We hear this week Moses describe pleading with God: “‘O Lord God … Let me, I pray, cross over and see the good land on the other side of the Jordan…’ But the Lord said to me, ‘Enough! Never speak to Me of this matter again! Go up to the summit of Pisgah… Look at it well, for you shall not go across yonder Jordan.’”
After devoting his life to bringing the Jewish people out of Egyptian slavery, helping them become God’s people, sacrificing and cajoling and leading, it has always seemed cruel to me that Moses must die before reaching their destination, the Land of Israel.
Working in generational change within our community, I lately see it differently. Yes, Moses began this journey and parted seas to get here. But God explains that Moses’ greatest leadership now is to empower the next generation. “Give Joshua his instructions, and imbue him with strength and courage, for he shall go across at the head of this people, and he shall allot to them the land that you may only see.” Joshua will need Moses’ courage and wisdom, and indeed has been learning by his side. It is not as a replacement, but as an inheritor, that Joshua takes on the mantle of leadership.
Parker Palmer, the great educational philosopher and elder, speaks about his joy at working with younger generations. “I think of this rising generation as sort of the advance scouts for me. They’re living out on a frontier or horizon that I can’t see that clearly…I need their eyes and ears and mouths to tell me what they’re seeing, because that same horizon is coming at me whether I know it or not.” He talks of an impasse between elders and younger people, each fearing the other sees them as irrelevant.
Perhaps in this Shabbat of comfort after Tisha B’Av, we can take inspiration from the way God instructs Moses to ready a new leader for a new time. The future is coming at us. Let’s find comfort in facing it with strength and courage, together.
Originally published in the Canadian Jewish News.