Thank you, Ibn Ezra. Ibn Ezra was a 12th c Biblical commentator from Spain and England. He was a linguist; he loved language. Today, he’d be one of those guys who posts memes from Grammarly and finds typos in menus. My kind of guy.
But before I continue with how Ibn Izra fits in here, let’s focus first on this week’s parasha, V’etchanan. It’s the second parasha in the last book of the Bible, D’varim. It’s a recap. Moses is going over everything that happened to the people since Egypt, and as the joke goes, for a guy who said he was slow of speech back at the burning bush, he certainly figured out how to talk. The whole book of D’varim/words (aka Deuteronomy) is of Moses talking.
Apparently, even God got tired of his talking. Moses says, “I pleaded with Adonai at that time, saying, ‘O Adonai God, You who let Your servant see the first works of Your greatness and Your mighty hand….Let me, I pray, cross over and see the good land on the other side of the Jordan…;” (Deut 3:23-25)
This is a sore spot between Moses and God. Moses struck that rock a couple of times back in Numbers, and God said, “That’s it…you’re not going into the Land with the rest of the Israelites”. What an incredible disappointment for Moses, to have come all this way with the people and not get to enter the Land.
Here in D’varim, God says, “Enough! Never speak to Me of this matter again!” (Deut. 3:26) The Hebrew here for “enough” is rav lach”. Moses has asked too much. But here’s where my friend Ibn Ezra, and his buddy Rashi (11th c Franch) come in. We’ve seen this phrase before, back in the story of Korach, the guy in Numbers who led a rebellion against Moses and Aaron, “They (Korach and his followers) combined against Moses and Aaron and said to them ‘You have gone too far!’” The Hebrew? Rav l’chem (l’chem is the plural form, but it’s the same word.) Korach says that Moses and Aaron have put themselves too high above the rest of the congregation, for, as Korach points out, isn’t the entire community holy? Basically, it’s “what makes you so special?”
And what does our linguistic friend Ibn Ezra say here about this phrase? It means “you have enough! You have taken the greater share!” or as Rashi says, “You have taken too much greatness for yourselves”
You got greedy, Moses. And God is saying the same thing to Moses here – don’t bother Me again with this whining. You have had enough. Maybe back with Korach, God was willing to overlook Moses wanting more; in fact, God made that earthquake happen and swallowed up the rebels. But here, even God shuts him down. What more does Moses want? Moses had a remarkable life, living so close with God that he remains the only one to whom God has shown the Divine face. No one has been or ever will be as close to God as Moses was. That’s saying something. So, enough. Don’t be greedy.
It’s hard to know when we’re asking too much. What may seem perfectly reasonable to us, in the midst of wanting something so badly, seems to others, rav lach, too much. It’s so hard to step back, though, and see it in ourselves. Right now, there’s a trend on Facebook to post daily, listing things for which we are grateful. It’s a good exercise. It’s good to see how much we really have, what we can really appreciate in our lives. That daily list is a barrier against rav lach, whining and wanting more and more.
Except for peace. The one thing we can ask more and more for is peace, shalom. As we welcome a Shabbat with more peace (well, less killing) than last week, may we also be aware to when we have become rav lach, and experience the sweet exhale breath of knowing when we have enough.