Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Who's to Blame?

Parshat Ha’azinu
D’varim 32:1 – 52
3 Tishrei 5771 / Sept. 10 – 11, 2010

Who’s to Blame?
By: Jeremy Moskowitz, MHHQ

Given the opportunity to speak to an audience in your last moments, what would you say? Would you praise your own accomplishments? Would you praise those who helped you do it? Would you take the opportunity to take a shot at those who wronged you a long the way? What message would you want to send?

In Parshat Ha’Azinu, Moses is given this very opportunity. Moses is told he is about to die. Due to his defying of G-d’s word by hitting the rock, he will not be allowed into the land of Israel. In his dying moments, Moses recites a long poem, steeped in earth imagery praising G-d for his greatness and lambasting the Israelites for the trials they put him through when he was their leader.

Admittedly, my personal feelings towards this parsha are negative. It is just hard for me to identify with Moses’ sentiments in this piece. For whatever reason, very likely due to his own human failings, G-d decided not to allow Moses into the land of Israel. It is clear from his final speech, that Moses clearly is unhappy with this decision. In my opinion, Moses has a right to be unhappy with this decision. He has led the Israelites through many trials and tribulations, and because of a moment of weakness, he does not get to enjoy the fruits of his labor. I know that this situation would leave me frustrated, to say the least.

My issue is with how Moses expresses these frustrations. It seems to me there are two sources where Moses can direct his anger, G-d for making the decision he disagrees with, or himself for his actions that stopped him from entering the Promised Land. Instead, he directs his rage, in my opinion unjustly, at the Israelites.

Corruption is not his---the blemish is his children’s, a perverse and twisted generation.

They provoked ME with a non-god, they angered ME with their vanities.

You could argue that it is admirable of Moses to praise G-d in the face of this decision, and I may inevitably agree. It’s difficult to criticize up the chain of command. However I cannot co-sign Moses’ decision to vilify his people. As a leader it is Moses’ responsibility to be an example to many. When your people test you, it is your job as a leader to maintain an even keel and through leadership show your followers the path to what is right. Perhaps these traits are why G-d decided not to allow Moses into the land of Israel. He may have been the leader they needed to get to the Promised Land, but he would not be fit to lead upon their arrival.


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