…What happened next was possibly even more impressive than the awesoome
spectacle of G-d parting the Yarden (Jordan).
As the Kohanim carrying the Aron Hakodesh (Holy Ark) stepped onto the West
bank of the Yarden the invisible hand holding back the water let go.
Expecting the impossibly high wall of water to come crashing down, there
was a collective cringe of anticipation; however, that is not what
happened. Instead of crashing down, the wall of water continued on its
natural course by the bottom of the wall slipping into the dry riverbed. In
what appeared to be mere moments the towering wall disappeared and the
Yarden continued flowing as if nothing had ever happened.
The anticipation of millions of tons of water crashing down like a Tsunami
switched into a shocking realization of G-d's control, power, and greatness
that knows no limits. Once again we were seeing with our own eyes that G-d
is above and beyond the limited expectations, workings, and comprehensions
of mere humans.
The silence was deafening. Caught in the moment of anticipation our minds
assumed that the wall of water would return to the riverbed in the crashing
manner that would have been had we been in charge and not G-d. Instead, G-d
did the unanticipated and the impossible. G-d returned the mighty Yarden to
its rushing, powerful, flow in a silent moment that left us wondering if we
had imagined what was imprinted forever in our memories. As we collectively
realized that G-d had once again done the impossible, shouts of surprise
burst forth as everyone turned to his or her neighbor overwhelmed with the
need to share what they had just seen and realized.
"My children gather near! Do you understand what just happened?"
"Yes Abba, I do! G-d just took us across the Yarden and my sandals aren't
"Yes my little one, G-d did take us across the Yarden and my sandals aren't
wet either! But listen to me - what I want you to remember is even more
than that. I want you to remember what happened here today so you can tell
it to your children and grandchildren for many years to come. What we all
saw just now is as powerful as the Parting of the Sea and as awesome the
Giving of the Torah. We just saw G-d! Do you understand my dearest
children, we saw G-d! We saw G-d act in a way that proves to us that He
does exist and that He cares for us and that He loves us!
Today we saw G-d in two ways. We saw Him in the majesty and awesomeness of
His limitless power and we saw Him in the quiet strength of the Creator Who
not only created the universe but maintains it and controls it at all times!
Tell me my children, what made the greatest impression on you? What was the
greatest part about our crossing the Yarden?"
"Abba, I thought the water would never stop climbing! It was so high I said
to myself that even the evil Nimrod didn't build his Tower of Babel as high
as that wall of water!"
"Abba. For me it was the way the Yarden just emptied and disappeared. True,
the water-wall was amazingly high but when I looked down-river the water
that was not stopped by G-d continued rushing away and in a few moments it
was as if the mighty Yarden had ceased to be! I imagined that the reverse
must have been true when G-d first created the Yarden. At first there was
nothing and then with a snap of His fingers the riverbed appeared. Another
snap of His fingers and it was filled with water rushing toward the sea.
This time it was just the opposite! A snap of His fingers and the wall of
water disappeared as if it never was! That was really cool! (whatever…)
"Abba, for me it was the silence. It wasn't as if some earth-shattering
event changed the Yarden from a flowing river to a towering Tsunami. It
happened in such silence. Except for the noise that we were all making the
Yarden began to stand-up as if at attention. I imagined the angle in charge
of protocol calling to the river, "Yarden, G-d demands your attention! His
children need to cross!" Then, the Yarden immediately and silently jumped
to attention just as I would have if I had been summoned by G-d. I wouldn't
have made a sound because that might give the impression that I wanted to
be noticed, and being noticed is the very last thing anyone would want when
in the presence of G-d. Not because of being afraid but because I would
feel so insignificant. My only job at that moment, the only purpose for my
existence would be to do as G-d wishes. My making noise could only detract
from my loosing myself in doing the G-d's command. That is why I noticed
that the Yarden jumped to attention in silence. And Abba, now that I think
of it, the miracle is as much a statement of G-d's special love for us as
it was a display of His greatness?"
"Yes my children, each of you have seen another aspect of G-d's awesome
greatness. And, you are so right to point out that as much as we must
recognize and remember how remarkable G-d's is, it is equally important to
realize how unique our relation with G-d is. "There is no other nation like
Am Yisroel! We are singular in all the world!" Who else but Am Yisroel is
gifted with G-d's special attention and love?"
However, I want you to see another dimension of today's miracle. Did you
notice the way G-d returned the Yarden to its natural state? Without
fanfare or special attention. The Yarden did not come crashing down as we
all thought it would. Instead it slipped back into its natural path and in
moments it was as if the miracle had never happened. My dearest children
always remember that what you think as natural and normal is the greatest
of all miracles. It does not take great fanfare and spectacles to see G-d.
