Weekly Torah Commentary – Devarim August 12, 2016

Deuteronomy 1:1 – 3:22

In the fortieth year on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses spoke to the children of Israel, according to all that the Lord had commanded him to give to them.  Deut. 1:3


We have come now to the final book of the Torah, Deuteronomy.  Moses has reached the age of 120 and he knows his end is near.  Therefore he undertakes to review and repeat to the new generation of Israelites all that the Lord has done and said since their parents first left Egypt.

The first thing we notice is that at his advanced age, Moses is still clear minded with a sharp memory.  As he rehearses the events of the past forty plus years, every detail is as clear to him as it if it happened yesterday.  He is an amazing example of healthy and wholesome aging.

In a generation like ours where the ‘senior’ population is significantly larger than in previous generations, the topic of aging well or aging successfully is a popular one.  Both from a medical standpoint as well as a psychological one, many writers publish articles and books on the subject.  My question as I ponder the opening of this week’s Torah portion is: How did Moses attain to 120 years of age ‘with his eye undimmed and his strength undiminished’ as is written later in Deuteronomy?   It’s unusual enough for someone to live to 120, let alone to do so with such mental and spiritual clarity!

There may be other reasons but let me suggest two, from which we can all derive inspiration, regardless of our present age.  The prophet Isaiah wrote: Those who trust in the Lord find new strength.  They will soar high on wings like eagles; They will run and not get weary.  They will walk and not faint.  Isaiah 40:31 (NLT)


Multiple times throughout the Torah we are reminded that Moses spent a great deal of time in prayer before the Lord, in seeking His face for direction on how to fulfill the mission the Holy One of Israel had given him.  He spent forty days – twice – on top of Mt. Sinai in the very intense presence of the Almighty and the Torah testifies that even his face glowed when he descended the mountain.  His intimate relationship with God was, I believe, a key to his vibrant and energetic long life.  Perhaps Isaiah was thinking of Moses when he penned the verse above.

Secondly, Moses is a unique portrayal of the axiom: Don’t retire; get re-fired!  Remember that it was at the age of 80 that he encountered the burning bush and heard the call of God to lead his people out of slavery.  He did not protest, ‘I’m too old; find some young whipper-snapper, God!’  The only protest he made was that he doubted his own ability, not that he was too old!!  By submitting to God’s will for his life and accepting the mission he was given, Moses was ‘re-fired’ for a task that would consume the final 40 years of his life and which he completed with such distinction that to this day, the children of Israel call him Moshe Rabeinu, Moses, our teacher.

What motivated him when he woke up each morning of those last 40 years?  He had a purpose that was greater than himself.  He invested the last third of his life into a generation that would outlive him and carry on the message he had received in the presence of the Lord.  The last third of his life was all about others, not himself. How different from the way modern senior citizens often look at their ‘golden years.’

I’ve heard contemporary senior citizens say things like, ‘I’m retired so I can do whatever I want now’ or ‘I’m past 70 so I’m just relaxing and enjoying myself.’  Moses would be appalled!

Life itself is a gift from God. Living to an advanced age is a gift that many people don’t receive. Given that by the age of retirement careers and professions are no longer a focus, should we not instead consider that our later years are a precious opportunity from God to invest ourselves in the next generation? That instead of selfishly focusing on our own pleasures alone, that we see this season of life as the opportunity to devote our lives to others in some meaningful way?

Moses certainly did so and the fruit of his efforts lasts these thousands of years later.  There can be no greater legacy than imparting to the next generation the spiritual and moral values that will guide them into a successful life in the eyes of God and man.

In Tune with Torah this week = if you are retired or near retirement, what are you doing with the gift of time available to you in this season of life?  Are you using it for God’s purposes?  Have you identified a purpose, an inspiration for your golden years?

If you are of the ‘next generation’, do you recognize that your elders have gained much wisdom through life experiences?  Do you listen to them? Do you gather nuggets of truth for your own life?

Shabbat Shalom

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