The opening Pesukim of Parashat VaEtchanan describe how Moshe Rabbeinu begged Hashem to reverse His decision to not allow Moshe into Israel. Why now? With the help of Hashem, Moshe and Bnei Yisrael had just beaten Sichon Melech HaEmori and Og Melech HaBashan in battle, and he had hoped that because of this, Hashem would deem him worthy enough to enter Israel. Moshe says to Hashem (Devarim 3:25), “Ebrah Na VeEreh Et HaAretz HaTovah Asher BeEiver HaYardein HaHar HaTov HaZeh VeHaLevanon,” “Let me go over, I beseech you, and see the good land that is on the other side of the Jordan, this good mountain and the Lebanon.” Chazal teach us that Moshe Davened 512 times for Hashem to let him enter the land with Bnei Yisrael. Moshe was even willing to relinquish his leadership position in order to enter the land. In the next Pasuk, Hashem tells Moshe to stop his Tefillot because His decision is final. Hashem responds to Moshe’s plea by telling him (Devarim 3:26), “Rav Lach Al Tosef Dabeir Eilai Od BaDavar HaZeh,” “Let it be enough for you, do not speak of this matter to me again.”
Chazal teach us that at this point, Moshe realizes that Hashem will not rescind his decision and he will never have the opportunity to enter Eretz Yisrael. Moshe finally concedes, asking for one final thing from Hashem: “If I must die outside of the Land, let me at least be buried in the Land. Let my bones be carried into the Land, just as I carried the Ark carrying the bones of Yosef through the Midbar to be buried in Eretz Yisrael.” This seems like a reasonable request. Regardless, Hashem’s decision to not allow Moshe to enter was decided and would not be reneged. Hashem’s formal response to Moshe was, “He who admitted and acknowledged His land, will be buried in the land. He who failed to acknowledge His land, will not be buried in the land.” This response is somewhat of an enigma. What does it mean that Moshe did not admit and acknowledge the Land? He spent his life trying to bring Bnei Yisrael into Eretz Yisrael!
The Midrash explains how Yosef was different than Moshe in this regard. When Yosef was in prison in Egypt and thereafter, he did not hide the fact that he came from the land of the Hebrews. Yosef on numerous occasions had been called an “Ivri” by the Egyptians. Yosef would answer proudly and always mention Hashem’s name to emphasize the fact that he was proud to be a Jew. As a result of his constant faith and unwavering devotion to Hashem, as well as his glowing pride in being Jewish, he merited to be buried in Israel. In the beginning of Shemot, however, after Moshe saves the daughters of Yitro from the marauding shepherds, the exact opposite occured. While describing to their father what had happened, the daughters of Yitro stated, “Ish Mitzri Hitzilanu MiYad HaRo’im,” “An Egyptian man saved us from the shepherds” (Shemot 2:19). Moshe, upon hearing this description of himself, did not object, and instead consented to his identification as a Mitzri—an Egyptian. As a result, he did not merit burial in Eretz Yisrael.
This Midrash provides a valuable lesson to us as Jews living in a secular society. Unfortunately, in today’s society, some feel that being Jewish is a burden—even something to be ashamed of. On the contrary, we must be proud of our religion, and wear it as a badge of honor. Hashem calls us a “Segulah MiKol HaAmim,” “Treasured people, from among all other peoples” (Devarim 14:2)—a treasure out of all the nations. We must always remember that we represent Hashem. We must always be careful to make a Kiddush Hashem. We should show off, loud and proud, that we are Am Yisrael.