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Nitzavim Vayelech 5771

By: Rav Avigdor Meyerowitz

The Bare Minimum

"And Moses went, and he spoke the following words to all Israel.
He said to them, Today I am one hundred and twenty years old. I can no longer go or come, and the Lord said to me, You shall not cross this Jordan.[1]

The Midrashei Agada and Zohar on these pesukim from this week's Parsha describe in detail the final day and even hours of the life of Moshe Rabeinu. The Midrash describes how, after Moshe Rabeinu had spent much of his last day writing and teaching Torah to Am Yisrael, the last hours were devoted to a final effort to cancel Hashem's decree against Moshe Rabeinu not to enter Eretz Yisrael.

Chazal tell us that Moshe Rabeinu lowered himself to become like a servant to Yehoshua so that in merit of his modesty he would merit to go in to Eretz Yisrael.

"At that hour a Bat-Kol came out from heaven and said to Moshe:`Moshe' you have four hours left in this world.`
Moshe said:` If it is because of Yehoshua that I cannot go in, then lead him in before me as my Rav; and I will follow as his talmid; he will go in like a Cohen Gadol and I will follow like a Cohen hedyot; he will go in as a king and I will follow as an eved`.
Hashem responded: `Moshe, I have sworn by my great name that you shall not go in! `
Moshe said: then let my body become a bird and my hands wings and I will fly into Eretz Yisraellet my body become a fish and my hands fins and I will swim into Eretz Yisrael let me sit on a cloud and fly over into Eretz Yisraelcut me up into pieces and cast my body into the Yarden and have Gavriel the Malach revive me in Eretz Yisrael.[2]

We know that Hashem declined all these requests and the decree was not abated - all because of "Since you did not have faith in Me to sanctify Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly to the Land which I have given them."[3]

Moshe made a mistake, he hit the rock instead of talking to it, and this resulted in his punishment. - Not to be allowed into Eretz Yisrael.

What is the connection between Moshe Rabeinu's sin and his punishment?

"For, if you had spoken to the rock and it had brought forth water, I would have been sanctified in the eyes of the community. They would have said: "Now this rock, which can neither speak nor hear, and does not require sustenance, fulfills the word of the Omnipresent. How much more should we do so." [4]

It is true that there would have been even a greater Kidush Hashem had Moshe spoken to the rock, but surely there was also a big Kidush Hashem when the water flowed out the rock after Moshe had hit it? Was this a big issue - how great the Kidush Hashem was - to impose such a punishment?

I recently heard from Rabbi Baruch Ezrachi[5] the following explanation:
From the episode of Moshe Rabeinu we learn that a person's actions are measured by their tasks, and a persons tasks are placed on them according to their virtues and strengths. A person's mission in life is to fulfill the tasks that are placed on and expected from them.

Since Moshe Rabeinu had the virtues to create a Kidush Hashem on the highest level, anything less would fall short of the fulfillment of his calling, even though it would still be a Kidush Hashem. This in effect was a failure.

The message is very explicit and clear. Everyone has a task. The task has been set according to who you are. It's not a question of more or less. It's a question of fulfilling the task. The vacuum of falling short cannot be filled.

At the beginning of Parshat Va'etchanan, after Moshe Rabeinu relates how he davened to Hashem to go into Eretz Yisrael the Torah says that Hashem responded to Moshe "Rav Lach - It is enough for you!"[6]

Chazal point out[7] that this was "Midah ke'neged midah" for the way Moshe responded to Korach and his followers in their rebellion - "Rav lachem b'nei Levi - you have taken too much upon yourselves, sons of Levi".

What was wrong with the expression that Moshe used and why was "Rav Lach - It is enough for you!" an appropriate punishment for it?
The answer is that "Rav Lach - It is enough for you!" is contrary to the ruach of Torah. It is true that not everyone can do everything and be anyone. Levi'im cannot be Kohanim and Yisraelim cannot be either, but "Rav Lach - It is enough for you" is not the way to respond. It's never enough, one must always strive to go higher and improve. Never water-down a person's aspirations by saying it's enough. Limitations must be defined and made clear, but the desire to move forward and fulfill oneself must remain unyielding.

In this weeks Parsha, Moshe Rabeinu, at the age of 120, after a life of fulfillment unmatched by any other human being[8], hasn't had enough. He wants more. He wants to take the ultimate step forward and go into Eretz Yisrael where his life of Avdut to Hashem will reach its peak. For Moshe anything less than the complete realization of his individual qualities and strengths given to him by Hashem would be insufficient.

This is where Hashem reminded Moshe of those two incidents where "Rav Lach - It is enough for you" showed up in his life before.

Korach was wrong, but just like you Moshe want the most possible and you don't want to be told "it's enough", it shouldn't be said to others either.

It is true that there is a big Kiddush Hashem in hitting a rock and causing water to flow out of it, but if you could have done more, it's not enough.

Next week on Rosh Hashana we will recite in davening in the moving U'Netane Tokef prayer:
"All mankind will pass before You like members of the flock. Like a shepherd pasturing his flock, making sheep pass under his staff, so shall You cause to pass, count, calculate, and consider the soul of all the living; and You shall apportion the fixed needs of all Your creatures and inscribe their verdict."

These words are based on the equally famous Mishna in Masechet Rosh Hashana which says:
"on the feast of new year, when all human beings pass like lambs before God's throne, in order to be judged"[9].

The Hebrew term in the Mishna for lambs is "kivnei maron" and the Gemara[10] gives three explanations for this term.
i. In Bavel they explained: "Kivnei imrana" - like lambs - lambs that are counted to be tithed, and are lead through a narrow gate so they can pass single file.[11]
ii. Reish Lakish explained: Like the ascent to Beit Mieron - the path was narrow and two people could not ascend side by side as the valley on both sides below was deep.[12]
iii. Rav Yehuda in the name of Shmuel explained: Like the soldiers in the army of David - that were counted one by one before going to war.[13]

Rav Wolbe points out[14] that these three explanations have a common theme - on Rosh Hashana one stands in front of Hashem in judgment alone, in complete solitude. It is as if one is alone in the world.

"Therefore the man was created singly, to teach that he who destroys one soul of a human being, the Torah considers him as if he should destroy a whole world, and him who saves one soul of Israel, the Torah considers him as if he should save a whole world. and also to proclaim the glory of the Holy One, blessed be He. For a human being stamps many coins with one stamp, and all of them are alike; but the King of the kings of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He, has stamped every man with the stamp of Adam the First, and nevertheless not one of them is like the other. Therefore every man may say: The world was created for my sake" [15]

Every person is an individual, a unique creation of Hashem. Rav Wolbe writes that if one contemplates this idea one should be deeply moved and even shaken. It means that out of all the people in the world there is not one person like me. Of all the people that have lived since Adam Harishon until me there was no-one like me either. Neither until the end of time will there be anyone like me; no one with the qualities, strengths, abilities inclinations like me. And therefore no one with the task like mine.

Every individual is special and everyone has a task and mission that is theirs, theirs alone. On Rosh Hashana we stand in front of Hashem in judgment as that individual giving account to Hashem and to ourselves as to whether or not we are striving towards fulfillment or we are living a life of Rav Lach - It is enough for you.

"The bare minimum - is the maximum possible!"

Shabbat Shalom U'ketiva Va'chatima Tova,

Avigdor -


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