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Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
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Moses blames rebellious Jews for his sinful anger?

We will find four oblique references to the Ninth of Av

Many commentators want us to believe that Moses blames rebellious Jews for his sinful anger. They failed to convince me for several reasons.

1. No one can make you angry. We use excuses of what things remind us of to justify making ourselves angry. Moses could never stoop so low.

2. Several rabbis say that the Primordial Sin was not eating from the Tree of Knowing the Difference Between Good and Bad. As Rabbi Emanuel Quint once told me: We all sometimes eat something that, in hindsight, we’d better have refrained from. No, their fatal mistake was a denial of responsibility. Not me but the women You gave me, the snake who pushed me. G^d doesn’t even ask the snake for his justification. Moses, the greatest Prophet ever was repeating this Sin? Unthinkable!

‘Because of you,’ Moses says in many translations, ‘I can’t enter the land.’

Our prime Commentator Rashi says that Because of you is the translation of biglalchem here (Deuteronomy 3:26). Normally, and here still, says the Steinsaltz Bible, it means: For your benefit and honor. How so?

Chezkuni reminds us that the men who cried baseless tears on the Ninth of Av on the incitement by the Spies (Numbers 14:1) and the 2.5% who died every Ninth of Av for 40 years (ibid 14:29-35) were not evil. They were, like the whole of the Generation of the Desert that ate Manna, unbelievably holy. They all will merit being resurrected. He explains the only leader great enough to lead them into the Land is Moses. So, he’s buried at their side (of the Jordan) not to delay (those traffic jams!) their entry.

Another well-known explanation is that everything Moses built was indestructible, eternal. Had he entered the Land, the Temple would have been untouchable. Then, it could not have been destroyed twice (twice on the Ninth of Av), and the destruction would have hit the Jews full force.

Four references from the Parashah after the Fast day to the Ninth of Av.

Now, why does Rashi say that this is not the prime translation here?

Maybe, because Moses says For you, to those listening to him. These were the wives and children of those who died on the desert journeys on the Ninth of Av. And, the Jews witnessing the Ninth of Av destruction of the Temples were their offspring. Those weren’t at Moses’ farewell speech.

But then, what does ‘Because of you’ mean if we are certain that Moses is not blaming others for his failure to enter the Land?

‘Moses’ Sin’

The Torah is very clear that Moses could not enter the Land because of only one sin he committed. Yet, a dozen of our holy Commentators each give their own explanation of which sin that could have been. One of our Commentators writes that he has a different idea still, but because it says so clearly that it was one sin, he doesn’t want to add his idea to the pile.

Many argue that G^d judges the Great more strictly than the Simple. So, Moses was found guilty because of something subtle that would not have been held against average people? I don’t think so. I can even prove that to be untrue. To give the impression that one blames others for one’s own lack of emotional control would be, on his level, an enormous sin. No, I think that Moses was involved in the greatest sin of Judaism. Hear me out.

I once heard Rabbi Steinsaltz (in a lecture with his friend Rabbi Quint) say that leaving our houses as recognizable Jews is very dangerous. We can do something completely innocent and neutral that is taken the wrong way, and then we’ve participated in the worst sin: Desecration of G^d’s Name.

This was Moses’ and Aharon’s sinning. They stood at the flint. The public said: ‘Look at these old men. One is almost 120, the other 123.’ (Many now say and believe the same about US President Biden, just because he’s a bit older. There’s nothing new under the sun—Ecclesiastes 1:9.) ‘They need to be our generals fighting the wicked people of Kanaan? In the desert, they sufficed because all good came supernaturally. But wedging wars?’

Moses and Aharon were done as leaders. They became unfit, not because they messed up, but because we didn’t deserve them anymore. They were unable to hallow G^d’s Name, as G^d specifies literally (Deuteronomy 32:51). The worst sin! But, not because they did anything wrong!

In fact, G^d could not have judged Moses and Aharon unfairly since He also keeps the Torah and that would’ve been a Desecration of His Name.

And that’s why Moses can say: Because of you. It’s purely factual, not defecting blame. And Moses is obligated to say this before his death, as we learn from the saintly Jacob. I once heard Rabbi Steinsaltz tell a story of a holy man who was able to keep his mouth shut all his life to not speak evil ever. But, in the end, on his deathbed, the Evil Inclination got him anyway. His children asked him to reproach them, but he didn’t. You don’t forever chase around your children with all kinds of criticisms. But just before your passing, you clarify their challenge to them. This can be very helpful. Especially as the reproached listen and take it to heart. Regrettably, every day, the news bombards us with words by Jews attacking Jewish leaders, fully convinced that they now are engaged in the greatest saintliness ever.

Moses didn’t blame. He taught them their challenge. And he had done nothing wrong. NB: Don’t blame any of the rabbis for what are my ideas.

