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The unraveling of the destiny of the generation of Jews that left Egypt reaches its climax in the Torah reading of this week. All of the leaders of the people will not bring them to the promised land of Israel. This is true not only of the leaders of the individual tribes in the desert but even Moshe and Aharon are doomed not to witness the conquest and settlement of the Land of Israel.

The will of Heaven in this area, as in almost all other areas of life and history, remains inscrutable to us ordinary humans. We do not comprehend the punishment of Moshe and its apparent severity. Commentators to the Torah have labored along and hard over the centuries to attempt to explain this mystery but it must be admitted, that in spite of their brilliant insights, the mystery still remains.
We are left, as always, amazed and in awe at the judgment of Heaven. We are bound to accept that judgment even if it is beyond our realm of comprehension. Moshe will make numerous attempts to mitigate this decision but Heaven will not waiver in its enforcement.
This week's Torah reading generally deals with laws and commandments that are beyond comprehension, such as the ritual involving the red heifer. The punishment meted out to Moshe also fits into this category of laws and commandments from Heaven that are beyond human understanding. So there is this thread of mystery that combines to make up the contents of the Torah reading of this week.
Aside from delving into the mysterious ways that Heaven deals with our world and with us as individuals, the main task that lies before us is how to continue and strengthen ourselves physically and spiritually no matter what the results of Heaven’s judgment are.
Over the past century enormous events have overtaken the Jewish people. All of these events remain mysterious to us. Why did the Holocaust take place? Why did our generation merit the creation of a Jewish state in our ancient homeland of the Land of Israel? How has Torah study ascended to such a lofty level both in spirit and numbers in a generation of assimilation and intermarriage?
All of these questions go to the heart of Jewish existence and society in our time. And to a great extent, they are all questions for which no real answers have ever been provided. But what is clear is that instead of delving intellectually into these issues, we should rather face their consequences and attempt to positively affect opportunities and situations. Complaints and finger pointing over past mistakes will not really help us in our current struggles and challenges.
To a great extent, these attempts at hindsight and rational explanations of what is essentially beyond our understanding are futile and counterproductive. Our task is to build the future and not necessarily to try and explain the inexplicable. We are judged by what we do and accomplish and not by what we attempt to understand or explain. That is really the essential message of the Torah reading of this week.
Shabbat shalom
Rabbi Berel Wein

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