Thoughts & Teachings

Rabbi Deborah Wechsler

There was one great tragedy of Moses’ life - more than being raised away from his family, more than the loneliness of leadership, more than the distance from his family, more than the physical hardships - and that was his not being able to see the culmination of his life’s work. To have to stand at the edge of the Promised Land and only look in to what he would never experience. The Midrash tells us that as Moses wrote the last verses of the Torah telling of his own death, dictated by God, he wept and wrote the words with his tears. Those were tears of frustration and lack of completion. The one consolation given to Moses, was that he was blessed to know, instruct, and see the leadership of the man who would succeed him. In this week’s portion Shelakh Lekha we meet Joshua for the first time in a significant way. As one of the 12 men sent to scout out the land of Israel, this was perhaps the first really important test of Joshua’s ability to lead. Joshua’s task was not to replicate what Moses had done. As teacher of the nation, Moses had fulfilled a particular role, taught the people particular lessons. Joshua’s task was to be different - to continue the work of Moses in his own way. Joshua was chosen to complete some of the work that Moses left undone, most importantly - entry into the promised land and fulfillment of that covenant with God. He taught the lessons for which Moses had run out of time, or remembered too late. But he was a different person for a different time. We each have unique gifts and vision. They enable us to appreciate the strength of the past and look hopefully to the strength of the future.