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Always looking out for us

Friday, 24 July, 2020 - 4:08 pm


Stuff happens. Kids misbehave, partners make careless mistakes and neighbors can be a nuisance. If you can keep the peace without making a commotion, that’s great but at one point the time will come for an honest conversation.

Devarim, the fifth book of the Torah, is an account of Moshe’s final conversation with the Jewish people. After leading them for forty years, he gathered them thirty seven days before his passing and communicated a divine monologue containing law, history and inspiration.

But first came the honest conversation. The opening words of Devarim are a brief yet intense recap of all the times the Jewish people rebelled against G-d. They complained when there was a lack of water and whined about the substance of the heavenly bread they received every morning. Standing at the Red Sea they railed against G-d for taking them out of Egypt to die and after miraculously crossing on dry land they got distracted with collecting the Egyptian treasures that had washed ashore instead of marching on to Sinai.

The Korach uprising was a disaster and the rebellion of the spies delayed their entrance to Israel by forty years. Many thousands succumbed to promiscuity with the Midianites and Moabites and the sin of the Golden Calf haunts us until today. 

You would never see this list just by reading the opening verses of Devarim because Moshe implied these events in code. The famed Torah interpreter Rashi decodes the words and clarifies that Moshe did so in order to preserve the dignity of our people. Furthermore, the chosen codes actually imply a defense for the Jews in each scenario.

They complained about water because they were stranded in a parched desert and under appreciated the heavenly bread because it was a transcendent type of nutrition. Trapped between a raging sea and the murderous Egyptians would scare anyone to death and they got so distracted with the Egyptian treasures because one week earlier G-d had told them they must sack Egypt clean of all its wealth.

Korach was a manipulative charlatan who sweet-talked them into rebellion and there was no way they could have known that their handpicked spies would seek to bar them from inheriting the Promised Land unless there was a very good reason for doing so. Moav was a nation with a legacy of promiscuity and living in close proximity to them certainly had an impact on them. And about the Golden Calf, G-d was the one who provided them with all that overabundance of gold and it is no wonder they did foolish things with it.

This is a valuable lesson in discipline and rebuke. Even when the proverbial rod is necessary, be clear that you understand the misbehavior is not chronic or malicious and that your love and devotion is still very strong.

This week Thursday we observe Tisha B’av, the anniversary of the destruction of both Holy Temples and the beginning of our long and terrible exile. Although all the pain and suffering resulted from our misbehavior, we know this is all temporary and very soon, through our increased mitzvot, we will merit to usher in the final redemption when there will be peace and tranquility for all.

(Adapted from Likkutei Sichos vol 14 pages 1-7.) 


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