In this Torah portion, Devarim (Deuteronomy 1-3), Moses recalls the travels through the Sinai desert when God told him:
Be not at enmity with Moab, neither contend with them in battle; for I will not give thee of his land for a possession. (Deuteronomy 2:9)
To put this into context, let us recall the covenant of the pieces (or covenant between the parts, Heb. Brit Bein HaBetarim), when God promised Avraham:
On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying: “Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates; the Kenite, and the Kenizzite, and the Kadmonite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, and the Rephaim, and the Amorite, and the Canaanite, and the Girgashite, and the Jebusite.” (Genesis 15:19-21)
The medieval Biblical commentator, Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, known by his acronym, Rashi, explains that “There are ten nations listed here, but He gave them only seven nations. The other three—Edom, Moab (Mo’av) and Amon, which are the Kenite, and the Kenizzite, and the Kadmonite—are destined to be our heritage in the future.” In other words, these three lands were not destined to be captured by Moses, Joshua, and the generations immediately thereafter, but were left as the final frontier to be captured in Messianic times by the Mashiach (the Messiah).
On a spiritual level, the philosophy of Chabad explains these ten nations as a metaphor for the ten faculties of the soul—seven nations corresponding to seven emotional attributes and the three nations corresponding to the three intellectual faculties: Chochmah (Wisdom), Binah (Understanding) and Da’at (Knowledge). The second Rebbe of Chabad, the Mitteler Rebbe, explained that during the current era, our mission is to capture and bring Godliness to our emotions; whereas, in the Messianic era, our mission will be to bring Godliness to the intellect.
In Messianic times, we will pursue the intellectual service of comprehending Godliness, as it is written, “For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14). It stands to reason that engaging in these pursuits may hasten the advent of the Messianic era. Indeed, the Chasidic philosophy of ChaBaD—an acronym of Chochmah, Binah and Da’at—is a foretaste of the intellectual pursuits of the Messianic era, as the Lubavitcher Rebbe explained in his public letter issued on the 3rd day of Holiday of Sukkot in 1990 (5750). (See also Gutnick Chumash, Devarim, p. 17.)
This notion was further amplified by the Rebbe in connection with the story of the conversion of Jethro (Yitro), whose knowledge encompassed the entire body of secular knowledge of his time. His conversion to Judaism, which infused this knowledge with Godliness, is seen, in a sense, as a prerequisite to the Giving of the Torah at Sinai. Similarly now, the Rebbe explains, the convergence of Torah knowledge with Science is, in a sense, a prerequisite to the revelation of Mashiach. See more on this in my earlier post, Convergence of Science and Torah.
Originally published on QuantumTorah.com on Aug 3, 2014.