And Moses the servant of the LORD died there in Moab, as the LORD had said. He buried him in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is. Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone. — Deuteronomy 34:5–7
The Torah portion for this week is V’Zot HaBerachah, which means “this is the blessing,” from Deuteronomy 33:1–34:12, and the Haftorah is from Joshua 1:1–18. This concludes this year’s Torah readings.
This week’s Torah reading marks the end of the Five Books of Moses and also recounts the death of Moses. In the first of the last two chapters of the Torah, Moses blessed the people. In the final chapter, we read how Moses went up to Mount Nebo where God showed him the Promised Land, and then Moses passed away.
We are given this beautiful description of Moses on his last day: “Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone.” Moses died full of vim and vigor, as though he were a young man. Wouldn’t we all like to end our lives like that? What was Moses’ secret?
The truth is that it’s no secret at all. Just two verses earlier Scripture refers to Moses as “the servant of the LORD.” Moses lived his life as a servant to God, giving everything he had to God’s purposes. Now, if you consider all that this entailed – from confronting Pharaoh on behalf of the Israelites, to leading the Israelites out of Egypt and then through the desert for 40 years – we might have assumed that Moses would be thoroughly exhausted at the end of his life. What a mission! And yet, the opposite is true. The man who served God and His people more than anyone else was more invigorated on his dying day than anyone else.
This is the wonder of giving and service. In Isaiah 40:31 we read: “But those who wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary” (NKJV). Those who wait upon the Lord – who serve the Lord – won’t lack in strength. Rather, their strength is constantly renewed and increased by the God whom they serve.
The Jewish sages point out that the last thing that happens in the Torah is that God Himself buried Moses. One of the first things to happen in the Bible (after Creation itself) is that God clothed Adam and Eve. They comment that this teaches us that from beginning to end the theme of the Bible is kindness. It is all about teaching us to serve God by serving each other.
Most of us have many daily habits that we attempt to follow in order to live long, healthy, and happy lives. We try to exercise, drink enough water, and get our vitamins. We might add prayer and Bible study to our daily routine. I’d like to suggest one more addition to the list: Serve God by performing an extra act of kindness each day. It’ll fill you with strength you never knew you had.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President