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by Micah Gimpel    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

"And I appealed to Hashem at that time saying. . ." (Deuteronomy 3:23).



"And I appealed to Hashem at that time saying. . ." (Deuteronomy 3:23).

In this verse's continuation, Moses described how he had called upon Hashem to allow him to enter the land of Israel. From a literary perspective, the Torah leaves unknown exactly at what time Moses is telling this to the nation. When you open the Torah at this point in the text, a space physically separates this statement from what precedes it and from what follows. This allows for two possibilities in understanding the chronological course of events. Either Moses is appealing just after the story that preceded this statement (the two and a half tribes choosing to live across the Jordan River). Moses might be reaffirming, in the eyes of the nation, his strong desire to go to the land immediately after the two and a half tribes were granted permission to reside on the other side of the river. Alternatively, Moses is making this appeal in the middle of his last speech to the nation on the eve of their crossing the Jordan to enter the land of Israel. Moses, sensing the imminent culmination of their forty-year quest, yearns to join the nation in reaching their national goal. According to either interpretation, the Torah is teaching an important lesson focusing on the importance of the land of Israel.

If Moses was responding after the tribes were granted their request to settle across the Jordan River, then Moses was anticipating on a national level an inadequate appreciation of the land. After all, part of the nation is content on the wrong side of the river. The nation might misinterpret this as evidence revealing the insignificance of the land. Therefore, even after Moses explains the specific conditions allowing, albeit begrudgingly, their settling outside of Israel proper, Moses tells the nation that he garnered enough courage to even ask Hashem to reconsider his personal plight. Moses wanted to show the nation how important it was to him to cross the river and recognize the loss for those who were choosing the other side of the Jordan instead. The people needed to understand the qualitative difference between Israel and the land outside of Israel.

However, if this is in the middle of Moses' last speech to the nation, he is primarily showing his love for the land and the desire to accompany, if not lead, the nation into the land. There is no pedagogic message trying to avoid a national misunderstanding. The only point in requesting entrance was to show the nation just how far Moses was willing to go to enter the land. Moses asked Hashem for a "personal favor" and Hashem, in part, denied the request. Instead of letting Moses see the land by strolling through the hills and fields, Hashem lead Moses to the top of the mountain overlooking the land and Moses viewed the land from a distance.

In fact, this is the only account in the Torah of Moses asking from Hashem on his own behalf. In a number of places Moses prays on behalf of the nation or his sister Miriam or brother Aaron, but Moses never asks for himself. Moses, following in the footsteps of Abraham, can be characterized as one who is always beseeching for others in a completely selfless manner. Just as Abraham discussed the fate of Sodom with Hashem trying to win their survival (Genesis 18:27) and prayed on behalf of Avimelch after the king returned Sarah to Abraham (ibid. 20:7), Moses also sought the benefit of others around him.

However, Abraham acted his entire life only with an eye to others. Even in a situation where it seemed justified to ask Hahem for a different course of action, Abraham stifles any selfish inclination and prepares to sacrifice his most beloved son. Because this request relates more to Abraham's personal desires, Abraham could not ask Hashem to alter the plan. In contrast, Moses, in light of his tremendous desire to enter Israel and accompany the Jewish people, his life goal, Moses asks Hashem to let him enter.

Although Hashem denies Moshe's request, the refusal reflects Hashem's orientation to Moses. "Hashem said to me 'Let this suffice, no longer discuss this issue with Me.' " (Deuteronomy 3:26). One could get the impression that Hashem felt it was beneath Moses to request on his own behalf. A man of Moses' stature, who has led a life completely dedicated to the well-being of the nation and others around him should not approach Hashem for personal favors.

According to either understanding of the time period that Moses appealed to Hashem, the significance of the land of Israel plays a prominent role. Either Moses is trying to teach the nation an important lesson as a corrective measure or he is letting the nation appreciate better the opportunity that lies before them. Moses is bothered enough by the prospect of not entering the land that his very character changes by asking for himself.


Micah Gimpel, a native Atlantan and alumnus of Yeshiva Atlanta, is in the MBA program at Bar Ilan University in Israel.

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