At this time of year, before Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, we should do some soul searching in order to improve ourselves. Let’s admit our flaws, as Moses did.
The week’s double Torah portion is Nitzavim-Vayelech, and in it, God informs Moses that he will soon die. Commenting on this, the Midrash (rabbinic literature) says that not only was Moses saddened, because he did not want to die, but neither did the SUN want him to die!
The Midrash says that when the sun heard that Moses was going to die, it threatened not to rise (or set, as applicable) in order that the day of Moses’ death not arrive! For example, if Moses was set to die on a Thursday morning, the sun would have refused to set on Wednesday so that Thursday would never arrive. It was a plan to ensure that Moses would live forever!
It gets better.
The Midrash then says that after telling him that he would soon die, God told Moses to summon and install Joshua as the next leader. Moses then offered God a “deal.” He asked God if he could remain alive in return for abdicating the leadership. God agreed to the offer so long as Moses promised to relate to Joshua as the supreme leader and see himself as merely another student. The deal was signed and sealed.
Joshua was installed as leader. God then spoke to Joshua in the presence of Moses. After that conversation was finished, Moses asked Joshua what God had said. Joshua, we are told, simply told Moses, in a very diplomatic manner, that it was none of his business. Furthermore, Joshua said, a student should not ask such questions!
According to the Midrash, Moses “hit the roof” and yelled out that he would rather die than suffer the jealousy he was feeling.
Yes, it is a shocking Midrash. (I don’t make this stuff up, folks!)
We see from here that even Moses, and all great people, are essentially normal human beings. Even in his old age, after all he had accomplished in his life, Moses was still jealous that someone else was about to get his job. Being jealous is normal. The difference between most of us and Moses, however, is that Moses recognized his character flaws and acknowledged them.
As they say, nobody’s perfect. This Torah portion falls just days before Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, when we should be doing some “character inventory” and thinking about how we can change for the better. Let’s be honest with ourselves and admit our flaws in order to become even better people.
By: Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah portions, click on the links below:
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