“This is because both of you broke faith with me in the presence of the Israelites at the waters of Meribah Kadesh in the Desert of Zin and because you did not uphold my holiness among the Israelites.” — Deuteronomy 32:51
The Torah portion for this week is Ha’azinu, which means “listen,” from Deuteronomy 32:1–52, and the Haftorah is from 2 Samuel 22:1–51.
Everything we do has repercussions that we cannot possibly fathom. The Jewish sages teach that if we could comprehend just how powerful every choice we made really was, we would be too afraid to move out of our chairs. Thankfully, we are not expected to predict the future. We are, however, required to do the best that we can in the present.
At the end of this week’s reading, God told Moses to go up to Mount Nebo so that he could see Israel, although he would not be permitted to enter the land. God explained the reason why both Moses and his brother Aaron would not be allowed into the Promised Land as follows: “This is because both of you broke faith with me in the presence of the Israelites at the waters of Meribah Kadesh in the Desert of Zin and because you did not uphold my holiness among the Israelites.”
The sages comment that the verse seems redundant. The second half seems to say the same thing as the first half, just with different words. The verse is referring to the incident when Moses was supposed to speak to the rock to give forth waters, but he erred when he became angry with the people and hit the rock instead. Because of this breach against God’s instructions, Moses was not allowed into the Promised Land.
The sages teach that both parts of the verse teach us about what happens when we sin. The first part of the verse refers to the damage done, “you broke faith with me . . .” The second part of the verse indicates the missed opportunities, “you did not uphold my holiness among the Israelites.” These are the two aspects that we need to consider in all our actions: what are we doing wrong and what opportunities are we missing to do something amazing.
Imagine that someone is incredibly rude and unfair to you. You lose control and lash out at the person with harsh words. The first mistake is that we did something wrong – we spoke unkindly. Maybe that led this person to fall into further depression, or take his or her exacerbated anger out on someone else later in the day.
The second mistake is that we missed the opportunity to encourage that person. Instead of striking back, we could have changed that person’s whole day with words of kindness. That person might have been inspired to help someone else out during the day, and so on.
As we begin our day, let’s think doubly about the repercussions of our choices. It’s not enough to fear doing wrong; we must also be inspired by what we can do right.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President