And I pleaded to G-d at that time… (Devarim 3:23)
Pleaded to G-d for WHAT? To cross the Jordan River into Eretz Yisroel. At WHICH time? After G-d pronounced the decree against doing so back in Parashas Chukas? No, G-d was angry then, and Moshe Rabbeinu knew better than to ask for mercy at a time when G-d was sitting on the ‘Seat of Judgment’.
Then WHEN? After the Jewish people successfully defeated the giants Sichon and Og, for, as Moshe reasoned, this signaled the beginning of the conquest of Eretz Yisroel. Moshe hoped that doing so meant that G-d was prepared to let up on the decree that Moshe should not enter the land and die in the desert.
However, one of the most central tenets of belief in the Jewish G-d is that He is NOT at all like man. The Talmud warns that one should not try to pacify a person while he is still angry, because, it can backfire. Angry people don’t think or feel straight.
However, G-d is perfect. No, He is even better than that: He is PERFECTLY perfect. He has that enviable trait of being able to change His ‘attitude’ at a moment’s notice for the sake of truth; He has no emotions to block His doing precisely the right thing at precisely the right time.
So why did Moshe Rabbeinu wait?
Allow me to provide a parable, for example, the Apollo 11 moon mission.
For the average spectator watching the take-off, there are few questions other than, “How much longer until lift-off?” It doesn’t occur to them what that question means to the people responsible for making the entire mission a success.
For such a precarious event as a rocket lift-off and a landing on the moon, any time just doesn’t work. There is an ‘ideal time’ to leave because there is an ideal time to land, and to make the journey until that historic moment.
There are many considerations: NASA’s budget, the rotation of the earth, the revolution of the moon, the atmosphere at different times of the day, the amount of fuel carried by the rocket ship, etc. The ‘ideal time’ is that which takes into account all of these conditions (and many others), in order to minimize the risk to human life and maximize the chances for mission success.
Bound by the laws of nature, there is no other way.
Though, this may be less true for a great leader and miracle-worker such as Moshe Rabbeinu in a PHYSICAL way, it is true for him on a SPIRITUAL level. For, all of history is governed by the Sefiros — right down to the last millisecond — and they act as they do because that is the ‘nature’ of their reality.
Every ‘sefirah’ is a spiritual reality that is G-d’s pre-installed instructions for the potential of a set period of history that is to be governed by that particular sefirah. However, individual moments in time are the product of not just the corresponding sefirah, but also of the interaction of the sefiros with others, and, the interaction of sub-sets of sefiros within the general sefirah itself.
Certain interactions amongst the Sefiros, which occur at set times during the day, week, month, and year, result in different spiritual opportunities. We may speak about G-d being ‘angry’ or in a ‘generous mood’, but, what we really mean (or should mean) to say is that the Sefiros have ‘lined up’ in a way that has resulted in more light and mercy in creation, or, G-d forbid, less light and judgment in creation.
Hence, the Jewish year with all of its emotional ups-and-downs, moments to build and moments of destruction; weeks of mourning and weeks of comforting. However we are told to act during the course of the Jewish yearly cycle is just a reflection of what is happening in the Sefiros at that time of year, and, in some cases, that moment of the day.
There are levels on which there is very little, if anything at all, we can do to affect the interaction of the Sefiros, and we are ‘compelled’ instead to be ‘actors’ on a stage that they create. However, on other levels there is much we can do to affect their interaction, causing miracles to happen for individuals and even the entire nation.
That’s what learning Torah and performing mitzvos is supposed to be about.
This was Bilaam’s ability, the Talmud says. He was able to calculate the precise moment in the day that G-d became angry (Avodah Zarah 4b), and, at that moment, he would have cursed the Jewish people. However, what he was really doing was using in magical ability to figure out what the Sefiros were doing to take advantage of a negative spiritual energy.
A well-trained Kabbalist uses Kabbalah to do the same, but, to take advantage of a positive spiritual opportunity, what is called an ‘ais ratzon’ (favorable moment), and, to prepare and overcome negative spiritual moments. And, that’s exactly what Moshe did before pleading with G-d to change the decree.
