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Two Minutes of Torah

>Two Minutes of Torah: VeZot HaBracha (Deuteronomy 34:1-12) – Passing on the Baton

>Parashat VeZot HaBracha
Passing on the Baton
(Deuteronomy 34:1-12)

Throughout my teenage years I was involved with RSY-Netzer (the Reform Jewish youth movement), and while at university I assumed various leadership roles in the movement. It was somewhat inevitable that when I completed my studies I went to work for RSY. The position was for one year. There were four of us, and we had just 365 days in which to run the movement. Following that we would hand over to the next cohort of office workers and our time in the youth movement would be at an end.

I had a great year. But as we reached the summer and my departure grew imminent there was a sense of frustration about what I had yet to achieve. I was not entirely ready to hand over and break my connection. It was not easy to say goodbye.

This week, in the final portion of our Torah, we have the ultimate goodbye as Moses bids farewell to the Israelites. Moses has known for sometime that he will not enter the Promised Land, and it is now that his separation from the Israelites, the people he has led for the last forty years is completed. The solitary walk up Mount Nebo marks his physical separation from the people – his community, with just God beside him. ‘Moses went up from the steppes of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the summit of Pisgah, opposite Jericho, and the Lord showed him the whole land’ (Deuteronomy 34:1).

It is hard to even imagine what Moses thought as he looked out upon the Promised Land, the land he had been journeying towards, the land he would not enter. What regrets did he have? What business was still unfinished? What dreams were yet to be fulfilled?

I like to think that from the top of Mount Nebo Moses looked forwards but also backwards. He looked down at the Israelite camp and the people he had led from slavery to freedom. He gazed upon the dwelling places of Israel and admired the progress they had made since leaving Egypt. He admired the community he had helped to build.

We may feel sympathy for Moses, but we know that the journey did not end with his death. As the Torah makes clear; ‘now Joshua son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom’ (Deuteronomy 34:9). Moses had to pass the baton on to the next generation to continue the journey to the Promised Land. It is the same for all of us, eventually the baton is passed and the next generation assumes the mantle of leadership. It is not easy stepping back or stepping aside, but it is part of the cycle of life.

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