"Then Moses separated three cities beyond the Jordan" Deuteronomy 4:41


For striking the rock instead of speaking to it, and despite his supplications, Moses will not cross into the Promised Land. After charging the Children of Israel to keep all Hashem’s commandments so that they may live long when they enter it under Joshua, we are told that he established three cities of sanctuary on the east of the Jordan, in lands which would be settled by the tribes of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh.

Moses’s end is near. He will not complete his mission. One might wonder why he embarks on a project he will not see through. Under the circumstances, why does this verse follow a promise of longevity?

The Talmud commends Moses for taking action.

Imagine, says Rabbi Nachman, a parched wanderer in a desert who finds a tree offering shade and moist fruit. Relieved and assuaged, how should he bless the tree? He might say “May your fruit be sweet”, “May your shade be pleasant”, “May you be nourished by a flowing stream”. All are beautiful sentiments, but each is looking for no more than a continuation of what already exists.

The blessing he should give is “May it be that what you yield becomes like you!” Beyond the fruit which is consumed are the fruit which regenerate, the seeds which take root and themselves become great trees over time.

Rabbi Nachman’s blessing is that which you do, should be replicated or emulated to invest in a better future for the world.

It is his hope that our actions highlight our virtues, not only for what those actions achieve in the short term, but the inspiration and message they convey.

If Moses had finished his sermon and left action for the next generation, they might equally abandon any mission they could not see through, directing their successors to take it forwards. Words would be spoken, but nothing might be accomplished.

Moses establishes the cities of refuge to demonstrate the importance of personal investment in a distant future.

Our wisdom, thoughts and aspirations reflect where we are. We must show our commitment by acting to better our world.


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