Devarim: Accountability

Within the limitations of human existence, it is impossible for truths to be accurately described, without the injection of the personality and the subjective viewpoint of the person recalling or describing the truth as to what occurred

Rabbi Berel Wein ,

Rabbi Berel Wein
Rabbi Berel Wein
courtesy

This last oration of our teacher Moshe reviews the occurrences in history of the Jewish people after their miraculous Exodus from Egypt. The words of Moshe are very personal to him alone and reflect his recollection and viewpoint of all of the events and incidents that occurred during the 40 -year sojourn of the Jewish people in the desert of Sinai.

Nuances of difference sometime appear between the descriptions that Moshe attributed to events that occurred, and the more objective description of those events recorded previously in the Torah. This is natural because of the different personal recollections by humans regarding events that occurred in the purely objective description, giving them a view of the same events but from a different perspective.

There is no need to reconcile the two apparent differing descriptions of the same Torah event. We know that human beings can never really be truly objective, and that everything that we see, and experience is always filtered through our own personalities, thoughts and even prejudices. As such, we can never claim objectivity in recalling past events and describing them for later generations.

It is not that truth is a subjective value, but, rather, it is not possible within the limitations of human existence, for truths to be accurately described, without the injection of the personality and the subjective viewpoint of the person recalling or describing the truth as to what occurred. Only heaven achieves ultimate accuracy of truth. We human beings strive for such perfection but should be aware that it is beyond our abilities to actually attain.

We see this clearly in how Moshe describes the origin of the debacle that befell the Jewish people regarding the sending of the spies to gain intelligence about the land of Israel. In the Torah previously, it appears that Moshe himself was the instigator and catalyst for this idea that later went so wrong. However, when Moshe relives the matter here in the book of Dvarim, he casts the incident in a different light completely. It was the people emerging as a mob upon him that forced him to agree to send spies, and to bring back a report about the land of Israel to the Jewish people before their actual entry into the country.

It is not that Moshe was trying to extract himself from blame and participation in this sad incident, which would doom that generation of the desert and never reach the land of Israel. It is simply that he records for us his absolute misgivings when the proposal first surfaced. In his memory, he does not see himself as ever having instigated the proposal and describes himself as an almost unwilling participant in the process that later ensued. In the eyes of heaven, because Moshe later acquiesced to the public demand for the sending of the spies, it made Moshe a prime mover, and instigator, if you will, in the event of the spies.

Oftentimes, in life, we are apparently innocent victims of forces brought upon us, and yet, we are held accountable personally for the consequences of our participation in the event, unwilling and hesitant as it may have been. The book of Dvarim teaches us many lessons in life that otherwise we may overlook, ignore and of which we may not be aware.



top