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Weekly Drash - Devarim

Compliments of First Fruits of Zion
reprinted by permission of FFOZ

Devarim - דברים : "Words"
Torah : Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22
Haftarah : Isaiah 1:1-27
Gospel : Acts 1-2 


The Necessary Death of Moses


Thought for the Week:

On the ninth day of the fifth biblical month, it is traditional to fast in memory of the destruction of the Temple. The Temple was destroyed on the ninth day of the fifth month in 586 BCE and again in 70 CE. According to Jewish tradition, the ninth day of the fifth month is also the anniversary of the day on which the spies delivered their evil report about the land of Israel and swayed the hearts of the generation. But according to the prophets, when the Kingdom of Messiah is established, the ninth day of the fifth month will be transformed into a day of joy and gladness. (Zechariah 8:19)



Then the LORD heard the sound of your words, and He was angry and took an oath, saying, “Not one of these men, this evil generation, shall see the good land which I swore to give your fathers, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh; he shall see it, and to him and to his sons I will give the land on which he has set foot, because he has followed the LORD fully.” (Deuteronomy 1:33–40)

After the incident with the spies, the LORD swore on oath that none of the generation (above the age of 20) except Caleb and Joshua would enter the land. For Moses, Aaron and Miriam, this was a bitter pill to swallow. Although they were not among those who had spoken against the land and against the LORD, nonetheless, they were included in the judgment that befell the generation. The word spoken against Israel was also spoken against them. Moses said, “The LORD was angry with me also on your account, saying, ‘Not even you shall enter there.’” (Deuteronomy 1:37)

Ordinarily, we attribute Moses’ and Aaron’s punishment with the sin of striking the rock at Meribah (Numbers 20). The incident with the spies, however, predates the sin of Moses and Aaron at the waters of Meribah by 38 years. Thirty-eight years before the crime of striking the rock was committed, their sentence was passed. A generation before they committed the sin, their punishment was announced. Perhaps the punishment was as much a justification for the sentence that they were already under as it was a punishment for striking the rock.

Such is the fate of the righteous. Though they do not share in the sin of their generation, they often share in its punishment. The destiny of Moses was sealed with that of the people he led.

This explains why it was necessary for Miriam, Aaron and Moses to die before Israel could enter the land. In fact, the Sages recognize that Moses’ death was a prerequisite for entering the land. How ironic that the final fulfillment of the covenant promise depended upon the death of Israel’s redeemer. Yet until Moses died, Israel could not enter the land. God had sworn on oath that “Not one of these men, this evil generation, shall see the good land which I swore to give your fathers.” (1:35) That included Moses, the redeemer of Israel.

The Messianic parallel is captivating. Like Moses, Messiah died for the sin of Israel. Though He did not participate in their sin, His death was a necessary prerequisite for their great deliverance.


Shavuah Tov!  Have a Good Week!

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