Humbly Eternal (Behaalotcha)
Death is a commingling of eternity with time; in the death of a good man, eternity is seen looking through time.
-Johann von Goethe
Moses appears to go through an existential crisis, however we can understand such a thing of a man who spoke “face to face” with God. The burden of leading the complaining nation of Israel proves to be too much for Moses at one point and he cries out to God. As a solution, God gifts other leaders of Israel with the power of prophecy. However, as a side-effect of this sharing of prophecy, there are two men who start to offer unsanctioned prophesies in the Israelite camp.
Joshua, Moses’ disciple, is offended on Moses’ behalf and suggests that these rogue prophets be apprehended. Moses is neither offended nor threatened. He has the opposite reaction and wishes that all of Israel would carry the gift of prophecy.
The Bat Ayin on Numbers 11:28 explores some of the characteristics that made Moses so great. He explains that even though Moses reached the pinnacle of human potential he still considered himself lowly. He further states that such a person who is great yet considers himself lowly is at a higher level than the angels. And just as the angels don’t die, so this humbly great person doesn’t die.
He quotes a Talmudic dictum that states that a person “doesn’t die and half of his desires are in his hand,” which conventionally is understood as saying that a person dies before half of his desires are fulfilled. The Bat Ayin explains the dictum as saying that a person doesn’t die if they see themselves as not having reached half of their spiritual desires in serving God. Meaning, a person who is objectively accomplished in their spiritual life and activities yet feels as if they haven’t done half of what they wanted to do, such people don’t die. Such people are higher than the angels, and even when their physical shells are no longer with us, their lives are transformed into eternal lives, into lives that illuminate their families, their communities, and the entire nation for generations to come.
May we understand what true, healthy humility means and work on it.
To the memory of Mrs. Yael Shterntal z”l. May her family be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.