Herman Wouk was a great admirer of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, and he was deeply impacted by the decades-long relationship he shared with him. He once described the Rebbe’s optimism with the following analogy:
Suppose the scientific community concluded absolutely that in three weeks’ time the planet would disappear underwater. Heads of State and pundits would bicker and point blame, [religious leaders] would deny the impending doom or call for repentance. But the Rebbe would call a meeting of his followers and announce, “Rabbosai, we have three weeks to learn how to live underwater…let’s get to work!”
After a solid year following Hashem in the desert, this week we watch as Am Yisrael begin to lose their composure, and they begin to complain about their situation. They are fed up with the “Lechem Min HaShamayim”, the Man they receive each day from heaven, and they attack Moshe Rabbeinu.
And at this point, Moshe releases his frustration at Hashem:
(יא) וַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה אֶל יְקֹוָק לָמָה הֲרֵעֹתָ לְעַבְדֶּךָ וְלָמָּה לֹא מָצָתִי חֵן בְּעֵינֶיךָ לָשׂוּם אֶת מַשָּׂא כָּל הָעָם הַזֶּה עָלָי:
Why did you treat me so terribly, and why did I not find favor in your eyes that you placed the burden of this entire nation on me!
And Moshe goes further:
](יב) הֶאָנֹכִי הָרִיתִי אֵת כָּל הָעָם הַזֶּה אִם אָנֹכִי יְלִדְתִּיהוּ כִּי תֹאמַר אֵלַי שָׂאֵהוּ בְחֵיקֶךָ כַּאֲשֶׁר יִשָּׂא הָאֹמֵן אֶת הַיֹּנֵק עַל הָאֲדָמָה אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּעְתָּ לַאֲבֹתָיו:[
Did I give birth to these people, that I should carry them in my arms like a mother takes care of her baby!?
Hashem sees Moshe’s pain and he tells him to appoint 70 zekeinim, 70 elders who will serve as support staff for Moshe. And, as part of their initiation they will receive prophecy.
And as the story goes, there are two people, Eldad & Meidad, who were supposed to be counted with this group who ALSO receive prophecy while still standing in the camp.
And Rashi tells us what their prophecy was:
שהיו מתנבאים משה מת ויהושע מכניס את ישראל לארץ:
They were saying that Moshe would eventually die in the desert and Yehoshua would take the people into Eretz Yisrael.
Rav Yitzchak Menachem Abrahamson, in his sefer Beer Mayim asks: Why does Rashi, and Chazal, feel the need to share the content of the this prophecy? How is it relevant to what’s happening in the story?
And he offers a fascinating answer by noting an interesting parallel between this story and one of the first stories we read about Moshe all the way back in Sefer Shemos:
Moshe’s first attempt at convincing Pharaoh to release the Jewish People does not go very well, as not only does Pharaoh refuse to free the people, he makes their work even more difficult.
And, at that moment, Moshe comes back to Hashem with language that is STRIKINGLY SIMILAR to the language he uses here:
(כב) וַיָּשָׁב מֹשֶׁה אֶל יְקֹוָק וַיֹּאמַר אֲדֹנָי לָמָה הֲרֵעֹתָה לָעָם הַזֶּה לָמָּה זֶּה שְׁלַחְתָּנִי:
Why did you treat me so terribly? Why have you sent me on this mission only to fail!?
And Hashem responds to Moshe:
(א) וַיֹּאמֶר יְקֹוָק אֶל מֹשֶׁה עַתָּה תִרְאֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶעֱשֶׂה לְפַרְעֹה כִּי בְיָד חֲזָקָה יְשַׁלְּחֵם וּבְיָד חֲזָקָה יְגָרְשֵׁם מֵאַרְצוֹ
Now you will see that which I will do to Pharaoh, as I will use a strong hand to send the People out of Egypt.
And on this pasuk, Rashi explains the significance of this language, NOW you will see.
Says Rashi, quoting the medrash:
עתה תראה. העשוי לפרעה תראה, ולא העשוי למלכי שבעה אומות,ב כשאביאם לארץ:
Since you have doubted me, you will see what will happen NOW, that which I will do to Pharaoh, but you will NOT see what I will do the 7 nations in Eretz Yisrael.
Says the medrash, Hashem is chastising Moshe for not having faith that in the end Hashem will fulfill His promise, and is therefore punished that he will lead the Jewish people out of Egypt, but NOT into Eretz Yisrael.
And what’s fascinating is that not only does Moshe use the same language of Lama Hareiosa later on in our parsha to complain again about his role leading the people, but Hashem uses the SAME wording in response:
When Moshe complains about carrying the people all alone, and how he would ever provide all the meat they are complaining for, Hashem responds:
(כג) ]וַיֹּאמֶר יְקֹוָק אֶל מֹשֶׁה הֲיַד יְקֹוָק תִּקְצָר[ עַתָּה תִרְאֶה הֲיִקְרְךָ דְבָרִי אִם לֹא:
NOW you will see that I will follow through on My promise.
And the truth is that these two stories are really quite similar.
- In BOTH stories, Moshe has hit a wall in his leadership of the people, and he feels incapable of figuring out how he could ever move forward.
o In Egypt, Moshe sees Pharaoh standing in his way, unable to imagine how he will ever convince him to release Am Yisrael.
o And in our story, he sees the intransigence of the People themselves, unable to imagine how they will ever be ready to accept Hashem’s authority and be able to enter Eretz Yisrael.
And in BOTH stories, when Moshe lashes out at HKBH in frustration, Hashem tells Moshe where he has gone wrong: ATA TIRE – Moshe, you are ONLY LOOKING AT THE ATA, at the here and now. You need to STEP BACK, see the bigger picture, and realize I will be here for you – and for them – even if RIGHT NOW it’s hard to see.
And if this is true, now we can understand why Chazal tell us that the prophecy of Eldad & Meidad was that Moshe wouldn’t lead the people into Eretz Yisrael. Only Yehoshua would. Because Chazal wanted us to CONNECT these two stories. In both cases, Moshe struggled to see beyond the challenge of the moment. And even with all of the amazing good he had done for the people, Hashem told him that this would be the reason it would be time to hand over the reigns to Yehoshua.
Because as the people would enter this new phase, living their lives in Eretz Yisrael, they would enter a life where there would be lots of highs and unfortunately a good number of lows. And even as those lows would arrive it would be their job to see BEYOND ATA, BEYOND ONLY THE HERE AND NOW. To know that if they continued to do their job, the highs would return once more. Or, as the Lubavitcher Rebbe would say, to know that it wasn’t worth getting caught up in the challenge of the NOW, but rather it was time to look at what could be accomplished for the future and get to work!