Hashem did not give you a heart to know …until this day.
Meshech Chochmah: In several places we can see that some among the Bnei Yisroel erred fundamentally regarding Moshe Rabbenu. They saw him as some sort of semi-independent being, distinct and separate from Hashem, yet capable of transmitting berachah to Man. This, of course, was not true. Moshe’s role was that of communicator, speaking to Hashem regarding the needs of His people.
When did the realization penetrate that Moshe was no independent guide, nor a conduit for transmitting Divine influence? On the day of his death, the Bnei Yisroel fully understood Moshe’s mortality. They understood that Moshe was made of the same humble material as they, and therefore had to die. In an instant they comprehended that there were no independent intermediaries – that Hashem was the sole guide, and that His providence alone determined the fortunes of all beings.
The preceding pesukim speak of the wondrous events of the previous forty years. Indeed, who would want to leave such an existence? Their needs were supplied miraculously by the monn and the Clouds of Glory. What could be better?
Better would be less artificial. The purpose of life is not to passively accept Divine largesse in the form of a string of miracles. The real purpose if for Man to elevate the material to the point that Man’s actions empower the Heavenly Court, which then transmits great richness – through channels of teva. This is what Hashem wants from us: doing so good a job that we contribute to the strength of the Upper Worlds so that teva is enhanced, rather than suspended (as it is when overt miracles prevail.)
The 40-year period of overt daily miracles was a means, not an end. It was meant to place some of the fundamental principles of faith firmly in their minds – so firmly that we still draw from that experience, and call upon it to this day to sustain our belief. But it was an artificial existence; it was not the way that Jewish life was meant to be.
This, then, is how we should understand the [preceding] pesukim: You have seen all that Hashem did before your eyes …the great signs, etc. And Hashem did not give you a heart to know until this day, i.e. up to and including this day. All the time that you were sustained miraculously, you did not need a “knowing heart and eyes to see.” The truth was open and manifest, and required no further understanding. “I led you for forty years. Your garment did not wear away…bread you did not eat…so that you would know – i.e. future generations would know! – that I am Hashem (the Name used in conjunction with miraculous control) your G-d (the Name signifying the sum total of all natural forces He employs in His providential guidance of individuals). You have come to understand that in all His actions, no independently acting intermediaries play a role. This understanding would be crucial for the people to continue on a proper conceptual path in the many future years that they would be sustained not through miraculous means, but natural ones.
The transition of the people from reliance on miracles to working within a natural framework began in Moshe’s lifetime. Chazal link the inheritance of the Land to their undertaking its conquest. In other words, they merited the Land by agreeing to fight a war in which they could not expect Hashem to fight the battles for them. They would use conventional means – but they would prevail only if they could fight with complete bitachon in His quietly and invisibly aiding their efforts. This was a sea-change from the way they had lived previously.
It took great bitachon to make this move. Should fear overcome them, they would fail miserably on the battlefield. It would evidence a lack of full confidence in Hashem’s assistance. For this reason, Moshe himself led a campaign against Sichon and Og, demonstrating the vulnerabilities of the enemy, and thereby making it easier for them to continue on without any fears of the giants of the Land. They could not do it alone – but the battle could be won without overturning the laws of Nature.
That left one major obstacle in place. The people understood that Amalek was designated to be the strap with which the Bnei Yisrael would be punished when the need arose, c”v. They also had a tradition that the descendents of Esav (i.e. Amalek) would only be vanquished by the descendants of Rochel. Indeed, in their very first confrontation, it was Yehoshua, of Shevet Ephraim – a descendant of Rochel – who led the battle that defeated Amalek.
We can understand this, perhaps, through the idea of Chazal that those who showed ingratitude would fall to those who showed ingratitude. In other words, because the Bnei Yisroel showed ingratitude towards HKBH Who had done so much for them, they became suitable targets for Amalek, who were also ingrates. Yosef, one of Rochel’s children, was the perfect foil to the ingratitude of the Jewish people. He reacted to the evil done to him by his brothers by showering them with kindness. He therefore positioned himself to be the one to defeat Amalek.
This created a bit of a problem. If Moshe were to lead them into the Land and into battle, the wars would be ascribed to him, as history always does to the leader of a nation. But Moshe was not one of Rochel’s descendants. The threat of a confrontation with Amalek would therefore hang over their heads at all times, and they would not be able to muster the complete, absolute confidence and trust in Hashem’s assistance. Without that bitachon, they would fail the challenge and fall in battle!
For this reason, Moshe could not enter the Land.
In the battle against the yetzer hora, we are similarly situated. We need to do the hard work on our own, and not wait for a wave of purity to pass over us. But at the same time, we cannot succeed without Hashem at our side, helping along the process. We often forget who it is that we have wronged. But when we do our job, Hashem is at our sides, providing those injured parties with a spirit of forgiveness that allows our teshuvah to proceed.
- Based on Meshech Chochmah, Devarim 29:3 ↑
- Sifrei Re’eh 57 ↑
- Bava Basra 123B ↑
- Mechilta to Shemos 17:8 ↑
- See Midrash Eliezer to Mechilta, loc. cit., who explains that the Torah’s instruction to spare Esav from the wars of conquest, initially was meant to apply to all his descendants. Only because Amalek initiated hostilities against the Bnei Yisroel when they left Egypt were they excluded from this exemption. Amalek is considered ungrateful because they turned their backs on the Divine favor of planning to spare all the seed of Esav. ↑