Seeing the big picture need not require standing on the vista

Seeing the big picture need not require standing on the vista

Parshat Pinchas Numbers 25:10-30:1

In this week’s Torah portion, God commands Moses to ascend the hills from the other side of the Jordan River and look into the land of Israel. God reminds him that he is to be “gathered to his kin” due to the hitting-the-rock incident and would not enter the land.

One wonders what Moses was thinking as he stood atop that overlook. Was he proud of how far he had brought the Israelites? Was he jealous that they would enter the Promised Land and he would not? Did he regret the incident at the rock? Did he miss his brother Aaron and sister Miriam? Was he wondering why God brought him up there only to remind him of his fate?

The Midrash wonders why this incident happens at this point since Moses is not about to die; in fact, Moses has many more things to share: commandments, poetry, reflections. It suggests that Moses might have gotten the wrong impression recently, incorrectly thinking that he would enter the land along with the people. Therefore, this was a reminder that he would not. God’s words were simply informative.

I believe that God choreographed this very well. Standing at that vista, Moses was to see the big picture — literally. He could look ahead into both the geography and history of Israel and he could turn around and see from where they came. Moses understood what the people needed: a new leader to bring them into the land.

While sometimes it takes standing on a vista to see the big picture, more often than not, it occurs through looking at the family photo album, hearing a prayer in a new way, standing at the grave of a loved one, finding silence in a world that is so loud with tweets, texts and voicemails.

Consider yourself invited by the Torah portion to look at the big picture.

Rabbi Barbara AB Symons is the rabbi of Temple David in Monroeville. This column is a service of the Greater Pittsburgh Rabbinic Association.