About the Author
MM is a prolific and creative writer and thinker, an almost daily blog contributor to the Times of Israel, and previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. He often makes his readers laugh, mad, or assume he's nuts—close to perfect blogging. He's proud that his analytical short comments are removed both from left-wing and right-wing news sites. * As a frontier thinker, he sees things many don't yet. He's half a prophet. Half. Let's not exaggerate. He doesn't believe that people observe and think in a vacuum. He, therefore, wanted a broad bio that readers interested can track a bit about what (lack of) backgrounds, experiences, and education contribute to his visions. * To find less-recent posts on subject XXX among his over 1600 archived ones, go to the right-top corner of a Times of Israel page, click on the search icon and search "zuiden, XXX". One can find a second, wilder blog, to which one may subscribe, here: https://mmvanzuiden.wordpress.com/. * Like most of his readers, he believes in being friendly, respectful, and loyal. Yet, if you think those are his absolute top priorities, you might end up disappointed. His first loyalty is to the truth. He will try to stay within the limits of democratic and Jewish law, but he won't lie to support opinions or people who don't deserve that. He admits that he sometimes exaggerates to make a point, which could have him come across as nasty, while in actuality, he's quite a lovely person to interact with. He holds - how Dutch - that a strong opinion doesn't imply intolerance of other views. * Sometimes he's misunderstood because his wide and diverse field of vision seldomly fits any specialist's box. But that's exactly what some love about him. He has written a lot about Psychology (including Sexuality and Abuse), Medicine (including physical immortality), Science (including basic statistics), Politics (Israel, the US, and the Netherlands, Activism), Oppression and Liberation (intersectionally, for young people, the elderly, non-Whites, women, workers, Jews, LGBTQIA+, foreigners and anyone else who's dehumanized or exploited), Integrity, Philosophy, Jews (Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust, and Jewish Liberation), the Climate Crisis, Ecology and Veganism, Affairs from the news, or the Torah Portion of the Week, or new insights that suddenly befell him. * His most influential teachers (chronologically) are his parents, Nico (natan) van Zuiden and Betty (beisye) Nieweg, Wim Kan, Mozart, Harvey Jackins, Marshal Rosenberg, Reb Shlomo Carlebach, and, lehavdil bein chayim lechayim, Rabbi Dr. Natan Lopes Cardozo, Rav Zev Leff, and Rav Meir Lubin. * One of his rabbis calls him Mr. Innovation [Ish haChidushim]. Yet, his originalities seem to root deeply in traditional Judaism, though they may grow in unexpected directions. In fact, he claims he's modernizing nothing. Rather, mainly basing himself on the basic Hebrew Torah text, he tries to rediscover classical Jewish thought almost lost in thousands of years of stifling Gentile domination and Jewish assimilation. (He pleads for a close reading of the Torah instead of going by rough assumptions of what it would probably mean and before fleeing to Commentaries.) This, in all aspects of life, but prominently in the areas of Free Will, Activism, Homosexuality for men, and Redemption. * He hopes that his words will inspire and inform, and disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed. He aims to bring a fresh perspective rather than harp on the obvious and familiar. He loves to write encyclopedic overviews. He doesn't expect his readers to agree. Rather, original minds should be disputed. In short, his main political positions are among others: anti-Trumpism, anti-elitism, anti-bigotry and supremacy, for Zionism, Intersectionality, and non-violence, anti those who abuse democratic liberties, anti the fake ME peace process, for original-Orthodoxy, pro-Science, pro-Free Will, anti-blaming-the-victim, and for down-to-earth, classical optimism, and happiness. * He is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (https://diethylstilbestrol.co.uk/studies/des-and-psychological-health/), born in 1953 to parents who were Dutch-Jewish Holocaust survivors who met in the largest concentration camp in the Netherlands, Westerbork. He grew up a humble listener. It took him decades to become a speaker too. Bullies and con artists almost instantaneously envy and hate him. * He holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam) – is half a doctor. He practices Re-evaluation Co-counseling since 1977, is not an official teacher anymore, and became a friendly, empowering therapist. He became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids non-violently. For a couple of years, he was active in hasbara to the Dutch-speaking public. He wrote an unpublished tome about Jewish Free Will. He's being a strict vegan since 2008. He's an Orthodox Jew but not a rabbi. He lives with his library in Jerusalem. Feel free to contact him. * His writing has been made possible by a (second-generation) Holocaust survivors' allowance from the Netherlands. It has been his dream since he was 38 to try to make a difference by teaching through writing. He had three times 9-out-of-10 for Dutch at his high school finals but is spending his days communicating in English and Hebrew - how ironic. G-d must have a fine sense of humor. In case you wonder - yes, he is a bit dyslectic. If you're a native English speaker and wonder why you should read from people whose English is only their second language, consider the advantage of having an original peek outside of your cultural bubble.
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