וידבר ה' אל משה בעצם היום הזה לאמר (לב:מח)
HaShem spoke to Moshe on that very day saying (32:48)
Moshe Rabbeinu is told to go up to the mountain and die בעצם היום הזה. This phrase appears three times in the Torah, (see Sifsei Chachamim as to why Rashi does not also consider when HaShem told Avrohom Avinu to perform his milah בעצם היום הזה as a fourth instance) each time indicating that there were many people that would have tried to prevent the ratzon HaShem from being carried out. HaShem commanded that it be done at mid-day for all to see, so that everyone would realize that no one can stand in the way of ratzon HaShem.
Noach is told to enter the taiva בעצם היום הזה despite the fact that the people were determined to stop him from entering.
Klal Yisroel left Mitzrayim בעצם היום הזה so they should not be like thieves stealing their way into the night. This was contrary to the thoughts of the Egyptians that they would be able to stop the exodus from occurring.
Here also, at the death of Moshe Rabbeinu, the people were troubled at the prospect of losing Moshe and they would have wanted to prevent this. Moshe is told to go up בעצם היום הזה to demonstrate very clearly that HaShem is in control. (Rashi)
If we look at the three cases, we are left with an obvious question. By Noach and Mitzrayim, the people could have put up a fight to disallow Noach from entering the taiva and the Yidden from leaving Mitzrayim. However, in the case of Moshe, it was a discussion of life and death. Even the best doctor in the world would not be able to stop death from occurring if the time had arrived. What is the hava amina that they would have been able to intercede?
Furthermore, when Rashi tells us that these were the thoughts in the People’s minds, Rashi also adds in that the people said, “The man that led us out of Mitzrayim, split the sea, gave us the mann, the water and the Torah; he cannot be allowed to die”. Aside from the fact that all these items were done as a shlichus on behalf of HaShem, it still needs to be understood what connection Moshe’s role has with continuing to live?
Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz explains that the people’s position to HaShem was: “This man did so much for us. We owe it all to him; we are בעלי חוב to him on the highest level that cannot even be measured. Therefore, if we daven on his behalf, HaShem must keep him alive because we owe him so much.”
We find the exact same claim made by Eliyahu HaNavi. HaShem was taking the life of the child of the Tzarfati. Eliyahu asked HaShem, “How can you take the life of the son of the widow that provided for me lodging?” As a result of this claim the child’s life was spared, because even a death sentence can be overturned when there is a strong obligation of hakaras hatov.
We have just seen a very strong limud in hakaras hatov. But what about the opposite? The Torah tells us (32:18) צור ילדך תשי ותשכך א-ל מחללך- you ignored the Rock that gave birth to you and forgot HaShem who brought you forth. This is the concept of taking that which HaShem gave us and “throwing it back in His face”. HaShem gives us the ability to forget, and what does man do? He uses it to forget HaShem. Isn’t everything that we have in this world from HaShem? Can we really pride ourselves on spending money for an expensive mezuzah for an expensive home that in any event was given to us by HaShem? Hakaras hatov obligates us to remember at all times exactly how we arrived at our current status.
If a person chooses not to remember HaShem, it isn’t just that this person is labeled as an ingrate. The ramifications are so much worse than that. This will clearly be seen in future generations.
The passuk says (32:5) שחת לו לא בניו מומם- corruption is not his; the blemish is his children’s. The Chofetz Chaim comments that מעשה אבות סימן לבנים- If one strays in the performance of a “light” commandment, he might feel that שחת לו לא- I’m not really that corrupt, what did I do already, it was just a small aveira, just a minor infraction! But the children are watching so closely every action that we do, and they will take it a step further. Our small infractions can become great liabilities. It may not be so big for us but in the end, בניו מומם- the children will end up blemished.
Not only do we owe it all to HaShem, but if that isn’t a big enough mechayev, at the very least, we shall do it for the children, because our very future depends on it.
Good Shabbos, מרדכי אפפעל