Just Joshing You: D’varim 2016

Pre-Game Chatter: Have you ever been jealous of other peoples’ experiences? How have you handled that jealousy? Are there legitimate reasons to be jealous of others? If so, what are they?

As Moses reflects on the things he has told Joshua, his successor as leader of the Israelite people, he notes that Joshua has already entered the Promised Land (as documented in Numbers 13) — a privilege denied to Moses.

The Pitch: “I also charged Joshua at that time, saying, ‘You have seen with your own eyes all that your God Adonai has done to these two kings; so shall Adonai do to all the kingdoms into which you shall cross over. Do not fear them, for it is your God Adonai who will battle for you.’” (Deuteronomy 3:21-22)

Swing #1: “Rabbi Huna said: As soon as God said to Moses, ‘Hand over your office to Joshua,’ immediately Moses began to pray to be permitted to enter the land. He can be compared to a governor who so long as he retained the office could be sure that whatever orders he gave, the king would confirm; he redeemed whomsoever he desired and imprisoned whomsoever he desired. But as soon as he retired and another was appointed in his place, he had in vain to ask the gate-keeper to let him enter [the palace]. Similarly … when [Moses] was relieved of his office and Joshua was appointed in his stead … he began to supplicate to be permitted to enter the land.” —Deuteronomy Rabbah

Swing #2: “Moses meant that he commanded Joshua not to be afraid of these nations, as we find at the end of verse 22, ‘do not fear them.’ Moses did not repeat the words ‘your eyes are seeing’ at the end of verse 22, as this is not something which forms the subject of a command.” — Or HaChayim

Swing #3: “In the Hebrew ‘your eyes’ is put first for emphasis: ‘It is your own eyes that saw’ — you have no grounds for doubt, since you saw personally.” — Jeffrey Tigay, Deuteronomy: The JPS Torah Commentary

Late-Inning Questions: Do you think Moses is jealous of Joshua’s prior visit to the Promised Land? Or is Moses simply empowering Joshua based on Joshua’s prior experience? Is Moses turning his own feelings of disappointment into positive motivation for someone else? In doing so, does Moses provide us with a model for dealing with our jealousy?

On-Deck at Emanu-El: I’m excited for the kickoff to our 2016-2017 Adult Education program. It’s called “Or Hadash: Prayer in a New Light”, and will feature a familiar face for us: Hebrew College Cantorial and Jewish Education student Dara Rosenblatt. Join us for services Friday, August 26th, at 8:15PM services, and then on Saturday, August 27th (9:00AM Danish & D’rash, 9:30AM services). Dara will unfold the mysteries of key passages of our prayer book, as we begin a yearlong exploration of the meaning of prayer. Dara will lead Danish & D’rash as well as an alternative learner’s service during the first part of our Saturday morning prayers, followed by a brief discussion at Kiddush. Don’t miss out!

The Big Inning at the End: I was a big Alex Rodriguez fan when he began his career in Seattle. His talent was otherworldly, and he seemed to be a perfect ambassador for the game. It’s sad to me that, as we learned more about him, we realized that much of what we thought we knew about him was a well-crafted illusion. It’s not just that he took performance-enhancing drugs – many other ballplayers have, and I believe, still do – but it’s the fact that, for years, he was not true to himself. As he plays his last game tonight, I hope he can find genuine and satisfying inner peace.

Shabbat Shalom!