Moses in Devarim

<em>Devarim</em>, the great repetition that isn’t

Moses’ speeches in Devarim are a wonderful retelling of a story, but so much of it is not true- at least much of is does not comport with the stories of the previous books of Torah. So what is going on with Moses?

Viewing Moses as a person rather than the mythic Prophet, Teacher and leader, Moses is doing what so many of us do. He is trying to understand his place in history, trying to figure out whether his teachings and leadership from slavery to peoplehood was really worth it. In simple language, Moses asks himself what we ask ourselves in the sunset of our lives: “Did I do good, did I make a difference?” Even the great Moshe Rabbeinu seems to question if he did the right thing and if ultimately he will make a difference in the world. For us, the answer is an unequivocal yes, but for him in that place, he was unsure.

Rabbi David Levin

Rabbi David Levin

Moses’ stories are retold with a tweak here and an embellishment there. In these Deuteronomy versions, Moses recalls himself prominently and his actions are above reproach. Here at this place in his life, Moses knows he is at the end of his journey and what he has done is all that he can do. There is a sense of authority in his voice, as he needs to reassure the people who will continue forward without his leadership, and there is a sense of desperation as well as he needs to reassure himself, as we sometimes find our loved ones doing as well.

For those of us with older parents or grandparents we too see similar behavior in their retelling of their exploits during the journey of their lives. And the subtext of their stories echoes the issues and fears of Moses. We can be our most compassionate when we lovingly hold them and respect their stories as recounted. It is our way of saying to them yes my dear one, you do matter, you did make a difference to me. I will love you and remember you for these and all the other gifts you have shared.

Rabbi David Levin is a regular contributor to JewishSacredAging.com. His new website is www.RabbiDavidLevin.com.

About Rabbi David Levin
David Levin is a reform rabbi ordained from the Hebrew Union College- Jewish Institute of Religion (NY). David serves the community of Greater Philadelphia. He also devotes his time to special projects including Jewish Sacred Aging, teaching and free speech issues on the college campus. David worked with the Union for Reform Judaism in the Congregational Network as a Rabbinical Director serving the East Coast congregations. He also had the honor of working at Main Line Reform Temple in Wynnewood, PA. David Levin is a Fellow with Rabbis Without Borders, an interdenominational rabbinic group affiliated with CLAL. David Levin proudly claims to be one of Rabbi Louis Frishman’s (z”l) “Temple Kids”, from Temple Beth El in Spring Valley, NY. David attended the University of Chicago earning an AB in Economics. He went on to the New York University Graduate School of Business where he earned an MBA in Finance. Before becoming a rabbi, David enjoyed a career centered in banking and real estate finance, and he also worked in the family garment business.

2 Comments

  1. Connie Diallesandro July 24, 2015 at 10:17 am

    He was constantly criticized by the people he loved. They were never happy with him or God. Yet he continued because he knew God had a better plan and had the power to create a better life for all he loved. Yet he was a man with flaws. God prevailed!

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