I’ve spent a majority of the week trying to figure out how to properly close out this year’s Torah cycle. My concern was that I wouldn’t be able to do it justice or perhaps I would miss the key note that should be played for the grand finale. After much contemplation and deliberation, I must thank Rabbi Sacks for the inspiration that helped me to put this article together.
“Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died; his eye had not dimmed, and his vigor had not diminished.”Deuteronomy 34:7, The Chumash
I, like Rabbi Sacks had always thought this to mean that Moses might have been old, but he was capable and strong; he didn’t suffer from cataracts, his vision was still sharp. But Rabbi Sacks suggests that despite Moses’ arrival at the finish line, his vision was still as clear as the day he received it at the burning bush. Maybe I had always been looking at this from the pashat (surface level). While I do believe that he was in outstanding health and had sharp eyesight, I’d like to consider this new insight.
A leader is someone with a vision and the desire to make it happen. They start with an idea, a longing, a burning and they calculate the costs of the road they will be traveling. Unfortunately, the journey can sometimes wear down even the strongest and most idealistic of visionaries. Blazing a trail despite the many miscalculations, wrong turns, and unforeseen disasters begins to grow more and more difficult with each set-back. The journey is where true leaders are made.
The visionary is the spark that ignites the flame, but a true leader continues to feed those flames even when the outcome is uncertain. This was the leadership that Moses exemplified. When his entire convoy urged him to give up and turn around, it only stoked the coals that refined his iron will. This will was not one forged in self-righteousness or pride, but in a desire to see his mission through to the end. How difficult would it be for you or I to continue on knowing that what we had worked so hard for could potentially fall apart in just a few short years?
Moses knew that the past 40 years had been difficult and that the challenges were not going to end with Israel crossing over the Jordan. Forty years of surviving on faith seems like it would be enough to prepare anyone for the challenges that life throws us us. But is it really? Is the struggle of one generation the same as the next? This is hardly the case. Moses understood that he was but one small cog in the wheel and that the overall mission was not going to be completed in his lifetime. He was aware that he was not the one that would guarantee the mission’s success or failure. He was humble enough to realize that he was laying the foundation in which and entire nation would be built upon.
So it is with the closing of this year’s Torah cycle. It takes a lifetime and more to understand the depths of His Word, that’s why I’m thankful to do it all over again each year. It is my hope that as Jonathan and I have shared what we’ve learned in our studies, you might have learned something new as well. It is also my hope that the lessons learned this year will provide a solid foundation for the framework of our faith to be erected. Whether we’re just starting to build or doing the necessary repairs, may His Word be instructions for our lives. I know that the challenges we face today might be different than the ones our children will be confronted with, but if we look at how Moses persevered to the end, we can see that he never gave up. He always strove to teach, guide and encourage his people so that once he was gone, the mission continued. Torah is about continuance. We never fully arrive anywhere because there’s always more to the story. With this in mind, I pray that we might be able to instill our values and ideals into the next generation’s leadership. We should always remember that tomorrow’s leaders are shaped today and they are watching how we handle our missions.
“Blessed are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by HaShem, the shield of your help, and He who is the sword of your excellency! And your enemies are subdued for you, and you tread down their high places.”Deuteronomy 33:29
Chazak, chazak, v’nit’chazek! Be strong! Be strong! And may we be strengthened!