There was nothing left to do. The laws and statutes that held the world together were being ripped apart by mankind and their desire to serve only themselves. We often forget that our actions or inactions can have a severe consequence on the world. The only thing to be done was to gather Noah and his family into the ark, close the door behind them and wait out the flood.
A leader is someone with a vision and the desire to make it happen. They start with an idea, a longing, a burning and they calculate the costs of the road they will be traveling. Unfortunately, the journey can sometimes wear down even the strongest and most idealistic of visionaries.
The Torah isn’t a simple story; a chronological history of a chosen people that ends when the book of Devarim/Deuteronomy does. Instead, this week’s parsha begins a new cycle of events. Moshe announces his soon approaching death, he and Elohim encourage and charge Yehoshua and Elohim warns them of Israel’s future waywardness.
Have you ever stopped to think about what can happen in a moment? A life can be saved, a comet can streak through the sky and lightning can illuminate the darkness. In the time it takes for and eye to blink, a moment may be missed and the opportunity never to present itself again. It may be a once in a lifetime instance or perhaps part of your daily routine. Regardless of the frequency of the occurrence, that specific moment is present only in the now.
“When you besiege a city for a long time by fighting against it to take it, you do not destroy its trees by wielding an axe against them. If you do eat of them, do not cut them down. For is the tree of the field a man to be besieged by you? Only the trees which you know are not trees for food you do destroy and cut down, to build siege-works against the city that is fighting against you, until it falls.”
Let’s stop and examine the opening words of this week’s Parsha. “It shall come to pass when…” V’haya eikev. Another way to translate that would be to say, “It will come into existence as a result of.” Based on the sentence structure so far we can expect that what is about to follow would be a conditional clause, like an if/then situation. But does that fit with our perception of who HaShem is?
At the time Moses was pleading (va’etchanan means “and I sought favor”) with Elohim for another chance to enter into the land, the world wasn’t much different than it is today. You probably assume that that I have a punch line following that statement, but I don’t. Let’s examine this week’s parsha together.
When reading through this parsha this time around, I paused to reflect on Deuteronomy 1:10. We should be very familiar with the promise made to Avinu Avraham (Our father Abraham) by now, but it’s worth looking at it again.
When is enough actually enough for us? How many times do we see injustice occurring and think to ourselves, “I wish someone would do something about that”? We begin this week by reading about Elohim’s reaction to the zeal that Pinchas displayed in the previous Parsha. Let’s to go back to the end of last week’s Torah portion to refresh our memory.
Not just a decree, but the decree. And what a complex decree it is! We begin this week’s busy Torah portion with a law that has continued to baffle scholars, sages and biblical students alike over the years: the purifying ashes of the red heifer.