Rabbi Fabian Werbin
This week’s Torah portion is Va’etchanan, Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11.
I invite you, the readers of the Torah text, to momentarily set aside whatever preconceptions or prior knowledge you have about the Torah. For the next few minutes, let your imagination soar freely.
In the Book of Numbers, we learned that Moses faced severe consequences from Hashem. Due to the incident of Massa and Merivah, Moses was forbidden from entering the Promised Land. However, despite this punishment, Moses pleads with Hashem in Parshat Va’etchanan to allow him entry. God responds, “No more pleas, go up to the summit of Pisgah and lift up your eyes and see to the west, the north, the south and the east.”
Now, let’s pause and consider this intriguing command. Moses stands before the land of Israel, positioned toward the Mediterranean Sea. Hashem instructs him to gaze upon the land to the west, north, south and east. But why the east? After all, Moses had journeyed from the east and was already situated on the opposite side of the Jordan River, east of the land of Israel. Why mention the east?
On the surface, it appears that God is merely instructing Moses to survey the land from all four cardinal directions, encompassing the entirety of the land of Israel. This interpretation suggests that Moses should observe the four corners of the land. However, I propose an alternative and imaginative perspective on the text.
Imagine Moses climbing a narrow path, ascending the mountain all alone. This solitary journey leads him to the summit of Mount Nevo, where he can survey the vast expanse before him. This solitary path signifies the unique and personal nature of Moses’ experience. As he reaches the peak, Moses beholds the panoramic view of his accomplishments. He sees the land of Israel stretching out before him to the west, north and south. On the east, behind him, stands his people. Each direction represents a testament to Moses’ life and achievements. The people of Israel and the land of Israel surround him, symbolizing the blessings that have enveloped his existence.
From atop the mountain, Moses realizes that his life has been enveloped by blessings. In the twilight of his years, he finally comprehends the significance of his journey. By merely looking around him, Moses walks into his own metaphorical Promised Land.
This alternative interpretation of the text extends a profound call to each one of us. Just like Moses, we are each called to tread our own unique and narrow paths. We, too, must take a moment to look around and appreciate the blessings that surround us. The expanse of our lives, just like the land Moses observed, holds countless blessings and accomplishments.
Before we can fully appreciate the abundance in our lives, the text teaches us a crucial lesson. The command begins with the Hebrew words “Sa Einecha,” which mean “lift up your eyes.” Only after we have directed our gaze toward the heavens can we truly perceive the beauty and abundance that envelop us. This act of lifting our eyes to the heavens signifies a deep sense of gratitude and recognition of the divine hand that guides our lives.
So, let us embark on our own journeys, walking the narrow path, climbing our own Mount Nevo and taking a moment to look around. As we lift our eyes to the heavens, appreciating our achievements and the blessings that surround us, we can enter our own Promised Land, find fulfillment in the abundance of our lives and recognize the presence of God. ■
Rabbi Fabian Werbin is the rabbi of Kol Shalom in Rockville.