Go up to the top of the view, and look out towards the west, the north, the south, and the east, and see with your eyes, for you will not pass over the Jordan… (Devarim 3:27)
The Midrash makes a very compelling point. After Moshe was forced to accept G-d’s final decision not to allow him to enter Eretz Yisroel, he lowered his expectations:
“If I may not enter alive, at least let my bones be brought there for burial,” Moshe requested.
However, G-d answered him, “Your bones shall not cross the Jordan either.” (Sifri)
Okay, that Moshe Rabbeinu should not enter Eretz Yisroel alive is understandable, for, as the Midrash teaches, he would have built the Temple, and any Temple built by Moshe Rabbeinu would be too holy to be destroyed. If so, what would atone for the Jewish people if they sinned greatly? Says the Midrash: the people themselves (Vilna Gaon).
However, what danger could Moshe’s bones present to the newly settling Jewish people, in the present or in the future? After all, as Moshe pointed out, Yosef’s bones were being transported from Egypt to Canaan for burial, so why shouldn’t his be?
The Midrash answers back at startling answer. G-d told Moshe:
“Yosef deserves to be buried in Eretz Yisroel because he acknowledged his origin. When in prison, he told his cell mates, ‘I was stolen from the Land of the Hebrew’, even though revealing such a fact could work against him. However, when you overheard Yisro’s daughters tell their father, ‘An Egyptian rescued us at the well,’ You did not immediately correct them. Thus, the one who did not acknowledge his origin shall be buried in his land!” (Devarim Rabbah 2:5)
Now, first of all, we can assume that Moshe had not been ashamed of his Jewish identity. Secondly, as the Tifferes Tzion points out, Moshe had good reason to conceal his identity: he was accused of killing an Egyptian officer, and, his picture and promise of reward was probably hanging in every post office for miles around, and, under such circumstances, it could have been considered prudent to wait before revealing his true origin.
The Tifferes Tzion answers that, still, a tzaddik such as Moshe Rabbeinu should have had more trust in G-d, and not let Yisro’s family live with the false impression of his identity. It is a similar answer to the one given about why Yosef was punished with two extra years in jail when he relied upon the wine steward to get him out of jail: someone on HIS level should have trusted in G-d more.
The only problem with such answers is that they go against the mandate of Torah, which comes to teach us how to BECOME tzaddikim, not just to teach us about tzaddikim (ArtScroll does that well enough). The mussar for Yosef and Moshe Rabbeinu has to apply to us as well, not just to great leaders.
The answer that we have discussed previously in PERCEPTIONS with respect to Yosef is not that he was wrong for making his ‘hishtadelus’ (effort), but, in short, the way he phrased his wording. For, one could learn from the way he explained his ending up in jail that bad things can happen to good people — ACCIDENTALLY — and not understand the Divine Providence involved. That lesson applies to all of us, not just great Jewish leaders.
We could say the same thing here as well with respect to Moshe Rabbeinu. How many miracles did it take to save Moshe’s life as a baby, and land him in Pharaoh’s palace when he grew up like a prince? And, how many miracles did it take to get Moshe’s mother into the palace too, to nurse him physically and spiritually?
And, who knows how many miracles occurred for him daily to keep him alive and developing, but, certainly his escape from the Egyptian authorities after he was found out was nothing short of an awesome miracle? Clearly Divine Providence was responsible for everything and was leading him every step of the way.
Could Yisro hurt Moshe if Heaven didn’t want him to, or, help him if Heaven decreed against him? Of course not, as Yisro found out (he put him in a pit for ten years without food, to see what would happen). Hiding his identity, in this case, lessened the lesson of ‘Hashgochah Pratis’ for Yisro and his family, if only temporarily.
And that was enough to prevent Moshe from having even his bones cross the Jordan River into the Holy Land!
Kabbalistically, the period from the seventh day of Sivan (when Moshe ascended Mt. Sinai to receive Torah) until the tenth day of Av is one of lessened Divine Light. It is actually broken up into three periods: 40 days, 14 days, and 9 days.
