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God is closer to Moshe than Moshe is to the Children of Israel: Parashat Beha’lotcha

Reb Mimi Feigelson finds a clue in this week’s parashah answering a question she has been pondering for 20 years! Her passion in describing God’s closeness, the Heart-to-Heart resuscitation of Moshe is contagious. We all need to measure our words! 

This morning, a question that I have been walking with for about 20 years was solved.

I could never understand why, in Parashat Devarim, and I know we are in Parashat Beha’alotcha this Shabbat, but in a moment you will understand.

Why in Parashat Devarim (Chapter 1:9) when Moshe says to the Children of Israel, “I can’t do this alone”:

לֹא-אוּכַל לשאֵת  לֹא-אוּכַל לְבַדִּי

(לא אוכל לבדי שאת אתכם)

They don’t pick up on that prop and do something about praying, demanding of God for Moshe to enter into the Land of Israel.

I came to understand this morning, that in our parashah Beha’alotcha (Bamidbar 11:14), we also have that phrase:

לֹא-אוּכַל לשאֵת לְבַדִּי  את כל העם

“I cannot carry all this people by myself, for it is too heavy for me.”

It is a statement that Moshe makes to God.

Seemingly the same statement. But what a difference!

When Moshe says it to God, God immediately responds in our parashah. Later in Devarim, when he says it to the Children of Israel, they don’t hear him and they don’t respond.

I want to connect it to the issue of Pesach Sheni. That we know that if someone is, the Torah tells us, if someone is impure Tamei La’nefesh (טמא לנפש) because we are taught it is connected to a Met Mitzvah (מת מצווה) someone who there was no one else to bury them. Or Derech Arucha (דרך ארוכה) a far journey”. Then they are not obligated to perform that Pesach sacrifice Korban Pesach (קורבן פסח) the first in Nissan, but they can do it again a month later.

Trying to understand what this Tamei La’nefesh and what is the Derech Arucha what is this impurement of the soul and also a far journey?

I want to say, and I want to invite you think about teachers perhaps, books that you have read, teachers that you have learned from, that sometimes you know that they are talking to you and sometimes what they are saying can’t connect to you, throws you far from where you were a moment ago.

Sometime there are teachings, there are Torah that bring us closer to God and sometimes there are those that distance us. Who are those teachers and what are those books?

In our own life as teachers, as parents as friends, how do we find a way as our parashah (Bamidbar 12:8) tells us the uniqueness of Moshe was Peh al Peh adaber bo (פה אל פה אדבר בו) With him will I speak mouth to mouth.”

When he spoke to God it was Peh al Peh. So when he says to God I can’t do this alone, God actually moves into action.

But when he says I can’t do this alone to the Children of Israel, that wasn’t Peh al Peh they couldn’t understand what he was saying.

I want to invite us to think about how we speak, to whom we speak, what words we choose. So that when we share words of Torah, when we share words that are sustainable – I want to say words that bring us life – as the Ma’or Einayim (‘The Light of the Eyes’ by Hassidic master Menachem Nachum Twersky of Chernobyl) tells us in this parashah, we have an obligation to find the appropriate speech for each and every person we talk to.

That we can be Peh el Peh. We can be so to speak mouth-to-mouth, heart-to-heart resuscitation. That we can speak in a way that people understand us, that will bring them close in a way that brings meaning to their lives and an intimacy with God and with life and with others in a way that other words would not.


Shabbat Shalom from Schechter        

Reb Mimi serves as the Mashpiah Ruchanit (spiritual mentor) of the Rabbinical School, and  teaches Talmud and Hassidic Thought. She will guide and walk with the rabbinical students on their personal-spiritual journeys. She served as the Mashpiah Ruchanit of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies in Los Angeles for the last 16 years. Prior to this Reb Mimi was one of the founding administration and faculty members of the “Yakar” Beit Midrash and community.

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