If you only think about it for a moment you will always be able to see G-d
behind the thin veil of natural law."
As the miraculous moment began to recede into the pell-mell of
reorganization Yehoshua called for our attention.
"My beloved children! This is the moment we have dreamt about for over 500
years. From the moment that Avraham and Sarah graced the world with their
love for G-d and humanity our people have awaited this event. We stand at
the zenith of history and are witness to the fulfillment of G-d's promise!
With the permission of the Almighty; in honor of the Avos and Imahos in
whose merits we stand here today; and in gratitude to His greatest servant,
Moshe Rabbeinu, our teacher and redeemer and all the generations that have
preceded us; I claim this land for Am Yisroel! May we merit fulfilling all
the commandments of G-d and may we prove deserving of the gift of His
continued benevolence and protection!
Now my children, we have much to do. Before the evening arrives we must
travel north to the mountains of Ayval and Grizim. Remember, among Moshe's
final instructions to us was to gather at the twin mountains of Ayval and
Grizim and recommit ourselves to the mission of Am Yisroel. (See Yehoshua
8:30-35) There we will build our first Mizbeach (alter) and offer Korbanos
(sacrifices) to G-d! Quickly, let us assemble for travel and behold the
greatness of G-d as He again does miracles in our midst!"
Authors Note: The twin mountains of Grizim and Ayval are located in the
north of Israel, in the area known today as the Shomron. Towering over the
city of Shechem (Nabulus) and the grave of Yoseph, the two mountains
dominate the horizon for the many settlements that are part of the Shomron.
If we assume that the nation crossed the Yarden near Jericho, the nation
had to travel the length of Bikat Hayarden (the Jordan Valley) to reach
Grizim and Ayval. By bus or car it takes a couple of hours; however, at the
time that the Jews crossed over the Yarden they were traveling on foot and
numbered three million strong. The commentaries point out that on the day
that the Jews entered the land, they accomplished the impossible. Let me
quote the Radak on the verses in Yehoshua (Joshua).
"On the day that the nation crossed the Yarden and came to the mountains of
Grizim and Ayval, they brought with them the twelve stones (lifted from the
Yarden) and inscribed on them the entire Torah (in 70 languages). They
built a Mizbeach and offered sacrifices. The nation ate, rejoiced,
celebrated, spoke the blessings and the curses (this week's Parsha), and
erected the 12 stones as a monument…"
In my recent trip to the Shomron I visited Alon Moreh. The former mayor of
the settlement, one of its founding members, took us to the edge of the
settlement overlooking the northern reaches of the Jordan Valley called in
the Navi (Prophets) as Mevoe Hashemesh (The Way Of The Sun - the valley is
on an East - West vector). From the vantage point of the settlement's
location we could see how the Jordan Valley running north to south turns
west at its northern tip and opens up into a magnificent valley
(unfortunately, under Arab rule) that runs east to west. The western end of
that valley ends at the base of the twin mountains, Grizim and Ayval.
Our guide explained that the only sensible, although still miraculous, way
that the Jews could have traveled from Yericho to Grizim and Ayval was to
follow the Jordan Valley North and then turn west into Mevoe Hashemesh
until reaching Ayval and Grizim. (approx. 50 miles as a bird flies)
More so than that, he directed our attention to the north corner of Ayval
where one of the greatest and controversial archeological finds was
discovered. After searching the entire area for signs of early Jewish
settlement, a solid stone structure was uncovered on the northern summit of
Ayval surrounded by massive amounts of animal bones. After the bones were
submitted for testing the results showed that 93% to 97% of the bones came
from kosher animals, and specifically animals that were permitted for use
on the Mizbeach. The nonreligious archeologist who discovered the sight
concluded that he had uncovered the famed Mizbeach of Yehoshua that is
described in Yehoshua 8:30. At the time we were unable to visit the sight
because of military and safety concerns.
As we read this week's Parsha and describe the ceremony of Grizim and
Ayval, allow your imaginations to soar. Imagine what it would have been
like if you and your family had been witness to that moment in history.
Take out a map of Eretz Yisroel and trace the pathways of our ancestors as
they followed Yehoshua to between the two mountains.
With G-d's help we will go to Eretz Yisroel this year, and if possible,
visit the sight of Yehoshua's Mizbeach… May our children and we merit thhe
even greater revelation of G-d's awesomeness with the fulfillment of His
promise, "And a Redeemer will come to Tzion…"