This week’s parshah (Bamidbar 27:12, 13) says, “Hashem said to Moshe: ‘Go up this Mount Avarim and see the Land that I have given to Bnei Yisroel… you shall see it and (then) you, too, shall be gathered unto your people (i.e., pass away), just as your brother Aharon was gathered.’” Rashi explains that upon being told to apportion the inheritance of the Land of Israel to the Jewish people according to the laws of inheritance, Moshe Rabbeinu hoped that this indicated a rescinding of the decree according to whose terms he, Moshe Rabbeinu, would not be allowed to enter and have a share in the Holy Land.
(Parenthetically, many times we read such pesukim and sort of just gloss over them without recognizing a “hidden” message. The existence of an Afterlife, the idea that our souls endure long after our bodies are lowered into the ground — a most fundamental and basic tenet of Judaism — is, interestingly enough, not very explicitly stated in the Torah! Many sefarim deal with this fact (e.g., Chovos Halevavos), yet also point out that at the same time, there are frequent allusions and inferences that one can see, if one were to keep one’s eyes and mind open and be sensitive to it. Here in our verse is a good example: Hashem speaks quite matter-of-factly of Moshe Rabbeinu (and his brother Aharon) being “gathered,” or “brought in” upon his death. Where will he be gathered in, how will he be gathered in, what will be gathered in? The possuk certainly is tailor-made to make us realize the implications that lie therein!)
The possuk speaks twice within just a few words of Moshe Rabbeinu “seeing” Eretz Yisroel; what is the significance of that repetition? Furthermore, there seems to be a general preoccupation with Moshe Rabbeinu “seeing” the Land of Israel. Moshe Rabbeinu requests (Devorim 3:25), “Please allow me to cross (the Yarden River) and see the good Land which is on the other side…” as if the purpose of entering the Land is to see it! And stranger still, Hashem, while refusing Moshe’s request to cross the Yarden River and actually, physically enter the Land, tells him (possuk 27), “Ascend to the top of the cliff, raise your eyes… and see with your eyes, for you shall not cross this Yarden River.” And yet stranger still, Rashi comments, regarding Hashem’s command of seeing the Land from the cliff, “And see with your eyes… you requested of Me ‘and let me see the Land,’ I am showing you all of it, as the possuk says (Devarim 34:1), ‘And Moshe ascended… to Mount Nevo… and Hashem showed him.’” Now, quite obviously, Hashem is not playing word games with Moshe Rabeinu. What, then, is the meaning of Hashem saying: you asked to see it, okay, I’ll show it to you! And once again, (Devarim 32:49), “Ascend the Mountain… and see the land of Canaan which I am giving to Bnei Yisroel.” And yet again (Devarim 34:4), “And Hashem said to him, This is the Land which I swore (to give) to Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov, saying ‘To your descendants I shall give it’… I have let you see it with your own eyes but you shall not cross over to there.”
Is there some insight that we can glimpse here?
The matter becomes more and more curious when we examine Moshe Rabbeinu’s statement (Devarim 3:25) implying that his purpose of entering Eretz Yisroel would be to see it. That certainly does not parallel the statement of the Gemara in Sotah (14A) which states, “Why was Moshe Rabbeinu so desirous of entering Eretz Yisroel? Was it to eat of its fruit or to enjoy its goodness? Rather, Moshe was saying to Hakadosh Boruch Hu, ‘There are many mitzvos that we, Bnei Yisroel, are commanded to do, and so many of them can only be fulfilled in Eretz Yisroel, and so let me please enter the Land in order that I be able to fulfill all of the mitvos.’ Whereupon Hashem responds to him: Isn’t your reason for wanting to enter in order to receive the rewards of those mitzvos? Well, I will consider it as if you have done them.”
This is getting more and more puzzling. Moshe Rabbeinu now is described as wanting to enter Eretz Yisroel in order to do the mitzvos — not to see it! But the possuk cited before says that it was to see it, and thus Hashem “placated” him by saying “I will show it to you.” And certainly merely seeing it would not allow for the fulfillment of any mitzvos! And once Hashem answered him that He will consider it as if Moshe has fulfilled those mitzvos, of what further need was there them to show it to him?
Let us see what we can derive from these peculiarities.
We can take as a premise that when the Gemara describes Moshe Rabbeinu as wanting to enter Eretz Yisroel to reap the reward of its mitzvos, the meaning is not the reward of self-indulgence. Rather, as so many explain the meaning of the words of Chazal when they teach us schar mitzvah, mitzvah (the reward of a mitzvah is a mitzvah), the reward of a mitzvah is ultimately to be found in the kedushah and spirituality and closeness to Hashem that the mitzvah engenders. This is certainly what was presented as Moshe Rabbeinu’s laudable goal of wanting the schar of its mitzvos.
But what does that have to do with “seeing the Land”?
To be continued im yirtzeh Hashem next week…