Thursday, October 27, 2016

Why is Eve Created from Adam?

Ask the Rebbetzin: Parashat Bereishit

Dear Rebbetzin,
I have always wondered why Chava was created from Adam’s rib, rather than Adam being created from Chava’s rib. Why is woman created from man and not vice versa? Doesn’t this seem to indicate that women are lower and secondary to men? I hope you can shed some light on this topic,

Thank you very much,
Chava Adams (name changed)

Dear Chava,
I totally understand and identify with your concern that the creation story may be chauvinistic, seemingly making Chava and all subsequent women who were created from her into subordinate beings fashioned from a mere rib of man, without having their own independent existence.

Searching for the Other Half
It is interesting to note that whereas all the animals were created male and female independently, man and woman were originally one integrated being with two faces, as the Talmud explains based on Bereishit 1:27: “So G-d created the man in His own image, in the image of G-d He created him; male and female He created them.” From this verse, we learn that the original Adam written in singular was one integrated being including his female aspect that later became separated into two beings, Adam and Chava as indicated from the change into plural (Babylonian Talmud, Eruvin 18a). Unlike the animals, for whom mating takes place with whoever is around, Hashem designated a particulate soulmate for every human being. We learn this from the fact that man and woman were originally part of one interconnected being. Whereas, there is no particular cow dedicated for a particular ox, humans are always searching for their other half (Ohr Hachaim, Bereishit).

The Mistranslated Rib
Adam and Chava were originally created together sharing one soul. It follows logically that the emergence of Chava from one joint double-sexed being was less a creation than a separation. Such a separation could hardly take place from a rib, but rather by separating the feminine side from the masculine, so that two independent beings would emerge. According to Rashi, the word צלע/tzela usually translated rib, actually means side. As in (Shemot 26:26) “The side of the tabernacle.” The word צלה/tzela appears 40 times in the Tanach, where it refers to the side of a building, an altar or ark (Shemot 25:12; 26:20, 26; I Kings 6:34), a side-chamber (I Kings 6:8; Yechezkiel 41:6), or a branch of a mountain (II Shemuel 16:13). It was translated as “rib” only in the Adam and Chava context:
ספר בראשית פרק ב (כא-כב): וַיַּפֵּל הָשֵׁם אֱלֹהִים תַּרְדֵּמָה עַל הָאָדָם וַיִּישָׁן וַיִּקַּח אַחַת מִצַּלְעֹתָיו וַיִּסְגֹּר בָּשָׂר תַּחְתֶּנָּה: (כב) וַיִּבֶן הָשֵׁם אֱלֹהִים אֶת הַצֵּלָע אֲשֶׁר לָקַח מִן הָאָדָם לְאִשָּׁה וַיְבִאֶהָ אֶל הָאָדָם:
“The Eternal G-d caused man to fall into a deep state of unconsciousness, and he slept. Then He took one of his [sides or ribs, ‘tzela’] and closed up the place where it had been with flesh. And the Eternal G-d built the tzela that he had taken from the man into a woman, and He brought her to the man” (Bereishit 2:21-22).

From the Side of Equality

מדרש רבה בראשית - פרשה ח פסקה א (א) ...בשעה שברא הקב"ה את אדם הראשון דיו פרצופים בראו ונסרו ועשאו גביים גב לכאן וגב לכאן איתיבון ליה והכתיב ויקח אחת מצלעותיו אמר להון מתרין סטרוהי היך מה דאת אמר (שמות כו) ולצלע המשכן דמתרגמינן ולסטר משכנא.
…When G-d created Adam, he created him androgynous, with two faces. Then they were split and two backs were made; a back for the male and a back for the female. They countered: “And he took one of his ribs (tzal’ot)”! He answered: [Tzal’ot does not mean ribs; rather it means] sides. As it says, “And to the side (tzela) of the Mishkan…” (Midrash Bereishit Rabbah 8:1).

