Syria can wait, Iran is not going anywhere. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu set aside two hours Tuesday afternoon to discuss with a group of rabbis and scholars why God did not let Moses pass over to the Promised Land.

“And Moses went up from the plains of Moav to the Mountain of Nebo,” Netanyahu read in his baritone voice from the last chapter of Deuteronomy. “And the Lord showed him all the land of Gil’ad, to Dan, and all Naftali, and the land of Ephraim and Menashe and all the land of Yehuda, as far as the utmost sea... I have caused thee to see it with thy eyes, but thou shall not go over there.”

Moses’s punishment seemed so cruel, Netanyahu said to those gathered, which included the two chief rabbis for the first time since he initiated a periodic Bible study circle in his home last year in memory of his father-in-law Shmuel Ben-Artzi, a noted Bible teacher and enthusiast.

“Because he hit the rock he was not allowed into the land. What is the logic behind that, it seems unjust?”

One of the participants, Binyamin Ish Shalom, the founder of Jerusalem’s Bet Morasha, explained that Moses was not punished for any sin he committed, but rather because one type of leader was needed to lead the Jews out of slavery and into freedom, and quite another was needed to lead them as a free, sovereign people inside their own land.

Another participant, Prof. Zaki Shalom of the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, said the saga of Moses’s death showed that leaders give to their people, but do not always get back what they gave in kind. Moses, he posited as Netanyahu listened intently, expected his people to entreat to God on his behalf, but no entreaties came.

Netanyahu said that he has traveled all over the world, and has always wanted to go to Mount Nebo on the east side of the Jordan River. The occasion once presented itself, he said – not saying when or under what circumstances – but he fell ill and his wife and sons went in his stead. He said he still hopes to make the visit someday. Then he noted the irony.

“Moses could not enter the Promised Land, and we merit that privilege to be here in the land of our forefathers thanks to him and thanks to the struggle of our people,” he said. “And we bless every second. It is a great privilege to read this great book and to know that we are fulfilling what God commanded our people. The fact that this is our inheritance and that we are here to stay – in that way we are fulfilling the legacy.”

The Prime Minister’s Office, along with the Menachem Begin Heritage Center, organized the event. It was the fourth meeting of this study circle, which is a reincarnation of a tradition that David Ben-Gurion had began when, as prime minister, he hosted a regular Bible study circle.

Begin also held regular Bible study sessions.

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