Commentary for Va’etchanan

3 Aug

This week’s parshah picks up where last week’s left off, in the middle of Moses recounting the history of the Israelites’ forty-year trek through the desert. Specifically, it starts when God has punished Moses, decreeing that he will not be allowed to enter the Promised Land.   Interestingly, Moses now lets the Israelites (and us) in on a conversation he had with God that they weren’t privy to before. Moses pleads with God to have his punishment revoked and to be allowed to enter the Promised Land and see all of the great wonders God has created there, but God does not relent, forbidding Moses from ever even bringing the matter up again (Deut 3:23-26).


In recounting this conversation, Moses describes God’s anger with him to the Israelites as being “on your account.” While this seems like Moses is blaming the Israelites for his actions- something which he does in a similar passage in Deut. 1:37- Hirsch notes that the word used here, “le’ma’anchem” has a much more positive connotation, and is usually translated as “for your sake.” Moses realizes that God is making an example out of him, and he wants to make sure that the Israelites realize this as well. If even Moses can be disinherited of his place in the Promised Land for not following God’s instructions, then it can certainly happen to any of them.   As the High Holidays start to creep closer, this is a message we should all be taking to heart. If Moses wasn’t perfect, then there is no reason for any of us to think that we don’t have areas we need to improve in.

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