Thus Chava was originally one side of the entire human; Hashem simply cut her side off and made them two separate persons. Abarbanel explains that Chava was not created from Adam’s foot so that he would not consider her a lowly maidservant, nor from his head so that she would lord over him. Rather, she was created from his side so that she would be equal to him. Woman was created to be “beside” man, not beneath or above him.

Additional Intuition
When we examine the well-known Midrash that women have more binah (intuition) than men do, it actually wouldn’t make sense if woman was created from man’s rib.

מדרש רבה בראשית פרשה יח פסקה א (א) ויבן ה' אלהים את הצלע ר”א בשם רבי יוסי בן זמרא אמר ניתן בה בינה יותר מן האיש:
“G-d built the side (rib) Rabbi Eliezer in the name of Rabi Yossi son of Zimra said, “She was given more intuition (בינה) than man…” (Midrash Bereishit Rabba 18:1).

Had woman been created from man’s rib, then it would have been necessary to build the complete human being from the small rib, and there would be no need to explain “G-d built the rib” to mean anything other than simple building. However, according to the midrash that man originally was created with two faces there is no need for building, it would have been enough to close the flesh. Therefore the midrash needs to explain the word “built” to refer to the extra binah with which women are endowed.

The Peak of Creation
Still, even if G-d created woman from man’s side rather than from his rib, why wasn’t man created from woman’s side? Depending on how you look at it, being created from man doesn’t necessarily make woman inferior. True, if woman emanates from man, it makes man feel more as a protector and defender of the women in his life, and woman naturally desires to return to become part of man and thus help him reach his ultimate perfection. Yet, I heard the following joke: After having created Adam, Hashem looked at him and told Himself, “I can do better than this!” Everything in creation progresses from inanimate to vegetative, to animate and then finally to human. Thus, in a way, we may say that the woman – who was created last – represents the most refined peak of creation.

Simple Separation
Women are associated with the home (Babylonian Talmud, Yoma 2a). The Hebrew word for home – בָּיִת/bayit also means the inside i.e. inner. Thus, we may deduct that man and masculinity represent the exterior reality while woman and femininity represent the inner realm. We usually name a thing after its external appearance and function, for example, an item may be defined as a curtain, rather than a woven cotton fabric. Therefore, when the Torah originally used the term ‘Adam’ to refer to the two-faced androgynous being it was a general term that included both Adam and Chava. The term Adam was used since it represented its external aspect. Thus, woman was not created from man any more than man was created from woman; they were simply separated from one another. Maor V’Shemesh explains that man and woman originally were one being with two directions. The male part would raise up the lower and influence the highest worlds, whereas the female counterpart would receive all the good influences from above to below. Then they became divided.

May we all once again become unified, by finding our soulmates and truly return to become one!

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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Blessings of Blessing

Lessons from the Rebbetzin’s Heart - Parashat V’Zot Ha’Bracha
Blessings Create Positive Reality
“It’s my birthday today so I would love to give you a bracha (blessing) May you discover your true place in Judaism, find your soulmate, express your potential in the service of Hashem and feel fulfillment in life!” Blessings like these are not only on my lips time and again, but Torah observant people the world over, also frequently express such blessings at various occasions. Hebrew birthdays are prime times for blessings, when the energy that created us is in its element, empowering us with spiritual alignment. Other elevating junctures, such as the bride on her wedding-day and the Sandak who has held the newborn at his brit are also occasions for blessings. We believe that words have power, as reflected in the classical incantation of the magician, אַבְּרָא כְּאַדַבְּרָה/Abra K’adabra – “I will create as I speak!” It was through speech that Hashem created the world as it states, “G-d said let there be light, and there was light” (Bereishit 1:3). Words, indeed, create reality, so we must use them well, and by all means avoid negative speech. Even fine nuances of speech can make a positive difference. For example, instead of saying, “If you don’t put antibiotic cream on your wound, it will take a lot longer to heal,” try turning your speech around for the good, in the following way: “If you put antibiotic cream on your wound, it will heal a lot faster.” This way you can attach a blessing to your advice, rather than the opposite. The more we express optimism, hope, gratitude, and pleasure, the more we bring about a flow of goodness to ourselves and to the world. It takes a bit of conscious practice to develop greater awareness and fine-tune the constant stream of words emanating from our eager lips, but it is surely worth the effort.

