Sometimes the relevance of Torah just looks you in the eye and says, “I’m here.”
“Let me, I pray, cross over and see the good land on the other side of the Jordan, that good hill country… but God ..would not listen to me…for you shall not go across.” (Deut 3:25..27)
People leave, and others cannot follow where they go, no matter how much we want to. A friend died this week. He had been ill, he struggled with the pain and the decline, until he couldn’t any more. He was a man full of joy, and his family and friends feel the loss.
It’s hard to be left behind. Moses not only knew he was never going to see the Land, but he knew he was going to die soon, too. How does one face that? God tells Moses, “Give Joshua his instructions, and imbue him with strength and courage” (Deut 3:28) The ones that are surrounded by such love and purpose are the ones who can leave behind the strength and courage needed for others to carry on. We are imbued, we are given a gift of their strength.
Moses was left behind, never quite fulfilling his life’s mission. Again, how does one face that? And again, Torah tells us to go back to the basics. Later in this parasha, as Moses talks to the people, he revisits two moments in the life of the community: the Ten Commandments and the Shma. These are the core, the foundation, the basis for the entire community’s identity and the essence of what’s important. The way to live and how to build a just and righteous society, followed by the reason we do so: You shall love God with all your heart and soul and might.
Sometimes we feel we just aren’t going to complete what we set out to do in life. Sometimes that life is too short, or ends too abruptly, without a chance to say goodbye. Sometimes we simply run out of time. But it does us well to remember that Moses’ life wasn’t about him getting to the Land, it was getting the people to the Land, getting them ready to take the next step without him. In that, he did accomplish his life’s work. He gave them what they needed to carry on, just as my friend gave those lucky enough to know him.
Being left behind hurts the heart. Remembering the important foundations, whether it’s of a life well lived, a society well built, or a love well tended…these help ease the hurt a bit. I hope Moses was comforted by that. We are.