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Something Bigger Than Ourselves

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Then the LORD said to Moses, "Go up this mountain in the Abarim Range and see the land I have given the Israelites. After you have seen it, you too will be gathered to your people, as your brother Aaron was . . . " Numbers 27:12-13

The Torah portion for this week is Pinchas, which means "Phinehas," from Numbers 25:10-30:1, and the Haftorah is from 1 Kings 18:46-19:21.

Toward the end of this week's reading, Moses was commanded to climb a mountain in Moab so that he could see the Holy Land. In the next verse, God told Moses that after he saw the land, he would die as his brother Aaron did and would not enter the land.

Is this commandment a gift or a punishment? Is seeing the land without being able to enter it a cruel tease? Like showing a child a piece of cake but then telling him that he can't have it?

Moses wanted nothing more than to enter the Promised Land. In the book of Deuteronomy, we read how Moses poured out his heart to God asking for permission to enter the land, but his request was denied. Yet, Moses eventually did see the land, and he then died peacefully. Indeed, when God ensured Moses that he could see the land even if he wouldn't be able to enter it, it was a gift. It comforted Moses. But how can that be?

The answer is because Moses' life was not about Moses. It was about something bigger than himself. It was about the nation of Israel, bringing God's Word to the world, and setting in motion the wheels of history that ultimately would lead to the perfection of the world. Moses' passion extended beyond his personal agenda and included God's plan for the world.

That's why when he was able to catch a glimpse of that plan - when he was able to see the land that would become the eternal home of his people - it was comforting and inspiring. Even if Moses wouldn't enter the land, the nation that he shepherded out of Egypt and through the desert would. That brought Moses joy. He understood that the mission greater than himself would be fulfilled even if he wouldn't be able to see it.

We live in a society that has become overly concerned with fulfilling oneself, finding oneself, and satisfying oneself. However, the truth is that happiness is achieved not by finding ourselves, but by losing ourselves in something greater than the individual. Successful entrepreneur Bill Taylor put it this way: "the more executives, entrepreneurs, and talented individuals that I get to know, the more I become convinced that true happiness and genuine success does not come from finding yourself, but in losing yourself. Losing yourself in a company you can believe in, a cause that you are prepared to fight for, and a commitment to a problem that has defied a solution."

Friends, whether we realize it or not, we are all part of something bigger than ourselves and it's called "God's plan." Let's lose ourselves in God . . . and find true happiness, fulfillment, and satisfaction.

With prayers for shalom, peace,

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President

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