We’re talking one year BEFORE creation on the 25th day of Elul, when G-d laid the spiritual roots for all of world history.
Of course, if one counts 40 days from Sivan 7 they will arrive at the 17th day of Tammuz, on which we fast and the ‘Three Weeks’ of mourning begin. Fourteen days more end on Rosh Chodesh, of which the Mishnah says: When Av enters, reduce joy (Ta’anis 26b). Nine days later lead right to Tisha B’Av, the Jewish ‘Day of Infamy’.
The progression from bad to worst is apparent. In fact, when the Torah speaks of ‘null and void’ in the second verse of the Torah, according to the Zohar, that posuk is really (out of order — it should be first and it) refers to the nine days mentioned above, what would have been Rosh Chodesh Av (pre-creation) to the 9th of Av (pre-creation).
(The entire period actually totals 63 days, corresponding to the expanded Name of G-d which has a gematria of ’63’, but that’s another discussion altogether.)
Starting on the 10th of Av (pre-creation), G-d shone a different level of light, one that has the ability to rectify. In fact, it is the light, the Kabbalists explain, which G-d used to build creation, to free the Jewish people from Egypt, to give the Torah, and, eventually, it will be the light that He will use to bring the Final Redemption (may it happen in our time). It is the light referred to in the third posuk, “And G-d said, ‘Let there be light, and there was light.”
Hence, after the mourning of the Three Weeks, we can now find comfort, because this is indeed the spiritual energy given off by the Sefiros at this time of year. The spiritual atmosphere, at this time of year, is one of ‘repair’ and desire for relationship, and hence, on the heels of Tisha B’Av comes Tu B’Av — the Fifteenth Day of Av and the joy it represents.
The period itself lasts 45 days, corresponding to the Name of G-d that has the gematria of ’45’ — again, another discussion for another time. However, it will end precisely on the 25th day of Elul, when, according to the Torah, G-d began the six days of creation and history as we know it.
At that time, a new level of light takes over and governs the ‘theme’ of history. It corresponds to the Name of G-d that has the gematria of ’52’, and, which corresponds to the sefirah called ‘Malchus’ (Kingdom).
Had Adam HaRishon not sinned on the first of Tishrei, six days later, then, history as we know it, with all the suffering and destruction and the need for comfort would never have come to be. Paradise, instead, would have reigned for ever, since G-d’s ‘Malchus’ would have been completed then and there.
But we have observed another Tisha B’Av, and, we are speaking of being comforted once again. This means, obviously, that G-d’s Kingdom was never completed as far as man’s role in doing so is concerned, which is why Rosh Hashanah is all about doing that as we contemplate teshuvah.
For, as the Kabbalists teach, each and every Jewish soul is a ‘brick’ in the wall of G-d’s Kingdom on earth, and self-rectification is the building of the Heavenly Malchus as well. And, there can be nothing more comforting than knowing that.
History And Beyond: Techiyas HaMeisim, continued…
As a little bit of an aside, the Talmud asks the question: Where is there an allusion to Techiyas HaMeisim in the Torah (Sanhedrin 90b)? The Talmud answers:
It says, “And also I will establish My Covenant with them to give them the Land of Canaan…” (Shemos 6:4); it says “to them” (i.e., the Forefathers, when it should say “to you”), and thus there is an allusion to Techiyas HaMeisim in the Torah.
The Talmud then launches into a long discussion of many other sources, some from the Torah, some from the Prophets’ words, and some from Writings.
The question arises, why doesn’t the Torah speak of such an important and central concept as Resurrection of the Dead straight out? In ‘Gevuros Hashem’ the Maharal explains that that the entire Torah is a prophecy that was given to Moshe Rabbeinu, and, a prophet cannot only speak about that which is part of his living experience. As the Talmud says regarding the World-to-Come:
“No eye ever saw except for you, G-d…” (Yeshayahu 64:3). (Brochos 34b)
However, that is talking about Olam HaBah (World-to-Come) what about Techiyas HaMeisim? Thus the Torah stipulates:
Prophecy was only for Yemos HaMoshiach…
That is, beyond Yemos HaMoshiach, “no eye ever saw…”
The truth is, Techiyas HaMeisim is not completely a future experience, but rather, it is even taking place now, and has been taking place throughout history-on a level. True, the final stage of Techiyas HaMeisim-when physical bodies will be re-created anew physically-will only take place in the future after Yemos HaMoshiach. However, there is an aspect of resurrection that takes place daily.
