Emulating Our Leaders
[Editor’s note: As a memory of my beloved brother Shaya, I would like to continue sending out his pearls of wisdom that he has shared with all of you in the past. For some of you this may ring a bell and for others it may appear to be totally new. May the learning of Shaya’s Divrei Torah inspire us to change our ways and thereby give an Aliya to the neshama of our dear beloved Shaya whom we miss so much.]
In this week’s Parsha, the Torah tells us that the tribes of Gad and Reuvain asked Moshe for permission to stay outside of Eretz Yisroel, because they wanted to pasture their cattle in the fertile ground outside of Eretz Yisroel.
However, in Parshas Vizos Habracha, Moshe said that the reason the tribes of Gad and Reuvain wanted to stay outside of Eretz Yisroel was because that’s where ‘he [Moshe] would be hidden’. Seemingly, they wanted to be close to Moshe’s burial spot.
There seems to be a blatant contradiction. What was the real reason why they wanted to stay outside Eretz Yisroel? Furthermore, if they didn’t know where the burial spot was, as the Torah attests, that ‘no man knows where Moshe was buried,’ hence they couldn’t go there to daven, so it doesn’t makes sense that ‘there Moshe was hidden’ refers to his burial spot. If so, what does it mean, ‘there Moshe was ‘hidden?
Rav Yisroel Belsky Zatzal offers a beautiful answer:
For forty years in the Midbar Klal Yisrael had been very close with Moshe. They listened to Moshe’s daily shiur, then reviewed what Moshe had taught them, and asked Moshe questions if they needed any further clarification to receive the authentic Torah perspective. They were able to see the divine presence radiating from his holy countenance. And now, when they were preparing to enter Eretz Yisrael, he was no longer going to guide Klal Yisroel. They asked themselves, ‘How will we manage without Moshe? How can we go on?’ They realized that the only way to go on, was to understand how Moshe became who he was, and seek to emulate him in that regard. Moshe didn’t become the Gadol Hador in one moment; he lived a life of growth and development until he became the shepherd of Klal Yisrael. It wasn’t until he was 80 years old that he emerged to become the leader of Klal Yisroel.
After some contemplation, the tribes of Gad and Reuvain realized that being a shepherd must have been a key element in Moshe’s attaining his greatness, as Moshe was a shepherd for SIXTY YEARS from age twenty to age eighty!
How does being a shepherd help one become great? 1. You are away from all distractions and evildoers. 2. You can meditate and connect to Hashem in song and prayer. 3. You develop your attributes of caring and concern, as you must be concerned with each and every sheep…
This, explains Rav Belsky, is the meaning of their request to pasture their flock outside Eretz Yisrael. It wasn’t a trivial greed for business purposes. Rather, it was their sincere desire to emulate their leader, Moshe, who was now going to be pass on.
Hence, it is apparent that the two seeming diametrically opposed reasons are one and the same. When the passuk in parshas Vizos Habracha says that the tribes of Gad and Reuvain yearned to be close to where Moshe was hidden, it means to figure out his secret of how he became who he became and emulate him, i.e. by being shepherds for their flock, just as Moshe had done!
Let us all follow in the footsteps of our ancestors in the Midbar; to look deeply at the life of our leaders, and try to understand how they achieved their greatness in Torah and Avodah. Once we will be able to emulate our leader’s actions by behaving in accordance with all of the Torah’s teachings and Moshe’s lessons, we will merit to see the coming of Moshiach speedily in our days.
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