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Wednesday
Sep052018

MOSHIACH’S VISUAL ACUITY

BEFORE THEIR EYES

The last few Torah portions of the Torah discuss Moses’ parting words with the Jewish people. In this week’s parsha, Moses delivers a message to his trusted disciple Joshua:

“Moses summoned Joshua and said to him before the eyes of all Israel, ‘Be strong and courageous, for you shall come with this people to the Land that G-d swore to their forefathers to give them, and you shall cause them to inherit it.’”

 and says to him, “in the presence of all of Israel ‘be strong for you will bring this nation ….’”

The Kli Yakar commentary asks why does the verse refer to vision (“…before the eyes of Israel”) and not hearing. After all, Moses wanted them to hear that he was appointing Joshua his successor to lead the Jewish people into a new Land and a new era.

Every aspect of Torah can be interpreted in myriads of ways. However, generally speaking there are four main methods or levels of interpretation: p’shat (the simple, straightforward meaning); remez (giving hints to other verses or ideas based on word association and gematria; numerology); drush (the homiletical meaning discovered by probing beneath the surface to find a deeper message) and sod (the esoteric, mystical dimension).

P’SHAT: UNQUALIFIED AND TOTAL LEADERSHIP

On the level of p’shat one may explain that it was crucial that the Jewish people see Moses hand over the reins of leadership to Joshua. Words can be twisted, distorted and quibbled over so that even if Moses said these words to Joshua, disgruntled people could claim that Moses meant something else and that he did not really give Joshua the power of leadership.

By actively witnessing the exchange between Moses and Joshua, everyone was able to see that Moses draped the mantle of leadership over Joshua in an unqualified and gracious manner. There was to be no question about Joshua’s legitimacy as the leader of the entire Jewish nation.

Moreover, as the Baal Shem Tov explained, the Torah’s reference to “before the eyes of all Israel” was intended to demonstrate rejection of Moses’ initial proposal (as Rashi notes) that Joshua consult with and share leadership with the elders.

G-d instructed Moses to anoint Joshua with his role of leader to all of Israel; the People would all see that Joshua was appointed the exclusive leader of all Israel.

REMEZ: SACRIFICE FOR THE JEWISH PEOPLE

What does the remez method of analysis yield from our verse?

The three Hebrew words “l’einei kol Yisroel- before the eyes of all Israel,” are, in fact, the same three words with which the last parsha of the Torah concludes.

The Torah’s concluding verse extols Moses’ greatness:

“And for all the strong hand and for all the great awesomeness that Moses performed before the eyes of all Israel.”

What did Moses perform before the eyes of all Israel that was so unique?

Rashi, citing a Talmudic tradition, states:

“That his heart inspired him to break the Tablets before their eyes.”

One may suggest that when Moses handed over the role of leader, he wanted Joshua to remember the very act Moses performed before the eyes of all Israel: shattering the Tablets!

On the face of it this is astounding! Of all the praises G-d could possibly bestow on Moses in His eulogy, He recalled the shattering of the Tablets! Isn’t that a negative way of remembering Moses, that he got so angry when he saw the Jews worshipping the Golden Calf that he threw the sacred Tablets, inscribed by G-d’s own Hand, to the ground in a rage, shattering the single most precious and holy objects to have ever existed?

The Rebbe explains, based on the teachings of our Talmudic Sages, that Moses was willing to sacrifice the most precious thing he possessed, if that would save the Jewish people from G-d’s righteous destruction for their egregious idol worship. Moses reasoned that if the tablets, which represented the marriage contract between G-d and the Jewish people, were broken, it would annul that holy marriage. The Jewish people could therefore not be accused of unfaithfulness and would be spared the severe punishment G-d threatened.

This indeed was the greatest praise for Moses, that he was willing to sacrifice everything, even the most cherished association with the Tablets, because of his love and concern for the Jewish people.

It may also be that the Torah was hinting at a greater truth when it described Moses’ charge to Joshua as the leader of the Jewish people. Moses’ message was: As important as it is that a leader must demand uncompromising fidelity to the teachings of the Torah, he must also realize that his first responsibility is to protect the Jewish people and be prepared to sacrifice everything for them.

