God: Man’s Best Friend by Leiby Deutsch


This week's Parashah begins with Moshe Rabbeinu's reminiscing on his famous request to Hashem to grant him entry into Eretz Yisrael. He concludes his narration by saying that he was standing in a valley facing Pe'or. Pe'or was the place where Bnei Yisrael committed one of their greatest national sins when they slept with the Midyanite women. Why is Moshe bringing up Pe’or now? Why would the Moshe remind the people of yet another failure of theirs? Moshe was already disappointed due to Hashem’s refusal to accept his request; why would he add to his disappointment by mentioning one of the lowest moments he had as a leader of Bnei Yisrael.

The Kozhnizter Maggid explains, in his famous work, the Avodat Yisrael, that the mentioning of Pe'or was, surprisingly, actually meant to serve as comfort to Moshe Rabbeinu. The text of the Pasuk reads, "VaNeishev BaGai Mul Beit Pe'or," "and we were sitting in a valley, facing Pe'or” (Devarim 3:29). The Maggid explains that the "we" may not have been between Moshe and Bnei Yisrael, but rather between Moshe and Hashem. The Maggid points out that the letters in the word “BeGai”—Bet, Gimmel, Yud and Aleph-- can be rearranged to become the first four letters of the first of the six letter abbreviation in the famous Kabbalistic prayer, Ana BeKoach. In the first line of this prayer, we ask Hashem to untie us from our sins so that we will be able to come closer to Him. The Maggid further develops this idea by explaining that the word VaNeishev—which contains the letters Nun, Shin and Bet—stands for “Nun Sha’arei Binah,” the fifty levels of purity and understanding that allows one to come closer to God. Hashem provided this piece of information to try to comfort Moshe. Hashem was trying to say that while Moshe was always going to remain in Chutz LaAretz, it will be there that Moshe will have the most intimate of understanding and relationship with Hashem.

Despite our heightened understanding of Moshe's new circumstance, many issues nevertheless arise. It seems that if Hashem really wanted to have such an intimate relationship with Moshe, why would he not allow Moshe entry into the place where His Shechinah, presence, is most prominent? On the one hand, Hashem wants to bring Moshe closer to Him, but on the other hand, He seems to be pushing him away! Furthermore, Moshe’s crime doesn’t seem to fit the harsh punishment that Hashem exacted upon him; how can Bnei Yisrael still believe Hashem’s promise that He will repay them for thousands of generations for keeping his Mitzvot (Exodus 34:7) when Moshe Rabbeinu, their teacher, their leader and the greatest man they will ever know, was banished by Hashem to an eternity of heartache and disappointment? Lastly, based on this, we must ask what Moshe's motivation was for telling Bnei Yisrael to keep believing in Hashem’s system of reward and punishment, and what was Bnei Yisrael’s reason for still listening to Moshe?

In order to answer these questions, we must further explore the discussion between Moshe and Hashem. The Maharil quotes the Zohar (Pinchas 227:1) to explain a Gemara (Pesachim 50a) that describes Moshe's conversation with Hashem. The Gemara states that in this world, Hashem's name (YKVK) is pronounced differently than the way it appears in written form. In the World to Come, though, Hashem’s name will be pronounced and written the same way. The Zohar explains that the oral version of Hashem's name, coming from the word Adon, master, is intended to manifest His Middah of judgement and rulership; the oral form of His name is said in Olam HaZeh, where the goodness of Hashem can be hidden to us. However, when YKVK is pronounced as it is written, as it is in Olam HaBa, it is representative of the goodness which is clear and apparent to us. The Torah ambiguously states that Moshe prayed to, “YKVK BaEit HaHi Leimor,” “Hashem in that time” (Devarim 4:23); what time was “that time”? It was the time, the Maharil explains, when YKVK would be pronounced the way it is written, when there will be no duplicity and when all good will be revealed for all to see. Moshe Rabbeinu thought that in order for Hashem’s greatness to be totally clear, the first step had to be to travel to Eretz Yisrael. In the end, though, Hashem rejected Moshe’s request. Hashem informs Moshe that, effectively, YKVK has to be pronounced differently than it is written; Hashem’s Middat HaDin took precedence and Moshe stayed exactly where he was. Almost intuitively, many of us ask what kind of God is this? Is this a God that humankind even wants to serve? At first, the idea of Hashem’s prevailing judgement controlling the day seems frightening. However, there could be a monumental significance to this: the use of judgement is reliant upon the recognition that the world can still function even when people are not perfect. Moshe Rabbeinu had a huge failure in his life, the story of Mei Merivah, the story which the Torah says that Moshe desecrated Hashem’s name. Even after the greatest setback of Moshe’s life, Hashem still comes and listens to Moshe. After everything they go through, Hashem is still there for him. Hashem tells Moshe when he tries Davening to change his fate: Moshe, why do you think you need an environment like Eretz Yisrael to have a relationship with Me? Hashem is trying to tell Moshe that regardless of where Moshe is and the sins he has done, it is possible to have a relationship with Him. Moshe was trying to communicate to the Jewish people that Hashem does not push people away. Granted, Hashem might not answer us as we would like. However, Hashem recognizes that we are not perfect and we must recognize, in return, that Hashem doesn’t have to grant us our every request. Everyone has their flaws, but no matter what, Hashem has the desire to be with us. How could Moshe have said with certainty (4: 29), “UBikashtem Misham Et Hashem Elockecha UMatzatah, Ki Tidreshenu BeChol Levavecha UVechol Nafshecha,” ”And you will request for Hashem your God and you will find him, since you will search for him with all of your heart and all of your soul?” The answer is because Hashem will not leave us in the first place. Hashem is always going to be there to say, “Nachamu Nachamu Ami” before we even have to ask for comfort. No matter what, Hashem will always wants a relationship with us, but the question is do we want to have one with Him?

Jewish Pride by Zach Greenberg

Why the Code? by Avi Finkelstein