I Hate It When a Plan Doesn’t Come Together: D’varim 2020

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: Have you ever needed to give a motivational speech? What strategies did you employ in your speech? To what extent were you successful?

Most of the book of Deuteronomy is a lengthy motivational speech by Moses to the Israelites, in which the information usually matches previous sections of the Torah — but occasionally, it doesn’t:

The Pitch: “Then all of you came to me and said, ‘Let us send men ahead to reconnoiter the land for us and bring back word on the route we shall follow and the cities we shall come to.’ I approved of the plan, and so I selected twelve of your men, one from each tribe.” – Deuteronomy 1:22-23

Swing #1: “At this time Moses found even this a cause for remonstrating with the people, for when there is an opportunity to hear the Law expounded, it would be entirely proper to want to crowd around the master, pushing others aside in order to be able to hear every word.” – Rabbi Isaac Meir of Ger

Swing #2: “[In Numbers] it seems clear that God commanded Moses to send out the spies; the initiative certainly was not Moses’. … [But in Deuteronomy] the decision to send the spies is made by Moses at the people’s urging; God has no role in the decision. So which was it? Some interpreters decided that the latter was most likely the case, for surely an omniscient God would not have ordered that the spies be sent only to become angry later at the reaction to their ill report.” – James L. Kugel, The Bible As It Was

Swing #3: “Reish Lakish says: [The implication of these words is that it seemed good] ‘in my eyes,’ but not in the eyes of the Omnipresent.” – BT Sotah 34b

Late-Inning Questions: What version of the story of the scouts makes more sense to you: the version in which God asks Moses to send the spies, or the one in which the Israelites and Moses make the decision? How does either version of the story alter our view of the story, if at all? Are small disagreements about facts really big disagreements in disguise?

On-Deck at Temple Beth Tzedek: Tisha B’Av commemorates numerous calamities in Jewish history, as well as our enduring spirit. Join us for meaningful teachings and services next week: Wednesday at 8:30pm for Ma’ariv, a teaching, and the reading of the book of Lamentations; Thursday at 7:15am for Shaharit and Kinot (songs of lamentation) and at 2:00pm for Minha.

The Big Inning at the End: Happy Opening Day … and speaking of disagreements about seemingly small facts, does it matter whether Babe Ruth really pointed to the outfield bleachers before his home run in the 1932 World Series? Or does the true story of his “called shot” — whatever it is — impact how we should feel about the Sultan of Swat?

Shabbat Shalom, and stay safe!