On the television show The Apprentice the important moment in each episode comes at the end as Donald Trump tells one of the contestants: “You’re fired”. Often the participant who is given the bad news is disappointed about missing out on a job within Trump’s organization, and regularly they are vocal in their opposition to the decision. No-one looks forward to being fired or let go from a job; it can be a challenge to a person’s self-esteem, it will often be accompanied by financial difficulties and it is simply disappointing to be told you’re losing your job.
On a certain level, as we come towards the end of the Torah, Moses is about to lose his job as the leader of the Israelites. Ever since he struck the rock at the Meribah (Numbers 20:11-12) it has been known that Moses would not lead the Israelites into the Promised Land, and would have to relinquish his position. But now, standing on the banks of the Jordan, at almost the end of Deuteronomy, that judgment appears significantly more imminent.
As we reach the end of this week’s Torah portion, God reaffirms the verdict which has been passed down on Moses; starting the process for Moses death. The instruction is given: ‘Go up to this Mountain Abarim, to Mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab, that is opposite Jericho; and behold the land of Canaan, which I give to the people of Israel for a possession, and die in the mount where you go up’ (Deuteronomy 32:49-50). While Moses will get an opportunity to see the Promised Land, he will never enter it. As though God wants to remind us of why Moses is losing his job and his life, God explains: ‘Because you trespassed against me among the people of Israel at the waters of Meribah-Kadesh, in the wilderness of Zin; because you sanctified me not in the midst of the people of Israel’ (Deuteronomy 32:51).
One could forgive Moses if he was upset with God at sticking by the decision to punish him. After all they had been through together Moses was going to fall just short of completing the journey into the Promised Land. And yet despite having this knife hanging over him, Moses still praises God, by saying ‘God is the Rock, God’s work is perfect; for all God’s ways are justice; a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is God’ (Deuteronomy 32:4). The words used in describing God: perfect, justice and truth could implicitly be read as an acceptance of God’s punishment.
As Moses’ life and his time as leader of the Israelites comes to an end he holds his head high, bearing no grudges or ill will towards God. Instead he praises God and urges the people to ‘command your children to take care to do, all the words of this Torah, for it is not a vain thing for you; because it is your life’ (Deuteronomy 32:46-27). Moses’ behavior right at the end of his life is further evidence of why, as the Torah says, ‘there has not arisen since in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom Adonai knew face to face’ (Deuteronomy 34:10).
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