Moshe makes one last pitch in attempting to undo the decree that he not enter the land. G-d asks him to refrain from making that request as it is not in the cards.
Yehoshua realizing he is now destined to lead them into the promised land, questions whether he is up to the task. After all his great Rebbe, Moshe, sinned, what guarantee is there that he won’t succumb to weakness? He wonders, could he possibly eclipse Moshe’s abilities?
G-d aware of this crippling fear instructs Moshe, חזקהו ואמצהו, Strengthen him and encourage him!
Rashi teaches that G-d told Moshe to encourage Yehoshua, בדבריך, ‘with ‘your words’, lest he become discouraged. Rashi goes on to explain that his message shall be I assure him [says God] that he will cross over [before this people] and he will make [them] inherit [the land].
The question begs though that despite G-d’s promise, there still exists the possibility that Yehoshua may falter as Moshe did, and sin can alter even an original promise from G-d, just as it did by Moshe?
Perhaps this promise is an ironclad one as it was a prophecy portending good that was to be told over to Yehoshua by Moshe, which the Rambam teaches is unchangeable and impervious to being affected by sin.
But Rashi seems to imply that Moshe wasn’t being instructed to convey a prophecy, but merely to encourage Yehoshua ‘with your words’, his own words, with G-d simply revealing to Moshe that it was destined to be. Were the intention here the implementation of the principle of the failsafe promise of a prophecy of good, G-d should have rather informed Moshe to instruct him, בדברי, ‘with My words’.
The Malbim teaches that חזקהו means to strengthen one’s inherent abilities, whereas ואמצהו refers to encouraging one to rise above one’s limitations.
Perhaps the Torah sought to teach here that the greatest encouragement one can receive is from one’s teacher or parent who infuses the student/child with a notion that we believe in him. That awareness can fuel a person even more than a directed prophecy from G-d Himself. Because G-d is not tangible, we often disconnect from that which we may know and believe without doubt. However, when we sense the warmth, the support, and the encouragement from those who represent the very image of G-d, it can power us beyond our natural abilities.
It was thus Moshe’s boost of confidence in his disciple that gave Yehoshua the belief in himself that he needed to carry this seemingly impossible burden so successfully.
In the 1930s a young boy, Aryeh Leib, set out on an arduous trek from Vilna to Grodno to be accepted in the great yeshiva there headed by the illustrious Rav Shimon Shkop. After scrounging for food and lodging in various shuls, he finally makes it to the home of the Rosh Yeshiva hoping to be farhered and gain acceptance. Rav Shkop, who was home alone, answered the door, warmly inviting him in. After hearing his wish, Rav Shkop proceeded to tell him that his acceptance would be contingent on answering two questions. The bochur nervously awaited the challenge. The first question he asked was when the last time was he ate. After admitting it had been a while, the Rosh Yeshiva apologized that his Rebbetzin was away, and he, not an accomplished chef, would have to prepare it instead. After feeding him, he posed the second question inquiring when the last time was he slept in a bed. The young lad couldn’t remember and the Rav quickly made up his own bed tucking him in for a good night’s sleep. The next day Aryeh Leib was informed that he was accepted.
Many years later Aryeh Leib who had lost his entire family in the Holocaust, surviving alone, observed how he endured much tribulations during that difficult time, discovering strengths he never knew he possessed. He attributed his power to the love and confidence his great Rebbe instilled within him, giving him the encouraged confidence that he could and would survive.
Immediately following this interaction the next and last verse, strangely and out of context, states, ונשב בגיא מול בית פעור (דברים ג כט), And we abided in the valley,opposite Beis Pe’or.
This is the location of Moshe’s burial place. The Holy Kozhnitzer Maggid asserts that G-d was asserting His joining forces with Moshe, thus the plural ‘we’, in countering the negative force of Pe’or.
It is revealed that the letters that comprise the word בגיא, in the valley, correspond to the first four words in the mystical prayer of Rebbi Nechunyah ben HaKaneh, whose forty-two first letters fashion the forty two letter Name of Hashem.
אנא בכח גדולת ימינך קבל רינת תתיר צרורה שגבנו טהרנו נורא, We beg You! With the strength of Your right hand’s greatness, untie those bounded, Accept the prayer of Your nation; strengthen us, purify us, O Awesome One.
Pe’or represents the deifying of indignity, symbolized in it being worship in the most demeaning way by defecating in its presence. A society so crass to say what it pleases, who dress with no concern for dignity, which views man as a conglomerate of instincts that are given free reign, is countered by that great inspirer, our master and teacher Moshe. He reflects the strength of G-d’s supportive right hand’s greatness, whose belief in us permits us to break out of our limitations, enabling us to attain heights of unparalleled dignity and purity.
We have just commemorated Tisha B’Av. It is called a מועד, similar to the other מועדים, holidays.
Each of the Moadim celebrate a unique dimension of Klall Yisroel; Pesach our having been chosen to be His nation; Shavuos, the privilege of receiving the Torah; Rosh Hashana, our accountability before G-d; Yom Kippur, the gift of Teshuva -repentance; Sukkos, the Divine protection we are privileged to.
But what do we celebrate on Tisha B’Av?
I believe it is the remarkable quality of His people, who despite their challenges, continue to march forward in the belief that we can overcome those difficulties in living up to G-d’s faith in us to reach perfection.
May we represent to those in our influence this quality of Moshe to instill confidence in them.
May we find comfort in that realization and may it power us to resist failure and be encouraged that we will and can achieve our goal, speedily in our days.
צבי יהודה טייכמאן