Nelly Shulman
Nelly Shulman

Not because of our virtues

In Deuteronomy 9:4, enlisting the conditions on which the children of Israel are to enter the promised land, God warns Moses, “Say not to yourselves, “The Lord has enabled us to possess this land because of our virtues.” He explains that the impending destruction of the inhabitants of Canaan is due only because of their wickedness and not due to the righteousness of the Jewish people.

For a long time, I had trouble accepting this passage. I felt it unfair to a Jewish people since one sweeping statement denies them even the chance of having any virtues. However, these lines are not demeaning neither cruel. God does not say that Jews are not virtuous. He wants us not to gloat over our virtues.

It is natural to assign our victories to the hard work, competency, determination, and a hundred more virtuous qualities. God, nevertheless, does not want us to say it even “in our hearts” as the text of the Torah goes. We always have to acknowledge the presence of God in our lives. The Or HaChaim, commenting on this verse, advises, “Moses said that no thought of their righteousness was acceptable under any circumstances. ” As simple as that.

About the Author
Nelly Shulman is a journalist and writer currently based in Berlin. She is an author of four popular historical novels in the Russian language. She is working on the fifth novel in this series and on her first English-language novel, a historical thriller set during the Siege of Leningrad. She a Hawthornden Fellow and an alumna of the Nachum Goldmann Fellowship.
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