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Rabbi Jonathan Ganger
by Published on September 11, 2020

In contrast to a physical ailment, where a person actively seeks help, when it comes to mental illness, addiction, and spiritual maladies, it is rare that a person has the self-awareness of the problem. That is why those issues can be so insidious.  Why does this happen? The power of rationalization creates blind spots.  A person has too much ego to view himself in an unfavorable light, and therefore, he can’t admit to his failure.  Knowing this is crucial for being an effective Rabbi.

Moses was busy on his last day of life. A dramatic good bye on his death bed was clearly out of the question.  At 120 years old Moses was on the go, as the moniker of this week’s Torah portion indicates- ‘and he went’.  What it doesn’t specify is where.  The great 13th century Spanish scholar, the Ramban, indicates that Moses was eminently polite and humble. He went from camp to camp to say a final good bye to the people to give them honor. The word honor in Hebrew is synonymous with ‘heavy’ because something heavy doesn’t move easily so a person needs to tailor his journey around the object. So too, a person schedules his life around the person with the greatest honor.  At 120, one would think that Moses could finally take the honor due to him and have the people come to him, but that was not the case. Beautiful, but hard to relate to that stratosphere of humility. 

Rabbi Shlomo Lutchitz, a 17th century scholar, says that this ‘going’ by Moses was not a straightforward goodbye. Rather, Moses was traveling from tent to tent trying to inspire the people one final time.  He understood that people rarely seek out spiritual opportunities for growth and inspiration on their own volition.  Because the implication is that they lacked something or were inadequate in some sense.  It is the Rabbis job to gently hold a mirror and draw out a desire for more spiritually.  We have to chase, and even then, the call may not be heeded. But if Moses is any indication, until our last breath, it is our job to try to awaken that awareness that people are spiritual, and can always develop more spirituality. 

But, if Moses spent his last day on earth chasing after the Jewish people, trying to inspire one last time, at the age of 120.