web analytics
March 27, 2015 / 7 Nisan, 5775
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post


Home » Judaism » Torah »

A History of National Responsibility

Crossing the Jordan River

Photo Credit: Ori Shifrin / IDF Spokesperson's Unit

The Book of Devarim opens with: “These are the words which Moses spoke unto all Israel beyond the Jordan; in the wilderness, in the Arabah, over against Suph, between Paran and Tophel, and Laban, and Hazeroth, and Di-zahab.” Many of the nine places don’t seem to exist and if they did it seems extremely unlikely that Moshe would be speaking in all of them at once.
Perhaps we can understand by looking at these words not as place names, but as attributes. Borrowing the roots of the words, we can read: “These are the words which Moses spoke unto all Israel across the Jordan, in the desert, in the place towards the crossing, at the mila (circumcision) of the end, between the distinguished and the lacking in effort, pure, with open space and enough gold.” In other words, Moshe is speaking to a people who are across the Jordan, in the desert, about to cross into the land and thus complete the end of their journey like brit mila (‘circumcision’) completes the creation of life. It is like the creation of the nation is completed by the people just as the creation of a Jewish boy is completed by the mankind. And the people he’s speaking to are all pure, have open space and have enough gold.
The people are blessed and they are on the edge of history. The only variation among them is between those who lack effort and those who, because they do not lack effort, are distinguished.
Moshe’s speech would seem to be aimed at addressing this particular shortcoming.
The first part of the speech, this portion, delivers its lesson through a history of the growth of our national responsibility. It starts with recounting of the people choosing their judges. This act was required because the people needed to carry some of their own burden. This initial act of responsibility moved the people one step past slavery. It was followed immediately by the giving of the Torah.
Moshe continues with the story of the spies. In this version, the people are in their tents claiming Hashem hates them. This claim leads to devastation. But this act isn’t in the original telling. Here, it illustrates the importance of not blaming others for our shortcomings.
The history continues with a mystery. Moshe describes us circling the mountain of Seir until Hashem commands us to go through Edom. But Edom contains the mountain of Seir. If we were circling it, why did we need to go through it? As a literal word, seir is used to reference barley or hairiness or even goats. It implies something low and very physical. Seir is not our inheritance. But, in order to take our birthright, we must move from Kadesh (holiness) to a mountain of physicality. We must move from restful holiness to national action. We can see this necessary transition even in the modern nation of Israel.
This is followed by a history of lands and their assignment by Hashem. This gives us national context. We must fit into the divine plan.
In the sixth and seventh readings, we have a celebration of our national growth. Sihon, is described as having his heart hardened and is thus directly compared to Pharoah. But where Hashem crushes Pharoah and we are merely observers, here we take action upon the command of Hashem. And then our conquests continue and we begin to earn our lands.
But then parsha ends on an unusual note. In the Book of Bamidbar, the two and a half tribes ask to live across the Jordan. In accepting their request, Moshe doesn’t even consult Hashem.
Here, Hashem seems to gift them their lands without any request. In fact, it seems to be part of the original design.
By force of their vow, the two and a half tribes seem to have created a divine edict.
I can’t help but compare their action to Hashem’s request of Avraham. Hashem said to Avraham, “Walk before me and be tamim (‘perfect or unblemished’).”
On the cusp of entering the land, all tremendous national failures, that command seems to hold.
The two and a half tribes can walk in front of Hashem. They can take responsibility for our choices and seemingly change the plans of Hashem.
They can redefine the future.
And we can too. But when we do so, we must not forget the second part of Hashem’s statement to Avraham.
Unlike the two and a half tribes, when we walk in front of G-d, we must be perfect in our motivation.
There is a national progression in responsibility. We go from carrying our own burden, to not blaming others for our shortcomings, to taking national action, to remembering our place in Hashem’s plan and to fighting for ourselves. After all of that, we can walk in front of Hashem, but we must be unblemished in doing so.
This progression marks the steps necessary to becoming a nation. These are the initial steps in learning to become nationally distinguished, rather than being undermined by a lack of effort.
These steps apply as much today as they did when Moshe delivered them.
Indeed, they seem to describe the birth of our modern nation.

About the Author: Joseph Cox is the host of CreateConnectProtect.com, a podcast dedicated to the universal messages of the Written Torah and their application to modern policy.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “A History of National Responsibility”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
Netanyahu to Release Frozen Palestinian Authority Tax Revenue
Latest Judaism Stories
Bodenheim-032715

Our ability to teach is only successful if done by example.

Torat-Hakehillah-logo-NEW

Outside of the High Holidays, Pesach is probably the most celebrated biblical holiday for the majority of Jews.

Business-Halacha-logo

“If I notify people, nobody will buy the matzos!” exclaimed Mr. Mandel. “Once the halachic advisory panel ruled leniently, why can’t I sell the matzos regularly?”

The-Shmuz

So what type of praise is it that Aaron followed orders?

Her Children, Her Whim
‘Kesubas Bnin Dichrin’
(Kesubos 52b)

Question: Must one spend great sums of money and invest much effort in making one’s home kosher for Passover? Not all of us have such unlimited funds.

Name Withheld
(Via E-Mail)

Yachatz is not mentioned in the Gemara. What is the foundation for yachatz?

First, the punishment for eating chametz on Pesach is karet, premature death at the Hand of God.

Why is it necessary to invite people to eat from the korban Pesach?

How was I going to get to Manhattan? No cabs were going, we didn’t have a car, and many people who did have cars had no gas.

Did you ever notice that immediately upon being granted our freedom from Egypt, the Jewish people accepted upon themselves the yoke of a new master – Hashem?

Why does Torah make the priests go through a long and seemingly bizarre induction ceremony?

Often people in important positions separate from everyday people & tasks-NOT the Kohen Gadol

You smuggled tefillin into the camp? How can they help? Every day men risked their lives to use them

Rambam: Eating blood’s forbidden because connected to idolatry;Ramban: We’re affected by what we eat

Rambam warns that a festival meal without taking care of the needy isn’t fulfilling simchat yom tov

More Articles from Joseph Cox
syria_iran_map

To defeat parasites-the hosts of terrorists-we need to deny them new people, potential terrorists

"AYMAN, the Advice Imam"

And now for MORE Muslim musings-Go Ask Ayman-

But a rally has no effect on the terrorists themselves. In truth, it validates what they have done.

There is nothing totalitarians like less than mockery.

A new advice column from Ayman, the advice Imam ( Remember the value of “free, fictional” advice)

We do not have Israel simply to dwell in but to fulfill our national purpose, or risk destruction

Slavery was universal; So, why was Egypt targeted in this object lesson?

If the UN Grants national recognition to Palestine, why stop there? Tibet, Chechnya, Basque…

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/torah/a-history-of-national-responsibility/2014/07/31/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: