I hope all is well. This week was quite a sad one, with over 20 young Israeli soldiers falling in battle so the rest of the country can live peacefully. Our hearts, minds and prayers are with them and their families. May their comrades who are still serving on the front return home safely. These thoughts are dedicated to them and the people of Israel.

In the Torah portion of this week, we begin reading Moses' final address to his people before he passed on, while they continued across the Jordan river into the Land of Israel. This address is known as the Book of Devarim or Deuteronomy. He gives them words of encouragement and inspiration to keep their faith and traditions alive, something that we have been doing until today.

The location where this event took place is described as 'across the Jordan river'. It is interesting to note that we have already read (in the previous book of the Torah, the Book of Numbers) of other events that took place at this location as well, prior to Moses' final address. At that point however, the Torah refers to the same location with a different name; 'The Plains of Moav'. Why the new name?

Up to this point the Jews had been wandering nomads in the desert. They had been freed from 210 years of Egyptian bondage, yet still were not in their own land. Such was the situation when they arrived at the banks of the Jordan river, after 40 years in the desert. Though they had nearly reached their destination their mentality was still not a free and proud one, rather one of a people wandering in the desert, subject to the whims and influences of the nations who surrounded them. It is thus that the Torah refers to their location as 'The Plains of Moav'; Moav being one of the nations that surrounded them at that point.

Beginning with this week's Torah portion however, Moses begins preparing them for their crossing into the Land of Israel. This was to be not just a change of location, but rather a paradigm shift in their general mentality. From now on they would stop being influenced by their primitive neighbors and embark on their outward-focused mission of being a 'light unto the nations'. It is thus that the Torah stops referring to the location as the 'Plains of Moav' but rather 'across the Jordan' - just across from the promised land. The people's entire reality around them was transformed due to their change in mentality.

For over 3000 years so many have hated the Jews for standing up for what is right. A tiny people charged with the mission of bringing morality to the world is bound to face serious opposition. It is much easier to do what is easy than to do what is right. Yet at Mt. Sinai we were given this task,and despite immense obstacles and opposition we've refused to give up.

The attitude with which we approach our lives has a tremendous affect on us and our surroundings. As Winston Churchill said, 'the pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.' May we merit the coming of Moshiach, when we won't need optimism to see the good in everyone and everything, rather it will be the only thing we will be able to see.

Rabbi Avrohom