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Dvar Torah - Ki Tavo

We are often taught about the stages of grief. First comes denial. Then comes anger. After anger comes bargaining. Bargaining progresses to depression. And eventually, we (hopefully) reach acceptance. In truth, for most people, there are times when you are feeling one stage more than another, however, to some extent all five stages accompany you through the rest of your life. These emotions are part of the normal human response to loss.

Moshe Rabbeinu also goes through these five stages, and the points can mostly be identified. Moshe experiences regular anger at the Jews. He blames them extensively for his mistake of striking the stone instead of asking it to give water. This also ties into his denial. At the beginning of the book of Devarim Moshe bewilderingly claims that he is forbidden to enter the land of Israel because of the sin of the spies. This is contrary to the explicit language of the Torah in the book of Bamidbar. Likely it is a function of Moshe's inability to accept his own mistake at that time.

Later Moshe Rabbeinu begins to bargain. Can he only cross momentarily? Can he cross without being the leader? Moshe wants nothing more than to be able to enter the Land of Israel. His goal is to be able to enter. Eventually, Moshe hits despair. But finally, he reaches an extended stage of acceptance. We can see Moshe's acceptance of the divine decree in that he enters an extended planning stage. He spends his last months making the most strenuous of efforts to prepare the people of Israel for the day that they must continue on their journey without him. He is worried about the consequences of that transition but proud of what they (and he) have achieved.

In general, when bad things happen, we often experience multiple emotions, often at the same time. Those emotions range across the five stages, and those five stages are only rarely linear. However, at some point, we hope that we will spend more and more time in acceptance of what has happened, even if we never truly abandon the first four stages. Sometimes, we can even accelerate our own return to equilibrium by beginning the process of transition before we fully feel like we are ready.

We live in a world where it often feels like we are losing the things we hold most dear. However, in truth. we are privileged to live in a country that has guaranteed (as much as possible) our life, our good health and safety, and cares about our happiness and prosperity. It falls upon us now to marshall these resources which have been husbanded for us and move on to the next stage, planning for the future. It is only by consciously making this transition that we will leave behind the funk so many are currently feeling.

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