The story continues with the cloud guiding their journey. They were organized according to tribes and groups. To facilitate communication, the command for trumpets and an associated code was given. One feels a mood of expectancy and tension reading the parsha. Finally, the promise to Abraham is about to be fulfilled. Moshe was excited and anticipated great things. This was to be the final journey. His conversation with Yisro portrays peace of mind and a feeling of inevitability. Moshe says ‘We, including myself, are traveling to the promised land’. Moshe extended this invitation not only to Yisro, but to all converts, in all generations, and to the entire non-Jewish world to join them on their march. There was only one condition, whoever accompanies us must convert according to Jewish law and subject himself to the same divine discipline that we have accepted. The Torah and Eretz Yisrael were given to us but we were told to share it with the world. Kol shochnei eretz v’yoshvei teivel, all people are invited to join. Had that march been realized, Moshe would have been the Messiah and we never would have been exiled. Unfortunately the march ended abruptly and the distance in time to realizing its completion became much longer, extending to the present day.
At this point, Moshe had no doubt that he would enter the Promised Land. The march and conquest would be complete in a matter of days. There was no need for spies or other military tactics. The Ark and the people traveled 3 days distance in a single day because Hashem desired to bring them into Eretz Yisrael as quickly as possible. We now see that the section of Vayehi B’nsoa is in its proper place. Moshe spoke of the 31 Canaanite kings and nations as the enemies of Hashem and the Jewish People that were about to be confronted, dispersed and conquered. Had the march come to fruition, there would have been no need for the inverted nun’s.
Suddenly, something unexpected happened. The great march came to an abrupt halt. The multitudes among them experienced a desire for meat and wept. This lust aroused the wrath of Hashem and the resentment of Moshe. For the first time, Moshe does not act as defense attorney. This incident was different than the sin of the Golden Calf. That was caused when a newly freed people experienced a primitive fright when they thought Moshe died, resulting in a terror-induced panic causing them to act out through the medium of the golden calf as an idol. There were mitigating circumstances in that case and Moshe rose to defend them and argued courageously on their behalf.
Kivros hataavah represented a pagan influence. Paganism combines an idolatrous as well as a hedonistic life style. Paganism can survive without the former, but not the latter. Where Judaism demands that the individual limit himself and withdraw from his lust and desire, paganism demands unlimited lust, to fill an insatiable desire. The demonic dream of total conquest attracts the pagan. When man reaches for the unreachable and enigmatic, he emulates the pagan way of life abhorred by Hashem, like idolatry itself. Hashem commanded the people to gather the Slav. The Torah describes in great detail the lack of control the people showed in gathering the Slav. They emulated the pagan. Contrast that with the Judaic approach to the Manna, where they collected only what they needed.
People who cannot limit hedonistic desires are not worthy to enter the land. The great march came to an abrupt and tragic end. Vayehi b’nsoa was dislocated, represented by inverted nun’s. Though there was no edict of 40 years yet, Moshe realized his hope to enter the land would never be realized. (The Rav related a similar experience of his own. Throughout his wife’s illness, he had hope and faith that she would recover. On the Yom Kippur before she passed away, he held a Sefer Torah at Kol Nidrei and subsequently handed the scroll to a student to return it to the Aron Kodesh. The scroll slipped inside the Aron (it did not fall). At that point, he realized that his hope for her recovery would not be realized.)
About the Author: Rabbi Joshua Rapps attended the Rav's shiur at RIETS from 1977 through 1981 and is a musmach of Yeshivas Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchanan. He and his wife Tzipporah live in Edison, N.J. Rabbi Rapps can be contacted at email@example.com.
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