This Torah portion opens with Moses' description of how, at the end of the forty-year detour in the desert, he pleaded with G‑d again to let him enter the Land of Israel, and how G‑d refused. It would seem that this should form part of the historical material reviewed in the preceding parasha, which concludes with the events immediately preceding Moses' prayer. Why then, it is placed, here, at the beginning of this parasha?

True, they had not seen what he and his generation had seen….

Moses knew that the generation standing before him was not on the same level of spiritual perception as was the preceding generation, who had witnessed the miracles of the Exodus and the giving of the Torah. He therefore understood that their confrontation with the materiality of the physical world would be a struggle, and that it would take time - perhaps a long time - until they would accomplish the purpose for which they were entering the Land. He therefore wanted to accompany them into the Land in order to boost their divine consciousness, as much as possible, to his level. True, they had not seen what he and his generation had seen, but they might be inspired by the intensity of his communion with G‑d. If he would cross the Jordan with them, he thought, it might give them the strength to conquer the Land in the fullest, most spiritual sense.

Relatively, the spiritual perception of the generation of the desert, compared to that of the generation of the conquest, was like that of sight compared to hearing. When a person sees something, he does not need to be convinced of it: he knows it to be so; after all, he saw it. In contrast, when a person hears something (or hears about something) he may be convinced of it, but his conviction can be contravened by persuasion and argument. Seeing is a direct perception and therefore incontrovertible, while hearing is indirect and therefore subject to challenge. Even if the Jews of this generation would not doubt for a moment the truth of their Jewish beliefs, the façade of materiality would still have a louder voice in their minds than it ever could have had in their fathers'. The reality of G‑d and the subordination of the physical to the spiritual had simply not been burned into their souls with the same intensity.

Had he been able to see the Land with his eyes, it would have looked different to the entire Jewish People….

Thus, Moses wanted to impart this spiritual sight to the new generation. "Lord G‑d, You have begun to show Your servant Your greatness…. Please let me cross and see the Land…" (Deut. 3:24-25). Had he been able to see the Land with his eyes, it would have looked different to the entire Jewish People.

But G‑d only let him see the Land from afar. "Go up to the top of the cliff…and see with your eyes, for you shall not cross this Jordan River" (Deut. 3:27). Resigned to the fact that his people would not attain this level of divine perception, he told them, at least, to "listen to the decrees and the laws that I am teaching you" (Deut. 4:1), and this set the tone for the rest of his address to them, indeed, for the rest of the book of Deuteronomy.

But why did G‑d refuse Moses' prayer? Why did He not want the Jewish people to be granted Moses' level of spiritual perception, so that they could accomplish their task in the land that much swifter and better?

The answer, of course, is that despite the advantages of sight over hearing, there is also an advantage of hearing over sight. When a person sees something, it is true, his sense of the reality of what he sees is infinitely stronger than it is when he only hears about it. However, this experience of certainty is due to the force of the experience, not to any work the person has done to refine his perception. It is a certainty imposed upon him from without, rather than one that solidifies gradually from within. Therefore, its effect on him as a person, albeit strong, is superficial and ephemeral. Once the person is no longer looking at the object, his experience of it begins to fade. Eventually, it will be weak enough to be challenged.

The conviction of truth a person arrives at indirectly engages him to a much greater and more profound degree….

In contrast, the conviction of truth a person arrives at indirectly engages him to a much greater and more profound degree. In the course of reaching this conviction, he has to struggle with the arguments and perceptions the world offers that challenge and conflict with this truth. By answering and overcoming these tests, the person is changed in the process.

Since, as we know, the purpose of Creation is that divine consciousness permeate reality to the greatest extent possible, that man's entire being be filled with the knowledge of G‑d, it is clear that in order for this to be accomplished it was imperative that Moses not accompany the Jews across the Jordan. When we will have refined reality to the greatest extent possible with our own efforts, we too will be granted the spiritual perception of Moses, as it is written, "And the glory of G‑d will be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together" (Isaiah 40:5).

Nonetheless, as we have learned, the prayer of a righteous person is always fulfilled in some way. So, Moses' request that the Jewish People be given his level of spiritual vision was indeed granted on some level. Thus, each of us possesses an inner vision of reality that affords us absolute certainty with regard to the issues of Jewish faith. Based on this inner sight, this unshakable inner conviction, we can withstand any of the worldly deceptions with which material reality challenges us; we can preserve our own divine consciousness and disseminate it throughout the world, as well. This undertone of certainty enables each of us to enter our "promised land", our arena of life-challenges, and confidently stride forward toward the ultimate and final redemption.

[Based on Likutei Sichot, vol. 9, pp. 57, 81-83; Sichot Kodesh 5737, vol. 2, pp. 340-348]

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