This week’s parsha marks the beginning of the preparation for the nation to go into the land of Israel. With the people about to enter, Moshe Rabbeinu stands before them, leading them for the last time. Through veiled and even explicit references to past infractions, Moshe severely scolds the nation and prepares them for their journey ahead.
In his speech, Moshe alludes to the sin of the Meraglim. Within this allusion, he also mentions his fate from the episode of Mei Meriva – the Waters of Strife – where Moshe, instead of speaking to the rock to bring forth water, chose to hit the rock. Moshe was penalized very sternly for this, and was prohibited from entering the land of Israel.
Yet we see something very peculiar at first glance: Moshe, when referencing his own punishment, rebukes the nation saying, “With me as well, HaShem became angry because of you.” This seems uncalled for – why would Moshe blame the nation for his own infraction? Is this the behavior fitting for a man of Moshe’s stature? To blame others for ones own mistakes? We know that Moshe Rabbeinu did not rebuke the people for his own benefit or personal anger towards them. No, if he “blamed” them, it must have been because he had a message for them. What is that message?
To answer this, we must first understand that there is a concept of cause and effect in the spiritual spheres. There is a famous saying in the name of R’ Yisrael Salanter, “When we here in Lithuania are learning and acting the way we should, there is a Jew in Germany who will decide not to smoke on Shabbat”. The effect that Torah learning has on this world cannot be measured – it can bring health and happiness as well as peace and serenity, as Chazal say, “Talmidei chachamim marbim shalom b’olam- Torah scholars increase peace in the World”; this is explained in the sefer Nefesh HaChaim by Rav Chaim Volozhin (‘שער ג), that the world runs solely on the merit of Talmud Torah – without the Torah the world would cease to exist. We see that spiritual actions have an incredible effect, even if we can not physically see the impact.
However, the flip side is that when we are not doing our job, it has detrimental consequences in the world. It can cause Jews to give up observance and bring pain and hate to this world. Our actions have tremendous power, and with this power come tremendous responsibility.
Perhaps Moshe was trying to relay this message of collective responsibility to the nation. By saying that his own infraction was their fault, he was teaching them that when the communal service of HaShem is low, it has an affect on the entire nation, even the greatest among them.
This idea can be a source of great chizzuk to us this Tisha B’av, and should steer us from negative thinking that ones actions will accomplish very little, because we see from here the opposite. If each one of us takes upon ourselves to love another Jew just a little more, it will have a germinating effect on the entire nation. If we just do a little better in our daily actions and personally cry out to HaShem to rebuild the Beit Hamikdash, it can be the catalyst to overarching change in our world. This little bit goes a long way.