The Torah Culminates in Blessing
It is not by chance that the very last parasha in the Torah is called וְזֹאת הַבְּרָכָה /V’Zot Ha’Bracha –This is the blessing, for “all is well that ends well!” We all like to squeeze out the last drops of goodness left in the honey jar, we enjoy the precious moment with our children before they go to sleep, and we relish in the last piece of chocolate or in picking the very last grapes from the vine. The end is always precious and people are especially open to read the conclusion of a book, hear the last words of their Rabbi’s lecture, and listen intently to family members before they go on a journey or pass on. Therefore, Moshe blessed the Israelites on the day of his demise, as Rashi comments, “if not now when?”

“He Who Blesses Will Become Blessed”
ספר דברים פרק לג (א) וְזֹאת הַבְּרָכָה אֲשֶׁר בֵּרַךְ משֶׁה אִישׁ הָאֱלֹהִים אֶת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לִפְנֵי מוֹתוֹ:
“This is the blessing that Moshe – the man of G-d – blessed Israel before his death” (Devarim 33:1).

Ohr Hachayim points out that it was specifically when blessing the people that Moshe became elevated to merit the great title: “Man of G-d.” Therefore, the verse starts with “and this” through this ability to bless the Israelites, Moshe reached his highest potential as a man of G-d. It is an all-inclusive principle that “he who blesses will become blessed” (Babylonian Talmud, Sotah 38b). The art of bestowing blessings is to become divinely inspired to give exactly the blessing each person needs. Hashem rewards our desire to generate goodness, by allowing us to become a channel for His blessings.

Holding the Key of Blessing
Although all blessings emanate from G-d, Hashem desires the blessings of people, and thus He commanded us, “You shall bless Hashem your G-d” (Devarim 8:10). Blessings have everlasting effects. This is why the Torah begins with the letter ב/beit (the first letter of the word ‘bracha’) describing the creation of the world, as a blessing that is established forever. Hashem blessed Adam and Noach but to Avraham – the Father of our Faith – He handed over the power to bless, saying, “It shall be a blessing” (Bereishit 12:2). With these words, Hashem told him, “You are the source of blessing, you have the ability to bless whoever you desire. From Avraham and on, the power of blessing was handed over to the tzaddikim. Thus, Yitzchak blessed Ya’acov before his death, and Ya’acov blessed his children on his deathbed as it states, “וְזֹאת /V’Zot – and this is what their father spoke and blessed them” (Bereishit 49:28). Moshe Rabbeinu, likewise, blessed the tribes before his passing, and began his blessing with the word וְזֹאת /V’Zot – “and this,” as he continued where Ya’acov ended (Rabbeinu Bachaya, Devarim 33:1).

Actualizing the Blessing by Believing in its Power
We learn from Chana – the Mother of our Prayer – that when we receive a bracha it is important to believe in the power of the blessing, in order that the blessing will come true. After Eli, the high priest blessed her saying: “Go in peace, and may the G-d of Israel grant you what you have asked of Him,” Chana was no longer depressed, and was immediately able to eat again (I Shemuel 1:17-17-18). This teaches us that she trusted that Eli’s blessing would be fulfilled. Her faith and positive attitude attracted the baby of her dreams, and soon afterwards, she conceived. I certainly believe in the importance of receiving a bracha from a holy tzaddik, as the prayer on our behalf by someone close to Hashem is very powerful. Yet on the other hand, a blessing from anyone, especially someone who loves you, may be no less potent, as the Talmud states:

תלמוד בבלי מסכת ברכות דף ז/א שלא תהא ברכת הדיוט קלה בעיניך:
“Do not take a blessing from a commoner lightly” (Babylonian Talmud, Berachot 7a).

