By Rabbi Avraham
Fischer. A publication of the Orthodox Union in cooperation with the Seymour
J. Abrams Orthodox Union Jerusalem World Center
13 Av 5764 - July 30-31, 2004
As he moves from topic to topic, Moshe’s lectures sometimes
seem to pose problems of cohesion. It then falls to our commentaries to
explain the connections. An example of this is found in the first part of
First, Moshe pleads before Hashem
Let me cross over and I will see the good land that is across the Jordan (Devarim
Only part of his request would be granted, however: he would see the land from
afar, but not make the passage.
Having brought his listeners to the effective end of the events of the
wilderness, Moshe returns to its high point, the Revelation at Sinai:
The day when you stood before Hashem, your G-d, at Chorev, when Hashem said to
me, “ Gather the people to Me, that I might make them hear My words, whereby
they might learn to fear Me all the days that they live upon the land, and
they shall teach their children” (4:10).
Consequently, Moshe exhorts his people to be especially on their guard against
Guard your souls very carefully, because you did not see any image on the day
Hashem spoke to you at Chorev from the midst of the fire. Lest you act
corruptly and make yourselves a statue of the image of any form whatsoever.
…And lest you raise your eyes heavenward and see the sun, and the moon, and
the stars — all the host of the heavens — and you stray and prostrate
yourselves to them and serve them, which Hashem, your G-d, apportioned to all
the nations under the entire heaven. Whereas Hashem has taken you, and brought
you out of the iron crucible, Egypt, to be His nation of inheritance, like
this day (4: 15-16; 19-20).
Despite the (underlined) difficulties (of which more shortly), these ideas
flow logically. However, at this point, Moshe inexplicably departs from his
But Hashem became furious with me because of you, and He swore neither to let
me cross the Jordan, nor to come to the good land that Hashem, your G-d, gives
you as an inheritance. Because I will die in this land, I am not crossing the
Jordan. But you are crossing, and you will take possession of this good land
Afterwards, Moshe does revert to his initial themes to conclude the passage:
Be very careful lest you forget the covenant of Hashem, your G-d, that He made
with you, and make yourselves a statue of an image of anything which Hashem,
your G-d, has forbidden you. Because Hashem, your G-d is a consuming fire, a
jealous G-d (4:23-24).
But, why the excursus in verses 21-22 that reiterates the Divine decree of his
Ramban answers simply that Moshe has carried out his mission of teaching the
Israelites all the commandments that they are meant to fulfill in the land of
Israel. However, since he will die on Mount Nevo he will not be able to
continue teaching them. The Israelites will not be able to depend on the
exhortations of their leader forever, so they themselves will have to take
Sforno (R. Ovadia ben Yaakov Sforno, c. 1470-c.1550) explains more forcefully
(4:22) that Moshe’s very passing might be the cause of the people’s
“I need to caution you a great deal since I am not crossing with you. This is
similar to what he says: For I know that after my death you will surely act
corruptly” (Devarim 31:29).
After all, the first time the Children of Israel thought Moshe was dead they
panicked and made the golden calf (Shemot 32)!
Keli Yekar (R. Ephraim Shlomo of Luntshitz, 1550-1619) takes this even
further. The entire passage discusses idolatry:
And lest you raise your eyes heavenward and see the sun…
But, why should you, the people of Israel, be misled to worship the sun, when
you are equal to the sun? As it says:
But those that love Him are like the coming out of the sun in its strength (Shofetim
Moreover, you can even control the sun, as is seen in the battle of Giv’on (Yehoshua
10:1-14). The hosts of heaven are those, which
Hashem your G-d apportioned to all the nations under the entire heaven.
This means that the nations are subject to the influence of the planets.
Hashem guides those nations indirectly,
Whereas Hashem has taken you
to rule over you directly. Therefore, it is absurd for you to want to worship
the heavenly bodies.
brought you out of the iron crucible, Egypt, to be His nation of inheritance,
like this day;
He made you pure and clean as the clearness of the day.
Lastly, in order to explain the excursus beginning with
But Hashem became furious with me because of you,
Keli Yekar refers to an exchange recorded in the Talmud (Avodah Zarah 54b)
between the “philosophers” and the Sages of Rome. The former said, “If your
G-d does not want there to be idolatry, why doesn’t He abolish it?” The Sages
replied, “If they would worship something that the world does not need, He
would abolish it. But they worship the sun, the moon, the stars and the
constellations. Should His world be destroyed because of the fools? Rather,
let the world continue in its normal fashion, and those fools who go astray
are destined to give an accounting.” (Compare with Rashi on this verse.)
Conversely, says Keli Yekar, when Moshe’s actions led the people to sin,
Hashem was prepared to remove him. This is because his removal would not lead
to widespread harm. Moshe’s continued presence could be an impediment to the
people’s connection to Hashem, suggests Keli Yakar, because they might come to
Although, says Moshe,
I will die in this land, I am not crossing the Jordan, but you are crossing.
They must be true to Hashem’s dictates alone, without Moshe. The great and
humble leader Moshe accepts Hashem’s decree, for the benefit of his beloved
Torah K'Torat Eretz Yisrael!"- Torah from Aloh Na'aleh*
“Let me go over, I pray Thee, and see
the good land that is beyond the Jordan,
that goodly hill country and Lebanon (Devarim 3:25).”
Thus Moshe beseeched God to be allowed to enter western Eretz Yisrael.
Our Sages teach us that Moshe’s desire to enter the Land was motivated by
a spiritual need:
Rabbi Simla’i expounded: Why did Moshe our teacher wish to enter Eretz
Yisrael? Did he need to eat of its fruit or fill himself of its goodness?
Rather, Moshe said: “Many mitzvot have been commanded to Israel which
cannot be fulfilled but in Eretz Yisrael; I will enter in order to fulfill
them all.” (Sotah 14a)
Or haHayyim (R. Hayyim ben Attar, 1696 - 1743) relates Moshe’s request to
the Talmudic statement: “One who walks four cubits within the Land of
Israel is guaranteed that he is a ‘son of the World to Come’ (Ketubot
111a).” Moshe wished to enter the Land for the “benefit of his soul and
for the desired pleasure, which is the World to Come.”
Iyyun Ya’akov, in turn, relates this Talmudic statement to another: “The
Holy One, blessed be He, has only the four cubits of Halacha.” He explains
that one who walks the four cubits of Halacha within the Land of Israel,
whose atmosphere conveys wisdom, is guaranteed the World to Come, as our
Sages say: “One who repeats Halacha on a daily basis is guaranteed the
World to Come (Megillah 28b).”
We wish to suggest another explanation, based upon the approach of the
Maharal of Prague, who comments that “four cubits” represents one’s
personal space. Walking four cubits represents leaving one’s space. Thus,
the Talmud is saying: One who takes advantage of the Land of Israel to
further himself spiritually is indeed guaranteed that he is a “son of the
World to Come.”
*D’var Torah from Aloh Na'aleh:
an initiative of former North American Rabbis and laymen who successfully
made Aliyah, aimed at highlighting the centrality of Israel and promoting
Aliyah. They send emissaries – Rabbis, academicians, and others – on
speaking-tours throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Rabbi Yerachmiel Roness , Exec. Dir., Aloh Naaleh,
At the OU Center, 22 Keren HaYesod
Tel.(02) 566-7787 ex. 254