Parashat Vayelech 5777: What will be our legacy?
Don’t know if you have seen the new publicity in Edgware for a life insurance company. It is quite somber. Usually a nice picture of a father with a small child and some sentence like: “Even super dads are not invincible”, or “the end of your history doesn’t mean the end of hers” and so on. Meaning, buy a life insurance because you could die and you should leave money to your children. It bother us because it is true, we will die, either tomorrow or in 80 years from now and we don’t like to think about that. One of the main themes of our Parashah is the transference of the leadership of the People from Moses to Joshua the son of Nun. We read in the Parashah: “Next Moshe summoned Joshua and, in the sight of all Israel, said to him: “Be strong, be bold, for you are going with this people into the land Hashem swore to their ancestors he would give them. You will be the one causing them to inherit it. But Hashem — it is he who will go ahead of you. He will be with you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you, so don’t be afraid or downhearted.” Immediately after this little ceremony that assured there would be a leader after him, Moses did something else, he gave the Torah to the religious leadership of the people to be safeguarded: “Then Moshe wrote down this Torah and gave it to the cohanim, the descendants of Levi who carried the ark with the covenant of Hashem, and to all the leaders of Israel”. Moses is getting closer to his death. Even one of the greatest of men is going to die, but being the great leader he was, Moses worries about the future of his people, its leadership and moral guide. Continuity, transcendence, these are ways to defeat even death. What do we leave after us? What do we leave to our descendants that stay in this World? How do we pass our wisdom and teachings we believe important? First of all, what Moses said to Joshua: “Be strong and bold”, chazak veematz. They are words of encouragement, “yes we can” a la Obama. Without demands or threats, but to give self-confidence and the feeling that it is possible to achieve our goals, that there is no task so big that cannot be completed. However, it is not enough, it is nice, but not enough. We must know which ones are our goals, what is the task. There is a nice story called “the four last wills” and tells us about four generations of the same family through the wills of the family members. The first generation, the great-grandfather, left an ethical will, where he wrote moral advice and life wisdom. It is a document for generations, full of experiences and their teachings for life. A real treasure. The second will, written by the grandfather, is not so full of wisdom, but still speaks mostly about ethical advice and values. Only at the end it has a little addendum, about managing the modest funds that his father left to take care of grandma. The third generation, the father, left a will that speaks extensively about the assets and property of the family and a small addendum asking to behave according to the family tradition. The fourth generation, the great grandson of the first man, as you can guess, writes a will that is absolutely financial in nature, how much money to each son, grandson and nephew. No one word about moral, ethics or values. The transition between generations in the story describes a common reality, the losing of our objectives, when we take our eyes away from what is really important. We pass to the future generations the message that in order to be successful we must earn a lot of money. Academic titles, senior positions in companies or maybe even in politics, no offense. A good financial situation is not something bad, but it is not a source of continuity or transcendence. It doesn’t fill our spiritual emptiness that asks “and now what?”, “why do I need all these?”. We must leave after us something else. It would be so great to feel that we left the World a little better that it was when we came. In our will we must give the tools we acquired in our life so others can continue our way, our path. If our inheritance is ethical, made of values and not only valuables, then we can say to our children: “Be brave and bold (…) don’t be afraid and don’t dismay”. It is hard sometimes to keep our values and principles in the World we live in. It is hard to do it when sometimes society is trying to force us to leave them behind. We all will leave this World behind at some point, that’s a fact. However, it can make a big difference to know that we lived for a purpose greater than us, something good, that we brought kindness and good into the World. That our efforts to do this joined with those that came before us and those who will come after us. A life of meaning will give us serenity, happiness and satisfaction. May we, as Moses, have the merit of leaving people after us to continue our work and our values. May we leave a legacy of ethics, wisdom and principles, that we embodied with our life. If we succeed, then our ideas and legacy won’t die with us, in a way, we will live forever.