These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

[PEP Student] Little Me

Posted on August 14, 2011 by Tamara Frankel

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Dear Friends,

This week I was flabbergasted by how much the parsha spoke to my own life. This week I began to trek out to start my new job and life in Chicago. I was anxious about the border control- you know how they can be sometimes…red tape, and all. As I approached the control booth and waited in the state governmental office, I thought to myself: “God, if you get me through this, I promised I’ll…” – STOP!
Mid-sentence I realized that I was about to cut a deal with God. “What?!” I said to myself, “Don’t make deals with God! You don’t want to make a commitment to the Man (or Woman) Upstairs and not follow through on it. Especially with Rosh Hashana around the corner. And let’s face it: I’m moving to Chicago to help Jewish students love and struggle and love to struggle with their Judaism. So what kind of negotiations do I need to make with God?”
Now what about the parsha, you may ask?
Well, it opens with Moses’ final plea to cross the Jordan and enter the Promised Land. Sound familiar?
כג וָאֶתְחַנַּן, אֶל-ה’, בָּעֵת הַהִוא, לֵאמֹר. 23 I pleaded the LORD at that time, saying:
כד אֲדֹנָי ה’, אַתָּה הַחִלּוֹתָ לְהַרְאוֹת אֶת-עַבְדְּךָ, אֶת-גָּדְלְךָ, וְאֶת-יָדְךָ הַחֲזָקָה–אֲשֶׁר מִי-אֵל בַּשָּׁמַיִם וּבָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר-יַעֲשֶׂה כְמַעֲשֶׂיךָ וְכִגְבוּרֹתֶךָ. 24 ‘O Lord GOD, You who let your servant see Your greatness, and Your strong hand; You whose powerful deeds no god in heaven or on earth can equal
כה אֶעְבְּרָה-נָּא, וְאֶרְאֶה אֶת-הָאָרֶץ הַטּוֹבָה, אֲשֶׁר, בְּעֵבֶר הַיַּרְדֵּן:  הָהָר הַטּוֹב הַזֶּה, וְהַלְּבָנֹן. 25 Let me, I pray, cross over and see the good land that is beyond the Jordan, that good hill-country, and Lebanon.’
(Deuteronomy 3:23-25)
God quickly silences Moses and helps him gain a little perspective:
כו וַיִּתְעַבֵּר ה’ בִּי לְמַעַנְכֶם, וְלֹא שָׁמַע אֵלָי; וַיֹּאמֶר ה’אֵלַי, רַב-לָךְ–אַל-תּוֹסֶף דַּבֵּר אֵלַי עוֹד, בַּדָּבָר הַזֶּה. 26 But the LORD was wrathful with me on your account, and would not listen to me. The LORD said to me: ‘Enough! Never speak of this matter again!
כז עֲלֵה רֹאשׁ הַפִּסְגָּה, וְשָׂא עֵינֶיךָ יָמָּה וְצָפֹנָה וְתֵימָנָה וּמִזְרָחָה–וּרְאֵה בְעֵינֶיךָ:  כִּי-לֹא תַעֲבֹר, אֶת-הַיַּרְדֵּן הַזֶּה. 27 Go up into the summit of Pisgah, and gaze about, westward, and northward, and southward, and eastward. Look at it well, for you shall not go over this Jordan.
כח וְצַו אֶת-יְהוֹשֻׁעַ, וְחַזְּקֵהוּ וְאַמְּצֵהוּ:  כִּי-הוּא יַעֲבֹר, לִפְנֵי הָעָם הַזֶּה, וְהוּא יַנְחִיל אוֹתָם, אֶת-הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר תִּרְאֶה. 28 But charge Joshua, and encourage him, and strengthen him; for he shall go over before this people, and he shall cause them to inherit the land which you shall see.’
(Deuteronomy 3:26-28)
But the story doesn’t end here. The Torah continues this biblical paragraph and includes the following side note:
כט וַנֵּשֶׁב בַּגָּיְא, מוּל בֵּית פְּעוֹר.  {פ} 29 So we abode in the valley over against Beth-peor. {P}
(Deuteronomy 3:26-28)
[“P”, or “פ” in Hebrew text, signifies the end of biblical paragraph]

Why? What does this verse have to do with Moses’ conversation with God and God’s response? Why is it worthwhile to know where the rest of the Israelites camped at this time?
I think this last verse teaches a critical lesson, one which I also learned waiting anxiously in that border control office just a few days ago in Sarnia, Ontario. It’s not just about me. The world doesn’t revolved around me. I know that may sound obvious and cliche, but sometimes we need to be reminded of that. No matter how grave my situation, no matter how high the stakes make seem, I am but an ant, a tiny organism in a complex and extensive ecosystem. There are so many other variables and individuals to consider and often we can’t see what/who they are.
So, when all is said and done, am I happy that God “answered my prayer” and I entered the US without a hassle? Absolutely. But reading the first biblical paragraph of the parsha has humbled me. Unlike Simon and Garfunkel, I am not a rock. I am not an island.
May we merit to keep a healthy dose of perspective, especially when the rough gets going and the going gets rough.
Shabbat Shalom,