Becoming a Channel for Hashem’s Perpetual Blessing
Every blessing – no matter from whom – is packed with potential, as long as we take it seriously and believe in its power. By responding “Amen” to a blessing, we unpack its goodness and actualize its blessed potential. Let us, therefore, take advantage of each occasion to bless each other and to answer amen at every opportunity! Let us hold on to the key of blessing that we inherited from Avraham Avinu (our father) and apply it to refine our speech, so that constant blessings become second nature in our daily interactions! I bless us all, that we may merit to become divinely inspired and be a channel for Hashem’s perpetual blessing!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Why Did Our Parents Leave the Path?

Lessons from the Rebbetzin’s Heart - Parashat Ha’azinu
Returning to the Path of Our Ancestors 
Rebbetzin's Great Great Grandfather z"l
In my father’s memoirs, there is a photo of his great grandfather, which really struck me. He wears the same kind of yarmulke-hat as my husband, and I recognize the mild pious gaze in his holy eyes. I estimate the photo to be from the middle of the 19th century more than 150 years ago. Yet, he looks like he could be someone right out of Meah Shearim today. We don’t have any information about him, except that he was from Russia. We don’t even have a name, but as I gaze into this photo I feel a deep connection, and I wonder if he learned the same kind of Torah as my husband and I. Also on my mother’s side, there is a photo of her father’s grandfather, Berish. He was a Chassid with a long beard and peyes. He had a pious modest wife, Pessel, wrapped in a shawl with a simple scarf on her head. Most Jews, today, don’t have to go back many generations to find ancestors devoted to the Torah. I’m grateful to my father for writing his memoirs and collecting photos of his ancestors. It certainly is a mitzvah to investigate our family roots as we learn from Parashat Ha’azinu:
ספר דברים פרק לב
(ז) זְכֹר יְמוֹת עוֹלָם בִּינוּ שְׁנוֹת דֹּר וָדֹר שְׁאַל אָבִיךָ וְיַגֵּדְךָ זְקֵנֶיךָ וְיֹאמְרוּ לָךְ:

“Remember the days of old, reflect upon the years of many generations; ask your father, he will tell you, your elders, they will inform you” (Devarim 32:7).

When I look into the eyes of my great, great grandfather, the notion of the cyclical nature of history really hits home for me. How I long to tell him, “Grand-Zeideh! We have returned to your ways! And even more! We have returned to our homeland that you dreamed about and yearned for!” Yet, what happened to the three generations in between my grand Zeideh and I? How did it come to pass that they began to scorn the “old ways” and decided to ditch their head-coverings of subservience in order to make it in the modern secular world?

Forsaking Spirituality for the Sake of Material Pursuits
The answer is hinted at in Parashat Ha’azinu. Moshe leaves the people with a poem, which is to serve as a testament and warning to all future generations. The Ha’azinu Song contains a prophecy that our ancestors fulfilled when the opportunity to leave the shtetel of poverty presented itself:

ספר דברים פרק לב
 (טו) וַיִּשְׁמַן יְשֻׁרוּן וַיִּבְעָט שָׁמַנְתָּ עָבִיתָ כָּשִׂיתָ וַיִּטּשׁ אֱלוֹהַּ עָשָׂהוּ וַיְנַבֵּל צוּר יְשֻׁעָתוֹ:

“Jeshurun became fat and rebelled; you grew fat, thick and rotund; [Israel] forsook the G-d Who made them, and spurned the [Mighty] Rock of their salvation” (Devarim 32:15).

