In this week’s sedrah (Bamidbar 27:12-13), Hashem says to Moshe Rabbeinu, “Go up to this mountain of Avarim and see the Land that I have given B’nei Yisrael. And you shall see it, and you shall then be gathered unto your people; you too, just as Aharon your brother was gathered in.” Why is the issue of Moshe Rabbeinu’s viewing Eretz Yisrael repeated in successive pesukim ‘and see the Land…’ ‘And you shall see it…’ This implies that his ‘seeing’ the land was more than just in the physical dimension. What else is being alluded to here?
In the beginning of Parshas Va’eschanan, the Torah tells of Moshe Rabbeinu’s request to enter and see the Land. He entreated Hashem, “Let me cross over [the Yarden] and I shall see the good Land on its other side.” Is that why Moshe Rabbeinu wanted to enter Eretz Yisrael? In order to see the Land? This assumption is not only illogical, but is disproved by the Gemara in Sotah (14a), which explains that Moshe Rabbeinu’s desired to enter the Land of Israel so that he would be able to perform the special mitzvos that apply only in Eretz Yisrael. Moreover, a more careful look at that Gemara leaves us puzzled. The Gemara asks, “Why did Moshe desire to enter Eretz Yisrael, was this [in order] to eat its fruit? Rather, this was [in order] to perform those mitzvos that can only be done in Eretz Yisrael. Then Hashem said to Moshe ‘You want the reward of doing mitzvos? I will consider it as if you have done those mitzvos.”
Now, this Gemara raises several difficulties. First and foremost, since when does a person —especially one with the stature of Moshe Rabbeinu— perform mitzvos in order to receive a reward? (See Pirkei Avos 1:3) In addition, if Moshe’s goal was to do those mitzvos, how would merely seeing the Land suffice? Furthermore, if Hashem is already rewarding Moshe as if he had entered the Land and performed its mitzvos, what is the point of showing him the Land?
The Ramban on Shir Hashirim explains the concept of making a berachah over the performance of a mitzvah: “We thank Hashem for the holiness that he has granted us… the performance of a mitzvah has the person basking in [Hashem’s] Light. When the soul separates from the body following [a person’s death, it (i.e., the soul) shines with that Light, which is the reward for doing the mitzvah… The souls of the wicked are bathed in darkness, which is the greatest punishment of all… That which we are taught not to serve Hashem for the sake of a reward, means that we should not view the mitzvah and its reward as two separate matters…”
This teaching of Ramban is a fascinating interpretation of the Mishnah in Pirkei Avos cited above. Certainly, there is a reward for a mitzvah. However, the point is to understand what its true reward is. In the words of the Ramban, the reward is not a separate entity from the mitzvah! Rather, the reward is the holiness generated by the mitzvah, and that is part and parcel of the mitzvah itself. That is the reward of the mitzvah! This is the meaning of yet another statement of Chazal, “the reward for a mitzvah is —a mitzvah.” This means that the reward of a mitzvah is the very result of that mitzvah, the holiness generated by that mitzvah! This is indeed what the Gemara means when it states that Moshe Rabbeinu wanted to enter Eretz Yisrael to receive the reward of doing its mitzvos —that he wanted the added kedushah of these particular mitzvos to permeate his life.
The Ramban in Vayikra (18:25) explains that the Divine Presence resting upon Eretz Yisrael in its special way, engendering our closeness to Hashem there in a unique, special way, is a manifestation of Hashem’s special control of all that happens there in a very direct way. This is unlike other countries, which have Angels through whom Hashem’s Will is passed and carried out. And so the kedushah in Eretz Yisrael comes from a more intense presence of Hashem, and the stronger chance that one has to bond with Hashem there. The additional mitzvos that we do there taps into the extra kedushah that is there, as these mitzvos help create that extra kedushah.
This is what Hashem ultimately told Moshe Rabbeinu. Do you desire the sechar mitzvah of the special mitzvos that apply only in Eretz Yisrael? In essence, you have already received it, as you are already at the apex of closeness to kedushah and to Hashem.
What is the deeper meaning of seeing something? Ramban in Bereishis, referring to different wordings used in conjunction with creation, writes that when the Torah speaks of Hashem saying something (e.g., ‘let there be light’), it means that the Divine is about to become a reality in this world. And when the passuk refers to Hashem seeing something (e.g., ‘and Hashem saw that it was good’), it denotes that Hashem is ‘keeping an eye’ on something, meaning that its existence is in consonance with, and is an expression of, His will.
Thus, we may postulate that Moshe Rabbeinu’s ‘seeing’ Eretz Yisrael is but an expression of Moshe’s will to live a life of enhanced kedushah and closeness to Hashem. And that is precisely the ‘reward’ that Hashem said that Moshe would have, since Moshe’s life was an ‘Eretz Yisrael’ life, one of kedushah and bonding with Hakadosh Baruch Hu.
May we all merit, the rebuilding of Yerushalayim, the Beis Hamikdash and all of those shattered lives caused by the churban, speedily in our days.