THE TORAH describes in dramatic and moving verses the passing of Moses. At first the aging leader pleaded with the Almighty to permit him to enter the Promised Land. "Let me go over and see the good land which lies on the other side of the Jordan, that goodly mount and the Lebanon," he prayed (Deut. 3:25). But God said, "Go up to this mountain of the Passes, Mount Nebo, and see the land of Canaan which I am giving to the Children of Israel as a possession. And you will die on the top of the mountain which you will ascend and you will be gathered unto your people, even as your brother Aaron was gathered unto his people on the top of the mountain . . . For you shall see the land from afar, but you will not enter it . . ." (Ibid. 32:49-52).

What a touching scene! The great man who had led his people for forty long years of wandering and suffering in the desert, is flatly denied the opportunity to enter the land he yearned for and dreamed about all these years! He is only permitted to ascend the mountain-top and gaze upon the fertile fields and lush valleys, the stately mountains and the green forests of what he knows to be "the land flowing with milk and honey." One can well imagine the deep pain and the severe disappointment of Moses on that fateful day. Would we, therefore, be justified in concluding that because he did not achieve the highest goal and did not realize the fondest dream, that his life was a failure? I believe that every sensible person would say, certainly not!

The fact is that this is true of almost everyone who has lived a busy and productive life. Seldom does one achieve all, or even a major number, of the goals that he set for himself. That does not mean, however, that myriads of men and women through the generations have lived in vain.

The tremendous success of the musical, "Man of La Mancha" and the popularity of its theme song, "The Impossible Dream," are due to this basic universal human experience. There is rarely a person who in the twilight zone of life can point to many realized dreams. The real person is he who has clearly defined notions and ideas that he would like to implement, and not necessarily the one who is successful in seeing them completed in his lifetime. To paraphrase a well-known quotation of Shakespeare: to err in the method of attaining certain goals is so human; to strive constantly for noble purposes is so divine.

This is the fundamental lesson that God wanted us to derive from the stirring drama of the life and death of Moses.

On the verse, "Go up to this mountain," the sages comment that God was saying to Moses, aliyah hee lekha ve'enah yeridah. "It is a going up for you and not a going down" (Yalkut Deut. 949). Even though he did riot get what he wanted most, the life of Moses was not a yeridah. On the contrary! The very fact that he passed away with a great dream in his heart indicated that his entire life was an aliyah - one of endless striving and climbing higher and higher in the service of his people and in the love of his God.

The truth is that there are so many things to be done and so many plans to be worked on. Few ever hope to accomplish everything in the span of three-score years and ten, or even in twice that long. But that is not the crucial test of the good and worthwhile life. What is supremely important is that we perform the task of each day honestly and well. Baruch ha-Shem yom yom is a motto we repeat in our daily prayers. Blessed is God for giving us the opportunity to live and function gracefully every day. Each day, when lived honorably and usefully, brings its own reward. The striving to do better, to make life more meaningful for ourselves, our loved ones, and others - that is of true and lasting significance in the annals of God and in the eyes of man.

Back Page Contents Next Page