Throughout history, during exile and suffering, we proved ourselves resilient in our faith. Yet the blessings of abundance presented a greater challenge and temptation for our people to forsake the Torah for material pursuits. The leaders who were supposed to set an example for the nation regressed to materialistic lifestyles. Preoccupied with the pursuit of physical pleasures, they were no longer capable of maintaining a spiritual existence, as Sforno explained almost 500 years ago:

ספורנו עה”ת ספר דברים פרק לב פסוק טו
(טו) וישמן ישורון ויבעט. והנה גם בעלי העיון שבהם הנקראים ישורון מן אשורנו ולא קרוב עשו כמו הבהמות הבועטות בבני אדם שנותנים להם מזון: שמנת עבית כשית. הנה אתה ישורון קהל תופשי התורה ובעלי העיון פנית אל התענוגים הגשמיים ובזה עבית מחבין דקות האמת כאמרו וגם אלה ביין שגו ובשכר תעו כהן ונביא. כשית. כאמרו כי טח מראות עיניהם מהשכיל לבותם: ויטוש אלוה עשהו. ולפיכך נטש ההמון אלוה עשהו:

“Behold, even the scholars and philosophers among them, who are called Jeshurun from the root ‘shur,’ to see (Bamidbar 23:9), referring to the people of vision within the community, acted as animals that kick those who give them food. Behold, the congregation of Torah adherents and scholars, have turned to material pleasures and grown thick, (incapable) of understanding subtle truths, as it states, ‘But these also reel from wine and stagger through strong drink, the priest and the prophet’ (Yesha’yahu 28:7). [You are also] covered with fatness as it says, ‘for He has shut their eyes that they cannot see and their hearts that they cannot understand’ (ibid. 44:18).” Therefore, the multitude forsook the G-d that made them… (Sforno, Devarim 32:15).

Just as bribe blinds the eyes, so can materialism obscure the vision of even our greatest leaders.

The Abundance-Addiction Rehab Structure of the Sukkah
After tempting Eve to eat from the Tree, Hashem told the serpent: “Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life” (Bereishit 3:14). Why was it a curse for the serpent to eat the dust of the ground? Having our food readily available can be a curse that makes us forget Hashem, since we do not need to turn to Heaven to pray for our sustenance. Likewise, living within solid stonewalls can be isolating and separate us from Hashem’s protection. No matter how affluent and independent we may have grown, the simple Sukkah returns us to Hashem’s bosom. It takes an entire week after moving out of our comfort zone and into the shelter of the Cloud of Glory to return to our pure faith. Therefore, Hashem commands us– at the very beginning of the New Virgin Year – to dwell for seven days under the shelter of His wings as it states:
ספר ויקרא פרק כג 
(מב) בַּסֻּכֹּת תֵּשְׁבוּ שִׁבְעַת יָמִים כָּל הָאֶזְרָח בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל יֵשְׁבוּ בַּסֻּכֹּת:
“You shall dwell in booths for seven days; all that are Yisraelites shall dwell in booths” (Vayikra 23:42).

Some people may think it is enough to eat the main holiday and Shabbat meals in the Sukkah, and reside, the remainder of the week, in the comfort of their homes. Yet, this defeats the main purpose of the Sukkah to recharge our emunah by enveloping us with Hashem’s presence, and letting us get a glimpse of the stars from the apertures of its fragrant roof. A full seven-day dwelling in the Sukkah is what it takes to de-escalate the fat of rebellion caused by the comforts of abundance. Therefore, the Talmud insists:

תלמוד בבלי מסכת סוכה דף ב/א
רבא אמר מהכא בסכת תשבו שבעת ימים אמרה תורה כל שבעת הימים צא מדירת קבע ושב בדירת עראי... 

What does it mean, “You shall dwell in booths for seven days”? The Torah said, the entire seven days you must leave your permanent home and live in a temporary dwelling (Sukkah 2:1).

