Sunday, June 30, 2013

Israel and Israeliness

וַיֹּאמֶר ה' אֶל-מֹשֶׁה: עֲלֵה אֶל הַר הָעֲבָרִים הַזֶּה, וּרְאֵה אֶת הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר נָתַתִּי לִבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל. וְרָאִיתָה אֹתָהּ, וְנֶאֱסַפְתָּ אֶל עַמֶּיךָ גַּם אָתָּה, כַּאֲשֶׁר נֶאֱסַף אַהֲרֹן אָחִיךָ. כַּאֲשֶׁר מְרִיתֶם פִּי בְּמִדְבַּר צִן, בִּמְרִיבַת הָעֵדָה, לְהַקְדִּישֵׁנִי בַמַּיִם לְעֵינֵיהֶם: הֵם מֵי מְרִיבַת קָדֵשׁ מִדְבַּר צִן.
וַיְדַבֵּר מֹשֶׁה אֶל ה' לֵאמֹר: יִפְקֹד ה' אֱלֹהֵי הָרוּחֹת לְכָל בָּשָׂר, אִישׁ עַל הָעֵדָה. אֲשֶׁר יֵצֵא לִפְנֵיהֶם, וַאֲשֶׁר יָבֹא לִפְנֵיהֶם, וַאֲשֶׁר יוֹצִיאֵם, וַאֲשֶׁר יְבִיאֵם; וְלֹא תִהְיֶה עֲדַת ה', כַּצֹּאן אֲשֶׁר אֵין לָהֶם רֹעֶה.
(במדבר כז יב-יז)

The phrase "vaydaber hashem el moshe lemor" is common throughout the Torah. Here, I believe, is the only time we have the reverse phrasing: "vaydaber moshe el hashem lemor". This is noteworthy because "vaydaber" is generally understood to mean a harsh statement or a command (see for example Shemot 6:2 and Bamidbar 32:25-27). It makes sense for God to command human beings. But since when do human beings command God?

Let us explain this in terms of the larger context. Moshe's behavior is a perfect example of what we would now call Israeli chutzpah. He makes harsh demands of his superior - with the understanding that his proposals are for the good of the superior rather than himself, and that his honesty and directness indicate respect for a superior who is capable of accepting criticism.

As we see, Moshe was not permitted to enter the land of Israel. But perhaps, as a consolation prize, he was allowed to become an Israeli. :)

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