Volume 30 Issue 21 23 Jul 2021 14 Av 5781

From the Head of Jewish Life

Rabbi Daniel Siegel – Head of Jewish Life

Mission through vision

In this week’s parashah, VaEtchanan, Moshe, facing the closing chapters of his life, entreats the Lord:

“Let me crossover (עברה and see (ואראה) the good land”.

The root letters for the word “crossover” (עבר) are the same root letters for the word “Hebrew/Ivri” (עברי). Our Jewish tradition teaches that Avraham, was the first “Hebrew/Ivri”, as he was the first “boundary-crosser”. He fought against norms of injustice, going “beyond the bounds” (עבר) of erroneous convention. What Avraham, our first forefather had envisioned (ראה) on an individual level, Moses, our greatest prophet had sought on a national scale. In speaking out against the tyranny of Pharaoh, he was an “Ivri” (עברי), a “boundary-crosser”, envisioning (ראה) the “promised land” for an oppressed people.

How fitting, then, that, as he stands with his people, at the doorstep of the “good land”, the words “crossover” (עבר) and vision (ראה) come together, about to be joined in seeing his mission realised – “Let me crossover and see”.

God’s response is both shattering and fulfilling:

“You shall see (ראה), with your eyes, for you, yourself, shall not crossover (עבר).”

The days of his being a “boundary-crosser” have come to an end, but not so his vision.

In the very next verse, God continues: “Give your command to Yehoshu’a, strengthen and embolden him for he shall crossover (יעבור), leading the people, inheriting the land which you shall see (תראה).

As all great leaders come to learn, one’s life work does not end with one’s life. Through one’s vision one’s mission is achieved.

Standing upon the mountain top, seeing the “promised land”, one wonders how far beyond his lifetime did this boundary-crosser’s vision reach. As Martin Luther King, envisioning himself as a modern day Moses, leading his oppressed people to the “promised land”, would say at its doorstep:

“Like anybody, I would like to live a long life…But I’m not concerned about that now. God’s… allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know… that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!”