Hear, O you heavens and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth. (Deut. 32:1)

Rebbe Yehuda opened his discourse on this verse by quoting: "I opened to my beloved; but my beloved had turned away and was gone. My soul failed when he spoke; I sought him, but I could not find him; I called him but he gave me no answer." (Songs 5:6) What is written prior to this? "I sleep, but my heart is awake. Knocking; it is the voice of my beloved." (Ibid. 5:2)

"I sleep" refers to the Congregation of Israel [the Shechinah, the sefira of malchut]. She says to the Holy One blessed be He, "I am sleeping" in relation to the commandments of the Torah at the time when I walked in the desert.

Since most of the mitzvot are dependant on the Jews being in the land of Israel, as long as they were camped outside it, i.e. in the Sinai desert, they were as though asleep in relation to those mitzvot like conquering the land, tithes, establishing cities of refuge, etc.

"My heart is awake" to go up to the Land and perform those mitzvahs, since all of the mitzvahs of the Torah can be performed there.

Even when they were in the desert with every need supplied by G‑d, the soul of the people of Israel longed to make aliya

So even when they were in the desert with every need supplied by G‑d, the soul of the people of Israel longed to make aliya in order to be able to perform all the mitzvot that G‑d commanded, something that is impossible in exile. Perhaps this casts another light on the very word "aliya", literally "going up", i.e. immigration to Israel, because being in Israel allows one to perform extra mitzvot that are unavailable elsewhere. This in itself is a higher spiritual plane, an ascending in our ability to serve G‑d.

"Knocking, it is the voice of my beloved", this refers to Moses, who consistently would reprove Israel, and had many disputes and many arguments with them. [He reproved them, reminding them:] "Remember, and don't forget, how you provoked G‑d your G‑d to anger in the wilderness, from the day when you departed out of the land of Egypt, until you came to this place, you have been rebellious against G‑d. Also in Horeb you provoked the L-rd to wrath, so that G‑d was so angry with you that he was ready to destroy you." (Deut. 9:7-8) This is what is meant by the word "knocking".

Now we have a new interpretation of the verse. Moses, the beloved of G‑d, is knocking on the doors of consciousness of the people of Israel in order that they should understand the divine response to their actions and follow in His ways.

And with all that which Moses admonished Israel, his words were accompanied by great mercy, as it is written: "For you are a holy people to the Lord your G‑d; the Lord your G‑d has chosen you to be a special people to Himself, above all the peoples that are upon the face of the earth." (Deut. 7:6) "You are the children of the L-rd your G‑d." (Deut. 14:1) "And you who held fast to the Lord your G‑d are alive every one of you this day," (Deut. 4:4) "You shall therefore obey the voice of the Lord your G‑d and do His commandments and His statutes, which I command you this day." (Deut. 27:10) "This is because of the love G‑d has for you." (Deut. 7:8) This is as is written "Open up to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my perfect one." (Songs 5:2)

And what else is written there? "I arose to open to my beloved." (Song 5:5) Israel said [to G‑d] that at the time when we were ready to go up to the land and receive in practice those commandments of the Torah [that depend on being present in the land of Israel] from Moses, what is written [in the continuation of the same verse]? "But my beloved had turned away and was gone." This is as is written "And Moses, the servant of the Lord, died there." (Deut. 34:5)

Moses…knocks on the doors of our hearts to awaken us…

In this striking reinterpretation of these verses from Song of Songs, Moses is called the Beloved of G‑d and of Israel. He knocks on the doors of our hearts to awaken us to our characters and past faults so we can correct them and learn the practical commandments connected with entering into the Holy Land. Then, just as we had opened up to him, to learn the practical applications of these commandments in the Land, he was gone. No longer able to lead us, he was gathered in by G‑d, leaving us to enter the Land under another leader. The verse in Song of Songs 5:6 can now be read in accordance with this new interpretation: "I opened to my beloved [Moses], but my beloved had turned away, and was gone. My soul failed when he spoke; I sought him [to interpret the application of the laws relating to the land], but I could not find him; I called him, but he gave me no answer."

"I called him, but I could not find him." This is as reflected in the verse "And since then, there has not risen a prophet like Moses in Israel." (Deut. 34:10) "I called him, but he didn't answer." There was also no generation [in Israel] like the generation of Moses that G‑d listened to their voice and made miracles and gave them laws like those that were passed on at the hands of Moses.

The laws and miracles that Israel received in the generation of Moses were in his merit, and, likewise, their prayers were heard in his merit. This is the reason that later generations call to G‑d and there seems to be no answer. It is also why we pray for Mashiach, because in his merit the connection between the Jews and G‑d will be clear, and when we call out we will be answered as in "days of old", the days of Moses.

Translation and commentary by Simcha-Shmuel Treister

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