‘Kicking’ Themselves Upwards in Society
It is human nature to always aspire towards progress. I do not blame our grandparents – who after generations of excruciating poverty – took advantage of the opportunity to advance their families by integrating into higher society. More comfortable, safe living conditions are conducive to better physical health. Access to cultural resources, provide opportunities for the advancement of children. When the doors of higher education opened for the European Jews, it is no wonder that the majority embraced the prospect of integrating into general society and procuring a higher living standard for their families. During this era of ‘enlightenment,’ Jews rose to become the cream of the crop, harvesting multiple Nobel prices as well as amassing prestige and material goods. Serving Hashem gradually became relegated to the background. Even the Jewish holidays took on less and less significance. Our parents were raised to ‘kick’ themselves upwards in society, yet, their material blessings did not lead to a higher level of morality and fear of G-d. It soon became apparent that materialism without spiritual content is an empty shell. The divergence of overflowing abundance and Divine service can be compared to the intake of high calorie rich foods without exercise. The surplus material is stored in the body, becoming a gross layer of excess corpulent obese fat.

Filling Our Plate with Spiritual Content
Recent generations that grew up with material abundance seek to fill their plate with spiritual content. We are no longer so hungry for food or thirsty for water, but rather for hearing the words of Hashem” (Based on Amos 8:11). We aspire to engage the natural desire for advancement into spiritual elevation and character refinement. However, spirituality does not negate material wealth, so long as we remember the true Source of our blessings. The Tishrei Holidays come to remind us that everything we have emanates from G-d. May we always remember to turn to Hashem for our needs, whether physical or spiritual and may we always be aware of how Hashem “opens His hand and satisfies the desire of every living thing!”

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

What is the Purpose of the Aging Process?

Lessons from the Rebbetzin’s Heart - Parashat Vayelech
Physical Decline Allows the Soul to Shine
Yona by B'erot Student Nish Garcia
It is hard to come to terms with the fact that people age. Not only people, but also trees, pets, appliances and even my favorite outfit! I wish that whatever I love would remain forever. I can mend and fix, but there is a point when we need to let go and accept the fact that everything in the world is temporary just as this world itself is transient. In Paradise, we were originally supposed to live forever – delighting in the perfect utopic Garden, without a strand of gray hair. Yet, we messed up, became mortal and were charged with accepting physical decline for the sake of perfecting our soul. The goal of the constant warfare between our physical and spiritual drives, is to allow the physical to make way for spiritual illumination.

In preparation for my 50th birthday, I studied the rabbinic teaching, “A 50-year old for advice…” (Pirkei Avot 5:21), and one of the commentaries struck me. It went something like, at the age of 50, a person’s physical faculties are declining but his spirituality is growing. An older person is not only more experienced, but also has more capacity for wisdom, precisely because the reduced physical strength allows his soul to shine. Even so, it is hard to wake up to new wrinkles around the eyes and brown age spots on the hands, not to mention graying hair, and getting out of breath when walking uphill. The entire world revolves around the younger generation. Perhaps, the mitzvah to honor the elders is designed to counteract the natural tendency to relegate them to the fringe of the family, while serving the needs of the younger and stronger. Aging must be so much harder for a secular person. If you don’t believe in the eternity of the soul and life after death, after going ‘over the hill’ what is there to look forward to except the body going downhill?

Value What You Have Today for Tomorrow it May be Gone!
The awareness that our lives are not forever, teaches us to appreciate the sweetness of the moment. Sunsets are so beautiful because they are fleeting, and we cannot hold on to the sunrays’ reflections of orange and pink behind the purple clouds. When I look at my brown-bearded 20-year-old baby son, I cannot believe how this large strong grownup man standing before me was once the cute little boy calling “Look Ima, look Ima!” as he bounced the ball. What happened to the baby I cradled in my bosom and whose first smile I welcomed? Soon, I will have to completely let him go to another woman, as he will build his own family. So, if your children are still young, don’t forget to enjoy them, even if they are a challenging handful! Before you know it, they will have grown up. The phase of ‘empty nesters’ teaches us to appreciate and enjoy our lifelong partner and spouse. Even for those of us who are not into world-travel-pleasure-trips, spending quality time learning Torah, taking a mountain hike or even caring for grandchildren together is a treasurable privilege. Knowing that someday it will be over, makes us value what we have today. When we designed our home, the architect suggested a covered entryway, since guests taking leave usually hang out together with the host at the doorway for another expanded and prolonged moment, not wanting the visit to pass.

