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Friday, 4 August, 2017 - 2:00 pm

A young lawyer, starting up his private practice, was very anxious to impress potential clients.

When he saw the first visitor to his office come through the door, he immediately picked up his phone and spoke into it, making belief he was actually talking to someone. "I'm sorry, but my caseload is so tremendous that I'm not going to be able to look into your problem for at least a month.

I'll have to get back to you then." He then turned to the man who had just walked in, and said, "Now, what can I do for you? 

Make sure to do this fast, as I am in a mad rush, as you can see from the endless telephone calls of clients."

"Nothing," replied the man. "I'm here to hook up your phone.”

In the beginning of this week’s Torah portion, Va’etchanan, Moses beseeched G-d to allow him to enter the Holy Land. “Please let me cross and see the good land that is on the other side of the Jordan, the Good Mountain and Lebanon.”

But G-d refused: “G-d said to me, ‘This is too much for you! Do not continue to speak to Me further about this.’” Instead, G-d told Moses, “‘Ascend to the top of the cliff and raise your eyes westward, northward, southward, and eastward, and see with your eyes, for you shall not cross this Jordan.’”

The Talmud picks up on G-d’s expression to Moses, “This is too much for you.” What is the message of these words?

The Midrash focuses our attention on the intriguing fact that Moses himself used these same words—“This is too much for you”—about 40 years earlier, during Korach's mutiny against Moses and Aaron.

At that time, Korach, a Levite, led 250 leaders of the community in a rebellion against Moses and Aaron. The men protested the hierarchy in the Israelite community. “The entire congregation is holy,” they said. “Why do you exalt yourselves over the congregation of G-d?!”

Aaron served as the high priest, the holiest position within the Jewish people. Korach and his colleagues were Levites and Israelites who did not possess Aaron's level of sanctity and thus could not perform the same services in the Tabernacle. In effect, Korach and his men were demanding that they, too, be granted the status of spiritual princes, and be able to perform the holiest divine services in the Temple.

Moses responded that  G-d conferred upon Aaron these responsibilities—not Moses. Moses continued with the fateful words: “Too much for you, sons of Levi!” Moses was saying that they should be satisfied with what they had, and not ask for more.

The Talmud explains that since Moses employed this expression when speaking to his adversaries, G-d employed these same words when denying him entry to the Holy Land. The Talmud expounds: “With the stick that Moses struck them, he too was struck.”

This is difficult to understand. It would seem from this Talmudic commentary that Moses committed an offense when he used these words against Korach, and as a result, G-d reciprocated this to Moses when he was pleading to enter Israel. Yet the Torah’s account clarifies that Moses’ rebuke was absolutely just. G-d Himself punished them severely.

Perhaps this Talmudic teaching should be understood in a completely different way. Moses was communicating a positive message to Korach, a “Besurah Tovah,” a good tiding; and in return, G-d was communicating a deeply positive message to Moses as well. G-d was not punishing Moses; He was reiterating a beautiful and uplifting statement, reciprocating the inspiring message Moses communicated 4 decades earlier to Korach.

One of the profound causes of human agony stems from people trying to be what they are not, and who they are not, and then becoming disappointed at their lack of success in being untrue to themselves.

Every person is unique; every person’s mission is unique. Reb Zusha said, “I am not fearful of Heaven asking me, Why were you not like Moses or Abraham? For such a question I have a good answer: I am no Moses; I am no Abraham. I fear a different question from Heaven: Why were you not Zusha? For that, I won’t have a satisfactory answer.”

When I strive to be something that is beyond my reality, there are problems: Firstly, if I am trying to be you, who will be me? By trying to be someone else, my unique contribution is lost to the world. Secondly, I become a dishonest person, as I am trying to live a life which is not me.

This is what Moses was telling Korach, “Rav Lachem,” it is enough for you to be who you are. This was not rebuke. It was inspiring news, empowering news. You need not be someone else to be good, to be worthy, to fulfill your mission in life and your Divine mandate. You can be yourself.

40 years later, Moses craved to enter the Holy Land. He felt that this was the culmination of his entire life's mission. Without it, it was all a waste.

Moses was a leader, a liberator, a lawgiver, the man who led slaves to freedom and turned a fractious collection of individuals into a nation, and so transformed them that they became the people of eternity. At last, he craved to complete his mission by entering into the Holy Land.

But G-d refuses to “budge.”

He told Moses, You had enough. Do not denigrate yourself and your life’s work. Do not view your life as a failure, just because you did not enter the Promised Land. You brought your people to its border, you managed to see the Promised Land. It is enough. Not everyone is destined to enter. Some fulfill their mission by bringing the people until the land, by seeing the Land, and pointing the way. 

This is good news, not bad news. The way you are, is perfect. There is no need for pressure that is unrealistic and un-G-dly. Make peace with your innermost identity. Learn how to tell yourself, in the words of Moses and G-d, “Rav Lach.” This is my life and I am doing the best I can. These are my challenges and I am doing the best I can.

To be what you were born to be and to explore your full potential each day is life’s goal.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Yoseph Geisinsky


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