Protesting the Blessing of Moses - דברים

Friday, 5 August, 2022 - 2:08 pm


Protesting the Blessing of Moses

Moses blessed the Jewish people, but they protested.  

At the beginning of the book of Deuteronomy, where Moses retells the history of the Jewish people's journey through the desert, Moses blesses the Jewish people. He said to them: 

May the Lord God of your forefathers add to you a thousandfold as many as you are, and may He bless you, as He spoke concerning you! (Deuteronomy 1:11)

Rashi explains that when Moses blessed the people that they should increase one thousand fold, the Jewish people protested by telling Moses that he was limiting their blessing, as G-d had promised Abraham that his descendants would be too many too count:   

They {the Israelites} said to him, "Moses, you are limiting our blessings {i.e., our numbers being multiplied only a thousandfold}. The Holy One, blessed is He, already promised to Abraham, 'so that if a man will be able to count {the dust of the earth, so will your seed be counted}!'" [Moses] replied to them: "This [blessing of a thousandfold] is mine, but He will bless you as He spoke concerning you!" 

G-d offered the Jewish people a limitless blessing; why would Moses then add a limited one? What does Moses' limited blessing contribute above and beyond G-d's limitless one? 

Many spiritual seekers seek to grasp the infinite. Their soul feels confined by everyday reality; they desire to transcend reality and to be enveloped by the infinite light. Judaism, however, offers a radically different approach. Our relationship with G-d is a marriage between the finite and the infinite. In a healthy marriage, each partner contributes of their own unique identity to create something more significant than the sum of their parts. In our union with the infinite G-d, we must offer our unique and finite contribution, which is spelled out in meticulous detail in the laws of the Torah. 

Moses tells the Jewish people that while the Divine blessing is limitless, we must offer a limited blessing which is our limited input. Only then do we create a meaningful relationship with the Divine; only then do we reach true infinity, which is not confined to the realm of infinite but can express itself in the finite reality. 

This conversation between the Jewish people and Moses is recorded in the beginning of the fifth book as the Jewish people were listening to Moses' final words, preparing to cross the Jordan River and settle the land of Israel. Perhaps this conversation captures the challenge that lay ahead. For they were now being called upon to express the abstract, undefined, infinite sense of holiness and spirituality they experienced in the desert, within the confines of order and structure within the society they would create in the holy land. 

Adapted from the teachings of the Rebbe, Lekutei Sichos Devarim 19:4

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