The Five books of the Torah cover a vast amount of time from the dawn of creation till Moshe’s passing in 2488. And yet a sizable portion of Devarim, the fifth book, deals exclusively with Moshe’s final day. There must be an enormous lesson for all of us for Hashem to designate such a lengthy section of the Torah, to a singular event.
There is an old Jewish joke: What do you say to a man on his 120th birthday? Have a good day! Due to the fact that the Torah dictated that starting from Moshe and moving onward until the days of Moshiach no man may live past 120 years, there seems to be no better greeting. But what do you say to a man who will die that very day, and more importantly what do you say if you’re the birthday boy or girl.
Imagine being Moshe standing on the day of your one hundred and twentieth birthday knowing it will be your last. Looking out at the millions of people- whose parents you took out of slavery, who you have watched grow, cared for, nurtured and taught. The people who you argued with G-d for, and the people you brought the Torah to, and the people you had hoped to lead into the Promised Land. Imagine what Moshe felt as he looked out at his people knowing this would be his last time seeing them and his last day as their leader and knowing Yehoshua would lead them into Israel and not him. How would you feel? What would you say? What would you do?
There has long been a phenomenon in our culture with a person’s last day, their last words and their last acts, even last meals. Numerous movies and books display the power of a person’s last moments giving weight to their act or words. A person could earn love or redemption, honor or fame. They could go out in a blaze of glory or speak their mind when it counts. They could be defiant to the end or shame themselves in those final seconds, but those final seconds are always crucial.
In Music, the concept is even more widespread. Motley Crue sings of saying everything you wanted to say before it’s too late. Nickelback asks would you give all you have to Charity, reconnect with friends, forgive enemies or find true love. Tim McGraw sings about skydiving, bull riding, connecting to G-d and becoming a better person, husband and friend. Many other sing of self-pity and of the freedom of your last day with no repercussions and consequences breaking any law or rule with no fear of tomorrow.
So what did Moshe do? The Torah says “And Moses went and spoke these words to all of Israel. And he said to them: ‘I am a hundred and twenty years old this day”, knowing it was his last. Moshe didn’t spend his day reminiscing or praying, and he didn’t spend it enjoying or destroying. Moshe went. Moshe moved forward and accomplished. Moshe spoke to the people he loved and prepared them for his death. He appointed Yehoshua to lead them in his absence and reminded them of G-d’s law and the path to a good and righteous life. He looked out over the land of Israel and the people of Israel and reminded them of the eternal covenant they had made with G-d. On the last day of his life, Moshe taught and he inspired. In short, he lived.
There have been numerous cases over the last few years of cowardly evil men killing themselves and others in G-d’s name. It is easy to kill for G-d and it is even easy to die for G-d. Moshe reminds us of a far more difficult path. Moshe tells us to live for G-d. Moshe spent his last day the same way he spent all of his days. In devotion to Hashem and to His people, insuring our continued survival both physically and spiritually. Moshe taught us a lesson applicable every day of our lives for we never know which day will be our last. Moshe taught us to connect both to G-d and our fellow man, to strive to further ourselves and our mission in life and to always move forward. What should a man do on his 120th Birthday? Have a Good Day.
May we very soon see the day when death no longer limits any of us and we can hear Torah from Moshe again with the coming of Moshiach. Amen