V’etchanein: When Is It Ever “Time” to Let Go?

This week’s portion begins with Deuteronomy 3:23. The portion contain recitation of laws as Moses preaches his farewell sermons to the Israelites. Chapter 5 repeats the 10 Commandments and we find, perhpas, one of the important Torah texts in chapter 6:4 with the pronouncement of the SH’MA. But, it is the opening of the portion that I wish for you to look at.
Moses here pleads with God to let him cross into Canaan. He has been told that this will not happen. Joshua has already been appointed as the new leader. Moses took part in the ceremony. Yet, as the reality draws near, Moses pleads his case, but to no avail. (“Let me, I pray, cross over and see the good land on the other side of the Jordan…3:25) God says “Enough, Never speak to me of this matter again.” (3:26) God then tells Moses to climb the mountain Pisgah, and to look; to look at what his people will inherit, but, he cannot go.
The is a moment of high drama. The text can be read as a powerful dialogue between God and Moses, with God in one sense, the powerful parent who, in a sense, reminds Moses that the answer is ‘no”, that I have made up my mind. And yet, you can read the text in a softer way, like we would speak to our child, holding them in love as they looked at us and we saying that we have discussed this and this is the way things must be and we need to find a way to accpet on move on.
In any event, this brief scene (from Deuteronomy 3:23-28) speaks to many of our generation. It is often hard to let go and let the next generation take over. We leave a job or some other investment of our life. We need to move on, to allow that next generation to assume leadership. Holding on too loing can be a recipe for stagnation. But it is often hard, for what we leave behind for many of us in our world, is our identity.
That scene of Moses looking into the Canaan is also like all of us, looking into a future. We are, many of us, at or approaching an age when we slowly understand that we are mortal. That when we look into the future, we may be unsure of how much of it we will see. I liken it to that very powerful moment when we look into the eyes of our grandchildren and come to realize that no matter how hard we pray or wish or hope, we cannot go where they are going. So again, we come to reflect on how we can live so as to leave them with a legacy of life. Maybe, in some small way, we are all like Moses, pleading with God for more, looking out a future we know we cannot experience, and trying to make sense of it all in the here and now.
Rabbi Richard F Address

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