In the tractate of Sanhedrin 111A our Rabbis criticize the behavior of Moshe Rabeynu and praise the actions of our forefathers. The Talmud explains that the fact that Moshe Rabeynu wasn’t able to lead the Jewish nation in battle against the 31 kings was his punishment. Instead of Moshe Rabeynu being the one to merit in the Mitzvah of capturing the land of Israel, it was given to his student Joshua. The Talmud explains that Moshe Rabeynu was punished because unlike our forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who never complained about their difficult situation, Moshe Rabeynu on the other hand complained. The Talmud is referring to Moshe Rabeynu’s response to Hashem after the situation in Egypt worsened for the Jewish nation, “Why have you brought this trouble on your people? Why did you send me?”
The Talmud sites three examples of difficulties that our forefathers had to face. The first example is with Abraham Hashem says “Go! Walk back and forth across the entire land because I will give it to you.” Despite Hashem’s promise to give Avraham the land, he could not find a place to bury his wife without purchasing the cave of Machpela for a huge sum of money. The second example is of Isaac, “Live here in this land and I will be with you and bless you. I will give all these lands to you and your descendants. I will keep the oath that I swore to your father Abraham.” Nevertheless, Isaac’s servants couldn’t find water to drink and they had to fight with the shepherds of Grarr over the water pits. The third example mentioned is with Jacob. “I will give the land on which you are lying to you and your descendants” Yet Jacob could not find a place to pitch his tent until he purchased a portion of land in Shechem.
Despite these difficulties, our forefathers never complained and quietly paid the price for settling the land of Israel. Obviously, Moshe Rabeynu, the greatest prophet that ever lived, did not complain because of personal difficulty; he was broken because of the tremendous suffering his people were experiencing. On the other hand, our forefathers’ difficulties seemed to be on the personal level.
Why then does the Talmud make a comparison between them and criticize Moshe Rabeynu? Apparently, the sages were teaching us that Abraham’s search for a grave and Jacob’s search for a place to set up his tent, and Isaac’s struggle over water weren’t in the least personal issues. These were all prototypes of situations that their decedents would have to face when trying to settle the land of Israel. Hashem was preparing them for the great difficulties that would lie ahead in inheriting the land.
The lesson is that we mustn’t focus on the difficulties but rather remain steadfast in our faith as we continue to move forward. Today more than ever we can identify with this message. We never seem to be able to sit back and relax. It is amazing how the building of Jerusalem and the communities of Yehuda and Shomron capture the attention of the whole world. It is absolutely mind-boggling.
The words of Moshe Rabeynu to Pharaoh are still echoing today, “Let my people go”.
Rabbi Moshe Goldsmith Itamar