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Parshas Devarim/Chazone - Who's in Control 2 Av 5783

08/11/2023 08:24:40 AM


From the moment we wake up until the second we fall asleep, a person feels, truly believes, that he is making the decisions of the day. Upon waking up I scan through my daily planner/calendar to check what is on the schedule for the day. This is particularly necessary on a day when I am traveling. I calculate the time necessary to pack, get to the airport, etc. As I wrote in the previous article, life does require some planning; we cannot live life doing something major such as booking an airline ticket at the gate. A person can try to buy a ticket at the gate, but it might be prohibitive. A second challenge to consider regarding air traffic today is that you may not even have a seat left to buy. In today’s day and age, the earlier a person reserves or purchases something, the lower the price will be.  This applies to  renting a car, making a hotel reservation or booking a plane ticket. Prices are driven by availability; the prices go up as the time gets closer to the date of departure.  

My latest trip was carefully planned out: a three-city travel flying from here to Eretz Yisrael, then to New Jersey and back to San Diego. I rented a car in Israel and while there I canceled my original car reservation as the prices had dropped.  In booking a car rental, you do not need to pay up front. The process is straightforward: when you pick up the vehicle the rental begins. To incentivize customers, rental companies will offer a lower price if you pay up front, including paying a cancelation fee if done before the time of the reservation. I never took that enticing offer, knowing full well that I can’t predict what will happen between “now and then” being so far off in the future - up until this last trip. I booked the car we’d be picking up in Newark on Friday while still in Israel, knowing we were leaving and arriving in Newark on Sunday.  At the time it seemed to be a no brainer. The plane took off on time, smooth sailing through the skies, and I felt that I beat the system and made the right bet. And then,  about a half hour prior to landing, the captain announced that Newark Airport was closed, and we would be landing in Boston, not knowing whether we would get to Newark or stay in Boston. Well, there went my cheaper car rental as I might lose the entire amount because we landed after my rental time had begun. We panicked and made another car reservation, planning now to drive from Boston to Newark and pick up the original car.  However, to make a long story short, we were able to refuel and continued on to Newark, remarkably  still able to pick up the original pre-paid car. I will skip (at least for this article) the backend of the trip and seeing the hand of God once again while still believing that I am calling the shots. But that wasn’t without a lot of Agmas Nefesh - loosely translated as stress! The experience clearly put Hashem back into the forefront of my thinking about just who is really in control. This situation is not an anomaly for me nor for the Jewish people. In fact, the Torah is replete with sagas describing when we lacked faith and thought we were in charge, failing to recognize that Hashem was pulling the strings all along.

In this week’s Parshas Devarim, the Torah states in Devarim 1: 2-3: "אחד עשר יום מחרב דרך הר שעיר עד קדש ברנע. ויהי בארבעים שנה בעשתי-עשר חדש באחד לחדש, דבר משה אל בני ישראל ככל אשר צוה ה' אתו אלהם"  “[This is in the area] which is an eleven-day journey from Choreiv* to Kadesh Barnea by way of the Seir highlands. “On the first day of the eleventh month in the fortieth year, Moshe [also] spoke to the Israelites regarding all that God had commanded that he tell them”. Rashi immediately points out in very harsh terms the timing of their travels. Moshe said to them: “See what you have caused. You have no shorter way from Choreiv to Kadesh Barnea than by way of Mount Seir, and even that is a journey of eleven days. Nevertheless, you traversed it in three days.” Rashi calculates the days based upon the story line. Rashi continues, ”Consequently, in three days they traveled that entire way. And this much did the Divine Presence trouble itself for your sake, to hasten your coming into the land. And because you acted corruptly, He caused you to make a circuit round about Mount Seir which took forty years.”

Moshe Rabbeinu is clearly stating the reasons why this debacle occurred. Moshe did not simply outright explain what the sins were that the Jewish people had violated. Rather, he hinted at the rebellions and anarchy just by mentioning the places where these offenses  took place. Moshe did not provide details of places and the distance in time between one location and another.  He did not use  MapQuest or Waze. The Tochacha/ the rebuke Moshe provides focuses on the reason the journey, which should have taken only a few days was extended to a period of forty years, is due to the sins they committed in those specific places. The lesson, and hidden message, is clear: when we sin, we lose our way and literally go off the derech. Sinning and rebelling against the Hashem will cause us to lose our way. If we avoid sinning, we will keep on the straight path and reach our destination faster than expected. A sin could be viewed as a distraction; when we get distracted from the task on hand, we get lost, drifting further and further from accomplishing what we set out to do. Keeping focused will lead to finishing the task sooner than expected and probably in a more effective manner.

The Kli Yakar writes that the eleven days mentioned in the verse correspond to eleven days of mourning the Beis HaMikdash, including the nine days from Rosh Chodesh Av, the seventeenth of Tammuz and Asara B’Teves. Due to our sins, we lost focus of who is really in charge, creating a void which allowed the Beis HaMikdash to be destroyed.   

As we entrench ourselves for these nine days, we start planning for life after Tish’a B’Av. Typically, as well as historically, Moshiach has not come and so, unfortunately, we fall into the trap of despair that the coming of Moshiach is not happening this year or any time soon. With our small faith, we prepare for yet another year, anticipating, assuring ourselves that Moshiach is not coming again. Perhaps Hashem will have a different plan for us; perhaps He will bring Moshiach, even though we do not expect or plan for this to occur.  We should all be Zocheh to greet Melech HaMoshiach B’Meheira B’Yameinu!

*Choreiv – either Mount Sinai or the surrounding vicinity

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Mon, April 15 2024 7 Nisan 5784