The Ego-Breaking Experience of Aging
Witnessing how people often go through a painful aging process makes us wonder, what is the purpose of all of this suffering? Why do some people endure prolonged illnesses at the end of their lives? Why do others – who may have been brilliant highly educated prominent people – end up in a home for demented? Without claiming to have a ready-made pat answer to these existential questions of how Hashem runs His world, I would like to suggest that the aging process is a preparation for the ultimate life in the hereafter. Our souls have been sent down to this temporary world not only in order to repair the world but first and foremost to repair our essential selves. In the struggle between selfish pride and selfless humble giving, we must overcome the ego’s obsession with grabbing honor and material goods . Growing older and weaker and having to depend on the help of others is an ego-breaking experience par excellence. There is likewise no greater humbling experience than losing one’s memory and mind. Smaller signs of aging – such as no longer being able to run uphill, or keeping up with the grandchildren in a memory game are humbling as well. It is not for us to judge, for only Hashem knows who and when someone needs a dose of ego-diminution before s/he is ready to transit to the eternal world. In order to endure the intense light of the world of truth, we also need to be clean of transgressions. Thus, the suffering of sickness serves as a spiritual washing machine, which cleans out the stain of sin.

Humility: The Anti-Aging Agent
In Parashat Vayelech Moshe Rabbeinu takes leave of his beloved people, as he prepares to go the way of all the earth. Although Moshe – the embodiment of humility – was above the natural aging process as “his eyes did not become dim, neither did his flesh lose its moisture” (Devarim 34:7), he nevertheless knew it was his time to go.
ספר דברים פרק לא
 (א) וַיֵּלֶךְ משֶׁה וַיְדַבֵּר אֶת הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה אֶל כָּל יִשְׂרָאֵל: (ב) וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵהֶם בֶּן מֵאָה וְעֶשְׂרִים שָׁנָה אָנֹכִי הַיּוֹם לֹא אוּכַל עוֹד לָצֵאת וְלָבוֹא וַהָשֵׁם אָמַר אֵלַי לֹא תַעֲבֹר אֶת הַיַּרְדֵּן הַזֶּה:

“Moshe went and spoke these things to all of Israel. He said to them, I am one hundred and twenty years today, I can no longer go out and come in; and Hashem has said to me: You shall not go across this Jordan River” (Devarim 31:2).

Why does Moshe go? To where does he go? “Moshe went from the Camp of Levi to the Camp of the Israelites to honor them, as one who wishes to depart from his friend goes to him to receive his permission to leave” (Ramban, Devarim 31:1). Ibn Ezra adds, “Moshe went to each tribe individually to inform them of his impending death.” Although Moshe already had all of Israel assembled and could have easily taken leave of them in one shot, he chose to take the time to show each and every tribe love, care and appreciation with his personal farewell. With fatherly reassurance and utmost humility, he told the Israelites, “I have become old and am no longer of any use for you. My student Yehoshua who is younger and stronger will take over my role and lead you in conquering the land.”

May we all learn ultimate humility from Moshe Rabbeinu and accept that everything in the world is temporary just as this world itself is transient. May we be ready – when the time comes – to let go and hand over responsibilities to the next generation, without needing any ailments to remind us of our frailty! May we learn to relinquish our ego and remain healthy and strong, aging with grace like Moshe – the man of G-d!

G’mar Chatima Tovah

May you be sealed in the Book of Life!