Devarim – Are we ready?

ON THE ONE HAND: Come and inherit the land promised to your ancestors…

8 Observe the land that I have given to you before you; go and take over the land that YHWH promised to your ancestors: to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob – to give to them and to their descendants after them.

Deuteronomy 1

ON THE OTHER HAND: Come and I will give you good land in Egypt…

17 Pharaoh spoke to Joseph: say to your brothers do this: pack up your animals and go out to the land of Caanan. 18 Take your father and your households and come back to me; I will give you a good part of the land of Egypt – eat of the fat of the land.

Genesis 45

How different one invitation was from the other. Ours was not to be an easy inheritance that we slipped into with grace. It was not a gift given by a kindly sovereign, but the beginning of a new endeavor that would test us one and all, warriors, women and children throughout the generations. The goal was a task of greater than herculean proportions and we would constantly face it. Once we crossed over the Jordan River our lives would never be the same.

14 Your women, children and possessions will stay in the land that Moses assigned you on the far side the Jordan; you will go across armed before your brothers – all trained soldiers – you will assist them. 15 Until such a time that YHWH will allow them, like you, to take over the land that YHWH, your God, gave them; …

Joshua 1

If the journey had been arduous—the final goal would be a continuously demanding struggle to possess the land. But how long would that struggle last? Would it be only for the toughest one, the mighty warriors?

1 These are the words that Moses spoke to all of Israel on the far side of the Jordan.

Deuteronomy 1

These words are still ringing in our ears as we struggle to fully comprehend. Was that struggle more difficult than any other? Did the noble warriors of that age fight for a higher cause? Were their victories triumphs of spirit or merely of conquering a new expanse? Are only the armed the mighty warriors or aren’t all those ready to move into unknown territory brave as well?

Did anyone say or think, “When we looked across the River Jordan, our arms grow weak and we cannot see the future. If we march together we may succeed, but our challenge will begin only after the fighting is done.”

Did anyone realize that the true struggle was to be how to live daily life in the land of promise? The grandeur of the battlefield would give way to the small immediacies of the mundane. There would be an end to conquering of territory, but there would never be an end to taming the spirit in the name of divine justice and truth.

16 Command your judges in that time saying: listen to your brothers and judge them justly – between a person and his brother or a stranger. 17 Do not judge with bias, you must listen to the small and the mighty – do not be afraid of anyone because justice is Godly.

Deuteronomy 1

Only the skilled few will actually fight in the battles. The inner strength to forge on is found between them and us. Are we the dam holding back the flood waters or are they? If they fail us will we not be destroyed in the backwash of devastation? If we fail them, the cause is lost. If we are not worthy of their efforts will not the dam collapse and flood the fields of strife and valor?

We are both sides of the dam, leaning upon each other to survive, to protect, to succeed. We hold back the flood from within and those on the battlefields from outside. No dam can survive if the one side collapses – neither can a people…

Midrash Harabah and English translations by Rabbi Gail Shuster-Bouskila ©2021


If it keeps on raining Levee is going to break.

If it keeps on rainin, levees goin to break,
If it keeps on rainin, levees goin to break,
When the levee breaks Ill have no place to stay.
Mean old levee taught me to weep and moan,
Lord, mean old levee taught me to weep and moan,
Got what it takes to make a mountain man leave his home,

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