Sedra of the week: Devarim

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Sedra of the week: Devarim

Rebbetzin Dina Golker looks ahead to this week's portion of the Torah

“The idea was good in my eyes.” These are the words spoken by Moses in this week’s parsha, Devarim, when recalling the episode of the sending of the spies. He admonishes the children of Israel for pressing him to ask God to let him send spies, but also admits that at one point he himself thought it would be a good idea.

The Talmud explains that while Moses believed it to be a good idea, Hashem did not. Why, then, did Hashem allowed it to be implemented? Rav Mottel Katz, the former head of Telz Yeshiva, Cleveland, explains that, instead of viewing the Talmudic observation as a criticism of Moses, there are times when we must concede, even when we believe what is about to occur is wrong.

Sometimes our children or students are simply not ready to be denied their request. A person has to know when children are so set on proceeding with their plans that they won’t listen to anything to the contrary.

Had the children of Israel been on a sufficiently high spiritual level, Moses could have explained to them why it wasn’t a good idea and God would never have allowed it to go ahead. 

The Talmud indeed teaches that just as it is a mitzvah to articulate words that will be accepted, it is likewise a mitzvah not to say words that will not be accepted. We have to know when to say yes and when to say no!

I think this is another way of interpreting the Talmudic directive to teach a child to swim. Learning to swim means, symbolically, teaching the child gradually to navigate the potentially adverse currents of life so they will realise of their own accord what is beneficial for them and what is not. 

Until such time, however, a parent occasionally has to pander to the child’s immature wishes despite the parent’s knowledge that these wishes are ultimately bad for the child.

Dina Golker is the assistant rebbetzin of St John’s Wood Synagogue

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