This is why, according to the Leshem, that the brochah in the daily Shemonah Esrai that speaks of resurrection is in the present (mechayei) as opposed to in the future (yichyeh). Every moment G-d is resurrecting the ‘dead’, though, we are obviously not talking about actual human beings. If not, then who, or what is being revived?
The essence of Techiyas HaMeisim is known from the Arizal, that is, that it occurs every moment and continuously, on the level of the Sparks and the ‘Shattered Vessels’ of the ‘Original Kings’ which died and broke…
This requires explanation and an understanding of how G-d made creation. Very (very) briefly: When G-d set out to make physical creation, He created spiritual emanations that held the light/potential for creation and all that would ever exist. Since they ‘contained’ light, in a similar way that the bodies contains a soul, they were called ‘vessels’.
For description sake, these emanations were given the names of the seven kings mentioned at the end of Parashas Vayishlach (“These are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom…”; Bereishis 36:31). It is not a coincidence, since after they break they result in the world called ‘Tohu’, or, ‘Null’.
In order to give man the greatest good possible, G-d created the concept of the World-to-Come. In order to get to the World-to-Come, G-d gave man free-will to choose good or evil. In order to make that choice possible, G-d made the potential for evil, or, a perfectly imperfect world. The rest is history-OUR history.
As to the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’, that is another discussion altogether. However, we are taught by the Arizal that, to make evil possible, G-d had the vessels break (or die), and, as a result, ‘shatter’ (spiritually-speaking) into countless pieces. They ‘fell’ from their original position to the place where creation was meant to exist, and from those pieces, G-d methodically constructed the world (universe) in which we live-and continues to do so continuously.
They are continuously being refined, and are found in each world; they are used to construct each world on each level of Domaim, Tzomayach, Chayah, and Medabehr, for, each world is created from them only…
These Hebrew terms translate as: Silent, Sprout, Living, and Speaking, and refer to the four worlds: Mineral, Vegetation, Animal, and Man. Their physical reality is due completely to the existence of the original ‘pieces’ that G-d animated, repaired, and revived.
We see this constantly in This World, how new things occur for the sake of man, that there isn’t a moment when something is not being renewed by some craftsman, or as a result of the nature that G-d, Former of creation, imbued in each of the four elements: Fire, Wind, Water, and Dust, to bring into reality what was previously only potential.
What a different perspective this is with respect to technology. We take for granted that mankind, at least technologically, advances forward, finding new ways to adapt the potential of creation and bring it to fruition. From modern man’s perspective, it just happens to be ‘there’ and we just happen to be smart enough to harness its potential.
What is really going on is that there is a set amount of physical potential in This World, and, it is completely a function of the ‘Original Pieces’ of creation. Serendipitous discovery and technological success is a really a function of Divine Providence and the mandate for creation, to bring out the potential of those Original Pieces, with the goal of building the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ on earth. It is a function of our free-will to decide whether or not we will use creation this way, or, selfishly.
However, whatever purpose we bring to physical creation and all its aspects, whether to serve G-d or to serve ourselves, it will always be a function of reviving the ‘dead’ pieces that fell into the pre-creation spiritual and physical void. Either we will trigger the process with G-d’s help, or, He will do it on His own as history requires, but, in any case, the process will happen and must continue until all the pieces have been revived and re-built into the Kingdom of G-d. For, as the Leshem says:
… There is no moment when it is not happening. (Sha’arei Leshem, 2:13:3)
And, it is to THIS that we refer when we say at least three times a day in Shemonah Esrai, “Blessed are You G-d, Who is reviving the dead.”
Have a great and comforting Shabbos,