which even Moshe Rabbeinu had not merited revealed G-d's
greatness in the scope and span of time. Far beyond gold and silver, far
beyond the power and might of nature was G-d's absolute control of time and
history. To live to see the promises was to live to see G-d revealed and to
live to see the greatest miracle of all.
To be continued for Parsha Ki Savoe.
Copyright © 2003 by Rabbi Aron Tendler
and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author is Rabbi of Shaarey Zedek Congregation,
Valley Village, CA.