Nitzavim vayelech

“I am now 120 years old, I can no longer come and go” Deuteronomy 31:2

By Rabbi Chaim Weiner, September 9, 2009

This is the point in the Torah narrative when Moses hands in his resignation and steps down from his role as the leader of the Jewish people. Why now? Rashi suggests three different explanations.

The simple explanation is that at the age of 120, Moses no longer had the strength to do his job. This is contradicted by the description given later in the Torah at the time of his death: “Moses was 120 when he died; his eyes were undimmed and his vigour unabated”. The same verse also negates Rashi’s second suggestion, that Moses no longer had the intellectual or mental capacity to do his job.

This leaves only the third idea, that Moses no longer had the authority to lead the people, because God no longer wanted him to do so.

There are two ways to move forward in life, continuity or revolution. We either go on from day to day, gaining experience, wisdom and understanding and improving the way we do things or, alternatively, we can make a new start. This might involve reinventing the wheel, but along the way it opens the opportunity for new ideas and ways to do things. Life is a constant balance between continuing the tried and tested and risking something new.

Moses — the greatest leader the Jewish people has ever had — knows that when the time comes, even he must make room for someone else. Experience can only take you so far. According to the Midrash, in his final act as the leader of Israel, he goes from tribe to tribe blessing his people and handing his authority over to the younger generation.

Last updated: 5:27pm, September 9 2009