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The Systems of the Jewish Year

Matos- Shooting for the Stars

By Rabbi Sender Haber

Moshe Rabeinu spent his entire life trying to bring the Jewish people - and himself - into Eretz Yisroel. He understood that Israel was the land that Hashem had Hasem had tailor made for the Jewish people and bequeathed to Avrohom. Hashem had other plans and as a consequence of some of his actions he was told that he would not be allowed to enter the land.
Before Moshe’s death he climbed to the top of Har Nevo on the East side of the Jordan just to look at Eretz Yisroel. We are told that Moshe davened in 515 different ways, trying to find some way some way, some form of Tefila that would change G-d’s mind and let him cross the Yardain. Some his requests were unbelievable: He begged to enter even as a bird, or a stone, a wind, or a dog. Moshe yearned to enter Israel.

While this was happening Moshe was approached by the people of Ruevain and Gad. They had just one request: Al Na tavireinu es Hayardein - we do not want to cross the Jordan. We have just finished conquering the lands of Sichon and Og and it seems to be a good piece of real estate. It’s pretty holy (most halachos of Israel apply here), it’s safe, and there is plenty of grass for our cattle to graze on.
Imagine the conflict: Moshe’s greatest dream is to enter the land and these people say Al Na tavireinu es Hayardein - we do not want to cross.
If any of us would go today and stand on the mountain that Moshe stood on as he gazed into Eretz Yisroel we would see nothing but sand. Yet, the Torah tells us that from that point he was able to see the entire land of Israel: North, South, East, and West, Yerushalayim, the Makom Hamikdash, Teveria, Tzfas, Chevron, Bnai Brak, Gush Katif, Kesaria - Moshe knew how to dream and he understood the potential for spiritual growth that lay across the Yarden.
The Bnei Gad liked the first piece of land that they found. They came to Moshe and said “this land looks fine, we’ll stay here”.
We also do this sometimes: we like to stay in our comfort zone. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
There is truth to this approach but sometimes it comes from the wrong place in our hearts. Moshe told the people that they were too afraid of the unknown. They were too worried about protecting their cattle to risk waiting for something better.
Their need to have everything settled and to have all of their nuts and bolts in place was interfering with their ability to dream and their ability to grow.
Later, when the Bnei Reuvain and the Bnei Gad traveled across the Yardein they regretted their decision to grab the first thing that came along. They realized that a handful of dirt in Israel was as fertile as twice that amount in the land where they had settled. When the Jewish people were exiled form Israel the Bnai Gad and Bnei Reuvain were the first to go. Once again they regretted their decision.
Rav Shlomo Hyman was the first Rosh Yeshiva of Torah Vodaas in New York. On one snowy day in the early 1940’s only four boys came to class. They were not sure if Rabbi Hyman would be teaching but Rabbi Hyman insisted on giving his shiur as if the room was packed with hundreds of students. He jumped up and down and yelled as he taught these four boys. At one point he paused to catch his breath and one of the boys said “Rebbe,—there are only four of us here.” Rabbi Hyman responded. “Do you think I’m giving this class for four boys? I am giving this class to hundreds of students. I’m giving this class to you, your students, their students, and their students! (I am one of those students’ students)
Moshe Rabeinu taught us that we should never settle. We need to shoot for the stars. Even when Hashem himself told Moshe to give up on the Jewish people “ I’ll give you a new nation “ Moshe persevered.
If we are going to survive and grow as Jews we must be optimistic about growing and we need have very high expectations for ourselves and for our future. Good Shabbos.

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