Dear Rabbi, ,
I delivered a devar Torah on Shabbat Shuvah at the request of Rabbi Richardson because he was ill and needed some rest between his Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur sermons. In the upcoming parshah, Moses delivers a musical composition that was literally his swan song with the help of Joshua. This led me to think of those of us that followed those in the desert and that many have gone into the song writing business with great success. A latter day duo that came to mind were George and Ira Gershwin who combined on some of the all time standards in American music history. The music and lyrics that brought it home to me as extension of what happened in the desert oh so long ago was there iconic song, "Someone to Watch Over Me." The specific lines are as follows:
I hope that she turns out to be
Someone to watch over me
I'm a little lamb who's lost in a wood
I know I could always be good
To one who'll watch over me"
Who is to say that the music of that tune did not resonate within the minds of those in the desert that were the distant relatives of the Gershwins who are part of the later generations to those that wandered. What got me was that the words are probably what was on the minds of those that only saw Moses as the one that "watched over me" through their 40 year odyssey. I concluded what I said by indicating that G-d had to show that he was really the one that would be watching over the Jewish people throughout the years and that human leaders come and go regardless of how righteous they are and that the Lord is the only constant.
I did not delve into any specific Aliyah to further prove my thoughts but after looking at the parshah again, I think I can further prove my point as to G-d having to show over and over again that the Jewish people should believe in him and not be side tracked by either riches or idols that lead them away from what will keep them safe and sound.
The Third Aliyah ends with the following:
But Israel "became fat and rebelled," and abandoned the G‑d that made them and provided them with all their wealth and fortune. Instead they strayed after idols and abominable activities.
Then the Fourth Aliyah brings it all home with this:
G‑d became incensed by His children's behavior. He decided to hide His face from them, and to send upon them invading armies, wild beasts, plagues, demons, and famine. If not for the obtuse nations who would have foolishly taken credit for Israel's demise, G‑d would've utterly destroyed the Jewish nation.
In other words, if not for future nations foolishly taking credit for Israel's demise, G‑d would've utterly destroyed the Jewish people. Where are the ancient Romans, the Spanish Empire or even the Third Reich today? Nothing more than footnotes in some of the terrible times in Jewish history but despite all we have gone through, we are still around and still praying for one more year in the Book of Life to try and live up to what G-d expects of us. If that is not loyalty to the cause, I don't know what is.
Funny that you should mention Jewish songwriters. I have been thinking recently about Irving Berlin. He wrote “White Christmas.” Doesn’t that capture the American Jewish experience so wonderfully? A Jew writes the most famous Christmas song in America! I still try to look for hints of Jewishness in Jewish songwriters who don’t write songs about specifically Jewish subjects. You’re absolutely right. I don’t think a better explanation exists for why Moses had to die than the one you offer.