Parshios Netzavim & Vayeilech
Moses's Legacy Goes On
Moshe can no longer lead the Jewish people. He informs us that he is no
longer allowed “to forth out or to come in.” He whose eyes did not dim even
in death is now shorn of his superhuman powers and subject to the mortality
that faces us all. At that moment Moshe does not wallow in sadness nor does
he seem to review in detail his life’s achievements and the disappointments
that occurred in his lifetime of greatness.
He expresses no regrets and voices no complaints. He does not refer to those
who persecuted him, injured his pride, questioned his worth or doubted his
words. Rather his whole focus is on the future of the Jewish people. He
points out that their future failings will clearly lead to tragedy and
defeat but never to complete destruction. He cautions them against falling
into the trap of adopting new ideas and mores simply for the sake of change
He makes it abundantly clear that the covenant of Israel with God and His
Torah contains no escape or cancellation clauses. The bond is an eternal
one. He sees the future and continues to look forward to new generations and
recurring challenges. To the end he remains the leader and not the
historian, the teacher and not merely the observer.
It is the presence of this implicit spirit of innate optimism, even in the
face of known problems and Jewish failings, which characterizes Moshe’s
relationship with the Jewish people and his guidance of Israel through all
of its generations. That is why “there arose none like Moshe” in all of
The Torah teaches us “Vayelech Moshe” – Moshe went and walked and proceeded.
Immediately thereafter the Torah records for us that Moshe said “I cannot go
forth or return any longer.” So which is it? Did Moshe walk forth and
proceed or did he remain housebound and passive. It is obvious that Moshe’s
inability to go forth and return describes the physical limitations placed
upon him on his last days on earth.
But “Vayelech Moshe” – Moshe’s goings and comings are the spiritual guidance
and moral vision that he invested in the Jewish people that remain vital and
active in all later generations of Israel even after Moshe’s passing.
Leadership and inspiration is rarely judged by physical criteria.
Franklin Roosevelt was afflicted with polio before he rose to become the
president of the United States. He certainly is to be reckoned as one of the
strongest and most influential presidents in American history though he
could not physically go forth or come in. If we see this truism in the life
of a “regular” human being such a Roosevelt, how much more so is this
obvious in the life and achievements of the superhuman Moshe.
Vayelech not only means that Moshe once went but it also implies
grammatically in Hebrew that Moshe is still going forth. The Jewish people
are still guided by Moshe’s Torah and teachings and his spiritual legacy
continues to inspire and instruct. As long as there are Jews in the world,
Moshe will continue to go forth and come into our hearts and minds.
Rabbi Berel Wein