This week’s parasha begins on a sad note, as the dying Moses begs God to let him into the Promised Land. “O Lord God, you have begun to show your servant your greatness and your strong hand,” he says. “Pray let me cross over and see the good land that is on the other side of the Jordan.” But God refuses.
For me, Moses’ heartbreak hits particularly close to home. Earlier this year, I released my newest film, a documentary titled The Queen Has No Crown. It tells the story of my family, started by Berlin Jews who fled to Israel and swore never to leave it, and of what happened to it when three out of my four brothers decided to seek out their fortune in the United States. Theirs were personal decisions, but they were informed by knowing that Moses, like so many generations of Jews throughout history, never got to set foot in the homeland, the homeland my brothers were now leaving.
But what is the meaning of this homeland when so many foreign cultures offer a more rewarding, more convenient life? And what is the relationship between nation and family? These are questions with which Moses spent his life struggling. They are the ones that occupy me, too. I hope my film—a clip from which is below—is a beginning of an answer.
Liel Leibovitz is a senior writer for Tablet Magazine and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.