Between the Lines—Va-ethannan

Weekly Midrash Learning with Rabbi Abigail Treu

דברים רבה (וילנא) פרשה ב
ה בעת ההיא, באי זה עת באותו עת שנתמנה יהושע שנא' (דברים ג) ואת יהושע צויתי א"ר הונא כיון שאמר לו הקב"ה למשה הגיע ארכי ליהושע אותה שעה התחיל לבקש רחמים ליכנס לארץ למה הדבר דומה לאיפרכוס שהיה בארכי שלו והיה גוזר על המלך והוא עושה היה פודה למי שרוצה וחובש למי שרוצה וכיון שנתחלף ונתמנה אחר תחתיו התחיל לבקש מן השוער ליכנס ולא היה מניח לו כך משה כל ימים שהיה בארכי שלו היה חובש למי שרוצה שנא' (במדבר טז) וירדו הם וכל אשר להם חיים וגו' ופודה למי רוצה שנאמר (דברים לג) יחי ראובן ואל ימות וכיון שנתחלף ונתמנה יהושע תחתיו שנא' (במדבר כז) קח לך את יהושע בן נון התחיל להתחנן ליכנס לארץ אמר לו הקב"ה רב לך.
Deuteronomy Rabbah 2:5
“I pleaded with the Lord at that time . . . ” (Deut. 3:23). At which time? At the time when Joshua was appointed leader, as it is said, “And I commanded Joshua at that time” (Deut. 3:21). Rav Huna said: As soon as God said to Moses, ‘Hand over your office to Joshua,’ immediately Moses began to pray to be permitted to enter the land. He can be compared to a governor who so long as he retained his office could be sure that whatever orders he gave, the king would confirm; he redeemed whomsoever he desired and imprisoned whomsoever he desired. But as soon as he retired and another was appointed in his place, he had in vain to ask the gatekeeper to let him enter [the palace]. Similarly, so long as Moses remained in office he imprisoned whomsoever he desired . . . and he released whomsoever he desired. But when he was relieved of his office and Joshua was appointed in his stead . . . he began to supplicate to be permitted to enter the land. God replied: “Enough! Never speak to Me of this matter again!” (Deut. 3:26)


There was a time
You would never have said, “Enough!”
A time when your passion
Burned
For me
Never consumed
Even when I was afraid
When I pleaded for release
You wanted
Me

Now I am old
I did my best
Do not cast me off in my old age1
As long as I am young, strong
Powerful
In office
Running things
People will listen to me
But what next?
When I am old
Retired
Broke
When I have stepped off the Board
And can’t hear anymore
When my hands tremble
And maybe I make a mess when I eat
Will anyone listen to me?

Passion, perhaps, is for young lovers
And yet I love you so in my old age too.
Promises that bloomed with youth
Lay shattered with the disappointment
Of time gone by
And time running out

Now that it’s his turn
The young one
Still strong, still handsome
With a whole world ahead of him
You burn for him
And cast me aside: Enough!

It’s not that I needed to actually enter the Land.
It’s that I needed to know
You still want me.

                                   — Rabbi Abigail Treu


 

1Psalms 71:9