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Devarim 2020

In this week's Torah portion, we start the 5th and final book of Devarim. We are truly in the run up to Rosh Hashana now ! Just 37 days before his death, Moses gathers the people and begins to retell the events of the 40 year journey from Egypt to the promised land. Moses is honest and rebukes the people for their failings and mistakes, and urges them to keep the laws of the Torah when they enter Israel - after his own death. When discussing the disastrous episode of agreeing to let spies go into the Land of Israel, Moses says that initially:

"The idea was good in my eyes..." (Deuteronomy 1:23)

The mission of the spies is clearly one of the most devastating events in Jewish history. It was due to the 'bad' report of 10 of the 12 spies who raised fear in the rest of the nation that caused the Jews to wander in the desert for 40 years. This resulted in many of the people perishing in the desert, and never being able to enter the Promised Land. Of note the 2 spies who gave a favourable report (Caleb and Joshua) were the only 2 men of their generation to be allowed into Israel. We are currently in the '3 weeks' between the fast days of 17th Tammuz and 9th (Tisha) Av. These are the saddest and most calamitous days of the Jewish year - linked to many tragedies - including the nation crying over the negative report of the spies on the 9th Av.

Even though the spies' mission had been so catastrophic, when recounting the story again to the assembled nation, Moses still had the honesty and courage to say "the idea was good in my eyes."

In life we often see leaders fail to own up to their mistakes. Or fail to adjust their position based on new information. Politicians will often try to gloss over the facts when things do not go to plan, might ignore evolving advice, maintain a wrong course of action or may even try to 're-write history' to justify their decisions. However, Moses, being the humble and great leader that he was, simply said to everyone that "the idea was good in my eyes."

This is truly inspiring, as we all make mistakes in life. It sets a great role model for the Jewish nation that our greatest leader and prophet was able to stand up in public at the end of his days and admit that while initially "the idea was good in my eyes," based upon new information he could now see things differently. This is truly great humility and leadership, and something that we can all learn from.

Shabbat Shalom

Simon Hodes

More documents on this Parshah: