Word for the Herd: Torah from your favorite teacher
Tomorrow is also called Shabbat Nachamu because the first words of the Haftarah from Isaiah are Nachamu Nachamu. If i close my eyes I can still hear my sister chanting it. The "comforting Shabbat" is the first shabbat since Tisha B'Av, the holiday when we remember the destructions of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, the Holocaust and many other times of Jewish suffering. Tisha B'Av is a fast day, that many Jews take to heart like Yom Kippur. Interestingly, coupled with this shabbat of comfort is Moshe's desperate plea to be allowed into the Holy Land. And while this Shabbat is supposed to give us a break from heartache and suffering, we get a glimpse into Moshe's pain, as his bakasha (request) is left unfulfilled.
We've all been there, Moshe. We've all felt what it's like to work for something so hard, to want something so badly, and to still not get it. I remember what it was like on some auditions that I spent weeks preparing for, and still, I was not cast in the show. I think of some of the boys i've dated, no matter how good I was, I still faced a rejection. Va'etchanan starts this way. Moshe is begging and pleading the great Hashem to let him go to Israel and cross the Jordan. And Hashem not only denies his heartfelt request, he has him anoint Joshua to take over.
That could seem way harsh of G-d to just deny Moshe, an old, loyal man. And how does this fit into the idea of comfort?
Its not news that Moshe is not allowed to enter Israel. What is news here is that he's broken up about it. Maybe Moshe included this section in his retelling of receiving the Torah to have a release. Prayer afterall can feel good. It can feel good to voice your deepest desires and put them on record---regardless if you get them met.
Or maybe Moshe was finding a way to tell future generations, including Joshua, that one can still be a great leader and ultimately die with no comfort. We are not required to be leaders without feelings and strife. In fact, if our greatest prophet, Moshe, couldn't swing it, I bet anyone will ever be able to just lead without emotion. Part of being a leader is being emotionally invested. And we all will get our hearts broken, we all will suffer enormous consequences for our actions, The comfort is that if MOSHE couldn't be perfect then you don't have to either.
And perhaps an even deeper understanding of this portion is that we get the 10 commandments for a second time. Regardless of what Hashem gives us, we are required to go along with his plan. Who told you life would be comfortable? Life is full of disappointments and rules. Who told you you would get everything you wanted? Many times the key to survival is not getting what we want and knowing how to dust yourself off and try again and again.
Try again. Fail better.