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Dashed Hopes And The Jewish Leader


With the end of the march, Moshe, the optimist, despairs and proclaims he prefers death to not entering the land. This is highlighted by the story of Eldad and Meidad who prophesied that Moshe’s wish to see the land will never come true. Moshe will pass on and Joshua will bring the people to the land. Instead of the march bringing them closer to the land, it pushed them further from their goal and inverted the nun’s and Jewish history.

Hashem chose Moshe to be the spiritual leader and teacher of the people to make them into a holy nation. He was not selected as a political leader. With the episode of kivros hataavah, Moshe realized that in addition to his teacher role, he would now also have to be a nursing mother. The nursing mother is perhaps the best teacher of the child. Where the teacher’s role is limited, the nursing mother’s is expansive. The disciple does not become a part of the teacher. However, the nursing child becomes a part of the mother. She has one calling, to protect the baby. The mother does not belong to herself anymore, at least while the infant is incapable of caring for himself. Moshe discovered that a manhig Yisrael must be more than a teacher. The teacher has a life of his own, but he is now connected to all the people. He must feel their pain and joy. While Moshe reconciled with his role as teacher and leader, he doubted his ability to be a nursing mother. He says, “Did I conceive and bear all these people that I should carry them like a nursing mother carries an infant”?

With the episode of kivros hataavah, Moshe knew that he no longer had personal space or rights. He separated from his wife and children, brother and sister. He knew he could no longer share personal joy with them. The children of Moshe are never mentioned in any census recorded in the Torah. Had Moshe retained his own children, he would have been obligated to teach them before teaching others. As parent and teacher of all Klal Yisrael he could show no preference to his biological children. At Mattan Torah, Hashem told Moshe to instruct the people to return to their tents and their normal family lives. However, Moshe you must remain with me. Miriam asked, Does prophecy require rejecting spouse, children and siblings? We are also prophets, and live exemplary lives with our spouses and children. Why should Moshe be different? Hashem told Miriam, You don’t understand the uniqueness of Moshe. My servant is parent and teacher of all the people and his separation from his family is warranted and required by Hashem.

The unified story of the parsha is one of great potential cut short, and the evolution of the Jewish Leader must teach and remain resolute while accepting responsibility and showing patience, even for those that stray from Torah Judaism. May we fulfill our ultimate mission, the same mission Moshe embarked upon thousands of years ago with great anticipation, to return permanently to our land with the coming of Moshiach speedily in our days.

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 ravtorah1@gmail.com.

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