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We Can Be Heroes!

Expressions of uncertainty are as certain as expressions of confidence. We celebrate those heroes who fearlessly transcend doubt and courageously face the unknown. Most of the time, though, we all need some encouragement. Even the hero is not so much self-motivated as inspired by the confidence of others. We can identify this quality in individuals, but the project of the Torah is to inspire heroism within an entire nation.

Moshe will occasionally employ a question to inspire heroic action in the generation about to enter the Promised Land. We’ll see that he anticipates what the people may ask when they enter the Land by musing, “Should you say to yourselves, ‘these nations are more numerous than I; how can I dispossess them?’” Moshe continues the theme shortly later and asks, “Who can stand before the Anakites?" At the same time he is attempting to instill confidence in their ability to succeed with the support of God, he is also revealing a new level of questioning as a form of conveying meaning and purpose.

One of the overarching goals or themes of the book of Deuteronomy is the concept that the people have the power within themselves to achieve success in the Promised Land. Questions that are posed by Moshe to reflect the minds and hearts of the people in their uncertainty are always prompts for expressions of confidence and inspiration. We won’t read the responses to questions like these with a cold, hard pragmatism, as if to proclaim, “You can defeat the inhabitants of the Land, but only if you have a strong army.” Moshe asks these questions to inspire the people. They are meant to challenge the doubt that naturally exists in the face of uncertain futures and instill the courage of a hero’s journey into the Promised Land.

This style of motivation is a powerful tool in the rhetoric of inspiring courageous action. The Torah captures these moments in Moshe’s voice to remind both the generation entering the Land, and to inspire us, the readers of their legacy, that our fears from uncertainty can be strengthened with the confidence found in God’s supportive presence.

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