Then Moses went out and spoke these words to all Israel: "I am now a hundred and twenty years old and I am no longer able to lead you. The LORD has said to me, You shall not cross the Jordan." Deuteronomy 31:1-2
A note to our readers: Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is observed today and tomorrow. Because it is a non-working holiday, these devotions were prepared for you in advance.
The Torah portion for this week is Vayelech, which means "and he went," from Deuteronomy 31:1-30, and the Haftorah is from Hosea 14:2-10.
In this week's Torah portion, Moses continued his final farewell address to the children of Israel as they were poised to enter the Promised Land. At this juncture he let the people know that he would no longer be their leader. Rather, Joshua would take over and lead the people into their new homeland.
According to Judaism's Oral Tradition, while Moses fully intended to cease being the leader of Israel, he had not intended on dying that day. Instead, Moses figured that while Joshua was leading the people, he would busy himself with studying God's Word, which surely would have protected him from death. However, something happened that made Moses change his mind and choose to die, as he later did that day.
Moses and Joshua had entered the Tent of Meeting together; however, this time, God communicated only with Joshua and not with Moses. As the pair left, Moses asked Joshua what God had told him. Respectfully, Joshua explained that just as Moses hadn't shared the details of his own communications with God, he, too, was not able to share the details of his exchange with the Lord.
Moses experienced an emotion that he had never had before jealousy. Until that point Moses never had a reason to be jealous. He grew up a prince of Egypt and then became the great leader of Israel. He alone carried down the Ten Commandments and God's Word. He enjoyed a unique relationship with God until now. The Jewish sages teach that upon realizing his feelings of jealousy, Moses said, "It is better to die a hundred deaths than one moment of jealousy."
Moses realized that the trait of jealousy stirring in him could undo all the good he had done over his lifetime, and so he chose death.
We can learn two important lessons from this story. The first is that we all struggle with jealousy even Moses. We need to accept our shortcomings even as we strive to improve them. If we get too down on ourselves, we can lose all motivation to work on ourselves altogether. Knowing that even the great Moses struggled with feelings of jealousy should inspire us that we, too, can be as great as Moses, even with all our human imperfections.
The second message is to recognize the importance of not being jealous. We need to remember that it is one of the Ten Commandments and not just some small flaw to ignore. Try devoting time each week to work on mastering this characteristic for which we all struggle. Notice in what areas of your life jealousy may come into play, and then work to eliminate those feelings, having faith that God gives each of us exactly what we need to live our best life.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President