Keep Walking

Friday, 7 October, 2016 - 11:35 am

In loving memory of my dear great aunt, Mrs. Tzipora Feldman, who passed away, and was laid to rest, today in Jerusalem, Israel. She and her late husband, both survivors of Aushwitz, migrated to Israel, raised a beautiful family, and led a life of kindness and devotion to Hashem. She was a kind righteous woman who always "kept walking". May her soul be bound in the eternal bond of life. 

Keep Walking

The opening phrase of the portion of Vayelech, which chronicles the last day of the life of Moses, begins with the words:

And Moses went, and he spoke the following words to all Israel.[1]

The Torah tells us “And Moses went”, the question is: where did he go? Reading the verse and understanding its context reveal that Moses went nowhere at all. At that point, all the people of Israel were already assembled, as described in the opening verses of last week's Parsha: “You are all standing this day before the Lord, your God the leaders of your tribes, your elders and your officers, every man of Israel”.[2]

“And Moses went”, therefore, is not a description of what Moses did on that day, but rather it is a description of what Moses did every day of his life. The Kabbalists[3] explain that the essential difference between an angel and a human being is that an angel is stationary but, by contrast, a human being “walks” and experiences change. An angel does not experience good days and bad days, an angel is never in a bad mood and an angel never has a bad hair day. There are angels who feel a love towards G-d and angels who feel awe of G-d, but what they both have in common is that the feeling and its intensity always remain the same.

A person is another story altogether. A person is almost never stationary. A person experiences a wide spectrum of changing emotions. A person experiences mood swings, one minute a person feels truly altruistic and the next moment the person feels as self centered as a beast.

The human state of change, as opposed to the stationary state of the angels, while on the surface may seem like a disadvantage, is in fact a tremendous advantage. Yes, we have bad days, yes, we lose our temper and we can be cruel to the people we love, but our existence has meaning. We are not a beautiful painting that does not change, we are a living breathing human being who is capable of growth. Yes, we may fail, we may falter, but we can also generate the deep courage to get up dust ourselves off and continue walking. When doing so, we experience growth. We are forced to create a deeper commitment to good; one that the soul did not experiences while it was in heaven, unchallenged, basking in the glory of the Divine.

“And Moses went”, therefore, is a description of the purpose of the descent of the soul of Moses, as well as the soul of every person, into this world.[4] “And Moses went” is the purpose of life - to go forward, to walk, to grow.

On the last day of Moses’s life, after “Moses went”, after he achieved his life's mission and purpose, Moses says:  

"Today I am one hundred and twenty years old. I can no longer go out or come in, and the Lord said to me, "You shall not cross this Jordan."

When Moses says “I can no longer go out or come in”, he does not mean that he is too frail and weak. The Torah testifies that “His eye had not dimmed, nor had he lost his moisture”. The Kabbalistic interpretation of “I can no longer go out or come in” is that Moses has completed his mission and thus reached completion and was no longer subject to “go out”, he was no longer subject to falling from his lofty state, no longer subject to failure, and, therefore, he was also no longer subject to “come” to a higher level. Because, if there is no possibility for failure, there is also no possibility for growth. In a state of perfection where the challenge of failure is not possible, there is also no ability to experience the uniquely human sensation of transformation. 

We read the portion of Vayelech just a few days before Yom Kippur, when we are called upon to seek atonement and forgiveness for our mistakes, and to try to overcome our shortcomings and correct our failures. On the soul stirring day of Yom Kippur, as we seek to connect to the purity of our soul, we sometimes wonder why G-d has created us as flawed creatures. We sometimes wish that we would be more like the perfect holy angels, who we emulate as we fast on Yom Kippur. Yet Moses teaches us otherwise. “And Moses went”. Moses tells us that the beauty of life is “to go”, to grow, to walk and to change.

Moses teaches us that G-d is not looking for a perfect person. What G-d wants is a person who sometimes falls, but never stops trying. A person who sometimes struggles, but never stops walking. 


[1] Deuteronomy 31:1.

[2] Ibid. 29:9. 

[3] See Torah Or Vayeshv page 30.

[4] See Pri Tzadik, Parshas Vayelech. 

Comments on: Keep Walking
There are no comments.