For everything there is a season

Rabbi Ryan Dulkin

By. Dr. Rabbi Ryan Dulkin

Numbers ends in much the same way that it began: with a list of the princes of each tribe, standing on the plains of Moab, preparing to enter into the land promised to their ancestors. Numbers 34:17-19 states, “These are the names of the men who shall inherit for themselves the land: Eleazar the Priest and Joshua son of Nun. You shall take a prince from each tribe to apportion the land: of the tribe of Judah, Caleb son of Jephunneh…”

At first-glance, this list is rather unremarkable, even prosaic. There are some familiar names here, such as Joshua and Caleb, the heroes of the espionage episode in Shelakh Lekha, the two spies who refused to join in the calumny the other members of their cohort leveled against the land. But on the whole, the enumeration of the names of the princes of each tribe assigned to apportion the land rarely attracts interpretive attention.

Still, something catches my eye about this scene. Here, I envision Moses gathering around himself the leaders of the people to whom he entrusts the future destiny of Israel. As he takes a moment to look into their eyes, he must feel a tinge of regret and apprehension, for the men who stand before him are not those with whom he began this journey. Instead of standing shoulder-to-shoulder with his brother Aaron and Nachson son of Amminadab (the hero of rabbinic legend who is the first to walk into the Sea of Reeds out of sheer will and belief in God), Moses must turn the reigns over to his successor, Joshua, and to Aaron’s son Eleazar. It is they and not he who will fulfill the destiny of the divine promise.

Moses must not only put his trust in God. He must keep faith with his children.

No matter our age or our stage in life, we all have moments when we must hand over our hopes and dreams to someone coming after us. Perhaps it’s a successor to a treasured position we’ve occupied, or a member of the next generation who steps into a key familial role. At moments such as these, we must let go, praying that the path we have prepared before our young ones will be a true one, and that they will move forward in a way that keeps faith with the past while inevitably developing new directions to inspire their own generation.

We live in a time of break-neck speed and change. May it be God’s will that we hold true to the dreams of our ancestors, and create the space in which our descendents will find their own voices to sing new songs.