Torah Portion D’Varim (Deut.) 1:1-3:22

Haftorah Reading: Yesha’yahu (Isaiah) 1:1-27

Today we study the first portion of the last book of the Torah. This book is mainly made up of the last words of Moshe to his people before he ascends the mountain and dies there. Also, tonight, at 7:30, the day of Tisha B’Av begins. On this day Jewish people remember the destruction of both the First and the Second Temple. It also harkens back to the day of the bad report of the spies and the people refusing to enter the Land. It is note worthy to know that many other tragedies occurred on this day. The Spanish Inquisition and the Night of Broken Glass, which signaled the beginning of the Holocaust, are two such events. On this day the book of Lamentations is read to remember the penalty of not taking action in going up to settle the Land.

I would like us to look at Deut. 1:8. In this verse we read where Moshe, in looking back, reminded the people of their father’s refusal to go up and possess the Land and the cost of that refusal. To do this let’s look at five verbs in Hebrew that will help us go deeper into what Moshe was saying. In English the verse says, “See, I have set the land before you, go in and possess the land which the L-rd swore to your fathers – to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – to give to them and their descendants after them.” The first verb is see or in Hebrew, “Ra’a.” However when we examine the Hebrew it goes deeper than just “see.” First, it is written in first person singular so Moshe is speaking to each person as an individual. And it is stronger than just see. It is more like, “Look here, pay attention this is important.”

The next word has to do with G-d’s action. In English it says, “I have set the Land before you…” or more simply, given the Land. In Hebrew the word is “natatee”. This verb is in the past tense. G-d is saying this is already yours all you have to do is go up and take it. G-d emphasizes this point with the next word, “before you.” In Hebrew this phrase is “lefna chem.” In Hebrew this has the meaning of something being placed in your control. All you have to do is take it. The next verb is, go or in Hebrew, “bo u” meaning come or enter. It is yours. Lastly the word, “rashu” which means possess or inherit.  Moshe is making the point in this verse to this younger generation that their fathers had the opportunity to live their promises from G-d but because of their hesitations and fears they missed what G-d had made available to them.  

Now keeping this in mind, let’s look at Judges chapter 4 and read of another missed opportunity. In this chapter we read of the judge of Israel at that time, a woman named Deborah. She heard from the L-rd that He would deliver Israel from the hands of the Canaanites. She called her general Barak and gave him all the words of G-d down to the battle plan and where the battle would take place. G-d had everything planned out. However in Judges 4:8 we read of his response. He would only go if Deborah would go with him. In verse 9 we see Deborah’s response to him. She said she would go with him but the glory of the battle would not be his but G-d would give the Canaanite general into the hands of a woman. Israel beat the Canaanite army but we never heard of Barak again in scripture. He lost his moment. He hesitated and doubted the word of G-d.

What can we learn from these two cases? G-d gives each of us opportunities. We have the opportunity to make a difference, to step out. Often we hesitate and the opportunity passes us by. We miss the moment. We fail to speak out when a word is needed. We don’t offer a helping hand when we have the chance or we don’t get involved in doing G-d’s will in a time when only we can. As a result we miss out. Both we and the people to whom we could have made a difference are left poorer because we hesitated.

We all face the question, are we prepared to take possession of the moment set before us? I pray we are and I pray I am. For the sake of the Kingdom of G-d we should not hesitate to grab each opportunity that comes our way.

Lastly, in Deut. 1:27 we read an astonishing statement by the people as Moshe recalled the past. They said G-d brought them out of Egypt to not give them the Land but to deliver them into the hands of the Amorites because He hated them. How could they have come to the place of making such a statement? Have you ever doubted the love of G-d? Have you ever looked at your life and thought why did G-d do this to me?

When I pray each Friday night that our daughters and grandchildren be like Sarah, Rivka, Rachel and Leah, Manasseh and Ephraim what am I praying? All of these people had tremendous struggles in their lives. It was not easy. For us it is not easy. G-d has plans for us. G-d wants us to live a life where we overcome adversity, where we choose to grow in Him. That is my prayer for my children and grandchildren. An easy life is not a life of growth. In scripture we read of heroes who had to overcome all kinds of issues. By this we grow. By this our lives reflect G-d. G-d did not bring Israel out of Egypt for an easy life but for a fulfilling one, a life of knowing Him. So it is with us.