20 July 2017

Parshas Maatos–Maasei . . . ON THE PLAINS OF MOAV

By Roy S. Neuberger

As I have mentioned on previous occasions, my favorite road in the world is the “Tishim,” Route 90, which runs the entire length of Israel, some 300 miles from Eilat in the south to Metulla in the north. From the Tishim today, just east of Yericho, one can look across the YardenRiver to Arvei Moav, the Plains of Moav. With my mind’s eye, I see Moshe Rabbeinu and Bnai Yisroel encamped there, about to cross over into the Promised Land. 

view of plains of Moav

This Shabbos we conclude Sefer Bamidbar with the words, “These are the commandments and the ordinances that Hashem commanded through Moshe to the Children of Israel in the Plains of Moav at the Yarden by Yericho. (Bamidbar 36:13) 

“Chazak! Chazak! V’nis’chazaik!”  This is history! This is reality! This is today!

Yes, my friends: “ma’ase avos siman l’bonim.” It is about to happen again. With Hashem’s blessing, we have survived millennia in the Midbar of history. Now, once again, the Nation is poised, about to cross over into the Promised Land, but this time it will be forever, everything according to the Word of Hashem, Who desires to “prolong [our] days … upon the Land … like the days of the heaven over the earth.” (Dvarim 11:21)

I know it seems impossible, but it also seemed impossible then. “[The prophets told you that by remaining faithful you would] withhold your foot from [exile] and your throat from thirst, but you said, ‘I do not care!’” (This week’s Haftara;Yirmiah 2:25) Coming off the many rebellions related in Sefer Bamidbar, how can we expect that Hashem will have rachmonis and allow us to enter the Holy Land in unity and strength, filled with kedusha?

Yet we knew then and we know now that Hashem will never forsake us. We know now because – through the lens of history – we see an amazing fact: we still exist! Despite all our faults and rebellions, Am Yisroel still exists as the People of the Torah! We still exist as that distinct nation which survives only through the ceaseless miracles by which Hashem preserves us amidst universal hostility which would have destroyed any other nation countless times over. 

On a recent Shabbos, I was crossing a large road on my way to shul. A passing motorist starting honking at me and other Jews along the roadway. It was clear that he would have loved to stop and assault all of us, chas v’Shalom. Do you know what I thought to myself? It was the Shabbos of Parshas Balak, and I thought to say to him: “My hateful friend, it will do you no good! All your hatred cannot touch us! Yes, there have been terrible afflictions throughout the ages, but you cannot destroy Am Yisroel! If Bilaam could not destroy us, if we are still here after every pogrom since the beginning of history, then your hatred cannot touch us! Hashem will never relinquish His promise to bring Am Yisroel home at the end of history!”

My friends, Arvei Moav are next to Yam Hamelach, the lowest point on earth. Do you know what that means? We rise from the lowest to the highest! In Biblical times we marched from mem-tes sha’are tumah to Har Sinai, and in our own times we will march from the depths of Golus to Har Habayis

This week we initiate Chodesh Av. “Av” means “father.” In the midst of all our nisyonos, we have to remember that Hashem is our loving Father, Who wants nothing more than to rejoice with His Children at the Rebuilt Yerushalaim! Yes, He is Malkeinu, but He is also Avinu!

There is a certain project I have been working on for years. It has been extremely difficult. Getting my books published was difficult, but nothing like this! After years of effort, I am still not there. So I say to myself, “Now I understand why it took the Children of Israel forty years to cross a Midbar that is literally a ten-day journey!” What the Torah describes is not hyperbole; it is reality! We read about every stop in this week’s Parsha! This is life! A “ten-day” journey takes forty years. But we get there! 

One of the six brachos we say in every Shemoneh Esreh, whether it is Shabbos or Yom Tov or a weekday, is “Retzai,” regarding the restoration of the Avoda in the Bais Hamikdosh. On Shabbos we do not make specific requests, so why do we say this bracha? Rav Shimon Schwab zt”l supplies the answer: “The meaning of ‘Retzai’ is completely different than that of the brachos we offered up to this point in the (weekday) Shemoneh Esreh. In Retzai, we ask nothing for ourselves. Rather we ask that through the return of the avodah … the purpose of Creation shall be realized when the Shechina will permeate the world and Malchus Shomayim shall be recognized by all of mankind.” (Rav Schwab on Prayer)

“We ask nothing for ourselves.” My friends, when we desire the rebuilt Bais Hamikdosh we are asking for Hashem’s “return from Golus,” and of course we will accompany Him. “Not for our sake, Hashem, not for our sake but for Your Name’s sake give glory!” (Tehillim 115)

Do you think Golus will last? Do you think the current culture has a future? The world we see around us today is as fleeting as the weekdays seem when we sing “L’cha Dodi.” 

“All those who mourn for Yerushalayim will see her joy” (Taanis 30b) We are about to see the return of the Shechina to Yerushalayim. Today’s world is transient, but Yerushalayim is eternal! “V’sechezena …. May our eyes behold Your return to Tzion in compassion. Blessed are You, Hashem, Who restores His Shechina to Tzion!”

“May You raise up those who stand by You forever!” (Selichos, Seventeenth of Tammuz)


View eastward toward the Plains of Moav from a vantage point slightly to the south of Yericho. In the foreground is the northern tip of Yam Hamelach.

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Roy Neuberger, author and public speaker, can be reached at roy@2020vision.co.il.

© Copyright 2017 by Roy S. Neuberger

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