“…וּרְאֵ֣ה בְעֵינֶ֑יךָ כִּי־לֹ֥א תַעֲבֹ֖ר אֶת־הַיַּרְדֵּ֥ן הַזֶּֽה׃”
“…Look at it well, for you shall not go across yonder Jordan.” (Deut. 3:27)
Moses was not allowed to enter the Land. Moses! The central character of the entire Torah the most important person of the Five Books of…well, you get the point. The pain Moses must have felt to have worked so hard for something most of his life, and then not have it. To have led with one goal and one destination: to bring the sons and daughters of Israel through the desert, establish a civilization with clearly articulated rules, values, ethics, and laws, and then feel that sweet and gratifying feeling of bringing them into the Land.
Moses, of course, would never know that feeling.
His punishment for striking the rock out there in the desert was harsh and eternal. He thought he knew best, but the wrath of God was upon him, and he was sacrificed. Of course, that was all an excuse and Moses was never going to make it in anyway.
God knew that only a new younger generation could begin this new chapter. A generation who did not know slavery and who’s old-school leadership style of striking when instructed to speak, would simply not fly for the kids of today.
One could make the argument that the whole thing was contrived, and that Moses was never going to make it in anyhow, and who would that benefit?
With Moses, it was a clear case of God (re)establishing authority, showing who’s boss and that despite strong human leadership, God is in charge and God calls the shots. Moses had his time, and now we were ready for new leadership. Moses is still revered, but his reach will be limited.
The question of who can come into the Land, as it turns out, is as relevant today as it was in the time of Moses. At the exact same time as we read about Moses pleading with God to enter the Land, the talk of the town is about two U.S.
Congresswomen who were also not allowed to enter the Land. And yes, the circumstances are very different with a similar verdict.
With Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, the Netanyahu-Trump alliance went to great lengths to show their strength, power, and flex their muscles. They control and they rule. And anything to help in the re-election campaign. However, who is the hero in this case, and who will benefit? Much has been said already about how this is a gift to the BDS movement and the Israel-bashers. This only raises the profile of the two Representatives and glorifies their names.
As we say in Hebrew: “יש חכם, ויש צודק.”. One can be right, or one can be smart.
One could make the case that the two Congresswomen should not be allowed entry. Their proposed itinerary was indeed problematic, and of course they have actually supported boycotting the country they are asking permission to enter. And yes, there is an Israeli law on the books barring all boycotters (although it does occur to me that the best way to counter a boycott would be to allow all those boycotters to come in, eat at our restaurants, drink ice coffee on the beach, and essentially NOT boycott…).
That could be legitimate, and it could be right, but it is not smart.
The Talmud tells a story (Hulin 7a – scroll to the bottom for the full text) about Rabi Pinchas Ben Yair crossing a cantankerous river in order to do the mitzvah of redeeming the captives. After he crosses, he looks back and sees an Arabian merchant on the other side who was also looking to cross the river. His quick response [to the river] was to plea to split and allow him entry:
Split for him!” Rabi Pinchas ben Yair commanded. “Let it not be said that the Jews desert their travel partners.”
It is not clear what the exact relationship was here, but Pinchas ben Yair was much more concerned about how this would play out for him [and the Jews] if he was not allowed to cross. His rationale was not, this is the right thing to do, or “come on in, we’ve got nothing to hide,” but we should, at the very very least, be seen as hospitable, as building up our alliances and not diminishing them.
And so, had Israel let in Reps. Omar and Tlaib (who will now be granted permission to visit her grandmother as long as she promises no BDS activity), maybe things would not have changed.
They would have seen things that would have, in their mind, justified their positions and inspired them to stay the course in their activism. Maybe.
But maybe not.
What if Israel, instead, had rolled out the red carpet? What if the condition for entering would a meeting with other Zionist left-wing activists and Members of Knesset who denounce the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement for being anti-Israel and anti-Semitic? Tlaib and Omar would have been taken around by such activists and MKs to show our Israel. We want to show you what we love and invite you to work together with us in developing a stronger shared society, a culture of tolerance and pluralism, and a place where we’re not afraid to sit with someone with whom we vehemently disagree.
Some might say that this is a pipe dream and would never happen. They might be right.
But there’s right, and then there’s smart.
As we read on this week, we learn that we are to observe the mitzvot faithfully, “for that will be proof of your wisdom and discernment in the eyes of the nations, who on hearing of all these laws will say, “Surely, that great nation is a wise and discerning people.” (Deut. 4:6)
Surely, we are a wise and discerning people. We are generally smart, just not this week.
דרבי פנחס בן יאיר הוה קאזיל לפדיון שבויין, פגע ביה בגינאי נהרא. אמר ליה: גינאי, חלוק לי מימך ואעבור בך. אמר ליה: אתה הולך לעשות רצון קונך ואני הולך לעשות רצון קוני, אתה ספק עושה ספק אי אתה עושה, אני ודאי עושה. אמר ליה: אם אי אתה חולק, גוזרני עליך שלא יעברו בך מים לעולם חלק ליה. הוה ההוא גברא דהוה דארי חיטי לפיסחא, אמר ליה: חלוק ליה נמי להאי דבמצוה עסיק, חלק ליה. הוה ההוא טייעא דלווה בהדייהו, אמר ליה: חלוק ליה נמי להאי, דלא לימא: כך עושים לבני לויה? חלק ליה.
Rabi Pinchas ben Yair was on his way to perform the mitzvah of redeeming captives. He came to the Gina’i River which he was unable to cross. “Gina’i,” he commanded, “divide your waters so I may pass.” The river retorted, “You are going to do the will of the Creator, and I, by having my waters flow, am doing the will of the Creator. You are uncertain if you’ll be successful or unsuccessful in your mission. I am certain that I am succeeding. Rabi Pinchas ben Yair sharply responded: “If you don’t split for me, I’ll decree that water will never again flow through you!” Rabi Pinchas ben Yair was telling the Gina’i that the will of the Creator is that it submits to the will of His servants.
The waters immediately split. There was a person accompanying him, carrying wheat for Pesach. “Split for him also as he is involved in a mitzva!” Rabi Pinchas ben Yair demanded. And the waters split. There was an Arabian merchant who was also accompanying them. “Split for him!” Rabi Pinchas ben Yair commanded. “Let it not be said that the Jews desert their travel partners.”