156/929 The Eternal Passing Phase. Devarim 3

The whole entire world, taught Rebbe Nachman, is a very narrow bridge. Which means that our work in this world is to always be in a state of crossing over. Our job is to bridge, in the words of Erez Lev Ari’s powerful lyrics, “between truth and truth, between ideal and action, between those days and this time, between the hidden and revealed, between the next world and this one”.

This is Moshe’s lot. He is not allowed to arrive. He can ascend “Har Ha’Avarim”, this mountain of transition, but he is decreed to remain just on the other side of the Jordan, to remain, as it were, in transit.

“And the essence,” continues Rebbe Nachman, “is not to fear at all.” The liminal life Rebbe Nachman describes is frightening; it’s frightening always to be between, always to be moving towards, and moving from, but never there. The great temptation is to deny it; to pretend that life can be static. But everyone knows that if you’re crossing a very narrow bridge, and you try to stand still, the chances are that you will fall into the chasm. This is the chasm of Pe’or, who was worshipped by sitting, and just letting… it happen. A static worship that hallows the person as he or she is, rather than the movement of the person to what he or she can be. Jewish law is called halacha– walking, because a person is meant to be a mehalech, a walker, a mover. “And I will give you walkers among these who are standing,” says God to the high¬† priest Yehoshua (Zecharia 3:7) at the twilight of prophecy.

And therefore, Moshe can’t enter the land. ‘Vayit’aber Hashem bi lema’anchem”. The word ‘vayit’aber‘ is a strange one that the commentators struggle with, as they do with the word ‘lema’anchem’, and so most understand it as if this was a repetition of Moshe’s words in chapter 1- ‘and God was angry with me because of you’. But that’s not what it says. Vayit’aber ¬†echoes the key word of the section- ‘avar’– to cross over, to transition. Perhaps we can suggest- ‘And God made me transitional, He froze me in transition, for your sake”.

Moshe remains the eternal wandering Jew, to stand always as antithesis to the chasm of Pe’or, as our guide on this journey we all must travel.

About the Author
Avidan Freedman is the rabbi of the Shalom Hartman Institute's Hevruta program, an educator Hartman Boys High School in Jerusalem, and an activist against Israeli weapons sales to human rights violators.
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