DRUSH: LEADER OF ALL CATEGORIES OF JEWS

On the level of drush, Moses’ transfer of leadership to Joshua in eyesight of all of Israel was meant to describe the nature of Joshua’s leadership.

There have been many leaders qualified and dedicated enough to lead one tribe, community or group. Moses and Joshua were qualitatively different from these other Jewish leaders. They had to relate to all of Israel. It is axiomatic, as the Talmud states, that no two people think alike. Yet, Moses and then Joshua had the capacity to connect to Jews of every stripe and of diverse mindsets.

By charging him with leadership before the eyes of all Israel, Moses was hinting to Joshua that as a leader he must relate to and care for every Jew, regardless of status, and be prepared to sacrifice everything for even the lowliest Jew.

As mentioned before, Moses shattered the Tablets in the presence of all Jews to show that he was willing to sacrifice his life and all that was dearest to him for the sake of even the lowliest Jew. Moses was willing to sacrifice himself and his relationship with the Torah, not just for the well-being of the elite or even average, but for every Jew without exception. Even the lowliest of the low was embraced within Moses’ concern and love. He was out to protect even those “deplorables” who so egregiously violated the most fundamental aspects of Judaism: idol worship.

This was the message Moses sought to impress on Joshua: “You are and must be the leader of every single Jew!”

SOD: SEEING EYE TO EYE

On the level of Sod, which dwells on the esoteric and mystical dimension of Torah, Joshua’s appointment by Moses before the eyes of all Israel was intended to prepare the Jewish people for a total spiritual transformation and paradigm shift. This transformation was represented by the metaphor of eyes, which represent the way we see the inner spiritual dimension of all matters. There are two sets of eyes, or perspectives. There is the top-down view; where G-d sees everything below from His perch above, so to speak. But we, as mortals, can only see things from the bottom up. The difference between these two perspectives is represented by the Kabbalists as the difference between a child’s vision and that of an adult.

While both can view the same object or event, there is a radical difference in the way they perceive the object or event.

A child sees with its eyes but cannot fully appreciate what it sees. A child can see something tantalizing and still not realize its harmful potential.

Israel is the land about which the Torah states (Deuteronomy 11:12): “A land that G-d your G-d seeks out; the eyes of G-d your G-d are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to year’s end.” This description is expressive of the heightened potential that exists in the Land of Israel, where we come face to face with the Divine presence and have the potential to see things through G-d’s “eyes.”

As the Jewish people were poised to enter into the land of “open eyes” and overt Divine providence, it was imperative that Joshua prepare them for a different way of seeing things. Joshua’s mission as their leader was to bring them up to speed and empower them to see things from a spiritually mature perspective.

Thus, Moses instructs Joshua in and before the eyes of all of Israel. We can interpret this to allude to the fact that Moses was interested in communicating with Joshua about the limited “eyesight” of the Jewish people at that time. His intention was to raise them to the level of the “eyes” that were spiritually appropriate for living in the Land of Israel. He thus admonishes Joshua to be strong and lead them into the Promised Land with a sophisticated mindset.

THE LAND OF ISRAEL, ROSH HASHANAH AND THE MESSIANIC AGE

What Israel is to the rest of the word, Rosh Hashanah is to the rest of the year. This is alluded to in the verse mentioned above, “…the eyes of G-d your G-d are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to year’s end.” This, our Sages state, alludes to Rosh Hashanah, the Head of the year. Just as G-d’s “eyes” (read: perspective) are dominant in the Land of Israel, so too they are on Rosh Hashanah.

The prophet, in his description of the future Messianic Age, says “For they shall see eye to eye when G-d returns to Zion.” (Isaiah 52:8) This is explained in Chassidic literature to mean that our “eye” will come closer to and eventually approach the “eye” that sees things from Above.

MOSHIACH’S CHARACTERISTICS

When we survey the characteristics associated with Moshiach in Torah sources we discover that he embodies the four levels of interpretation we have just used concerning Moses’ charge to Joshua.

Moshiach receives his commission from G-d in an unqualified and gracious manner (P’shat). He is willing to sacrifice everything, even his connection to Torah, to save the Jewish people (Remez). He is the leader of all Jews regardless of their level (Drush). And Moshiach is endowed with the higher vision and will teach us Torah visually so that we can see everything (Sod) through G-d’s prism.

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