Letting go and moving on in the book of Devarim

The fifth book of Torah opens up with a sentimental Moses bidding his beloved people farewell. He is anxious about them. Like any good parent, he can’t die peacefully without knowing that they will be ok.

Despite being old and frail, there was no sign of a diminishing of his resplendence.

That day, one could never have imagined the presence of a heaviness, a dark melancholy lurking silently, beneath his outwardly shining demeanor.

He knew that day, that though he could actually gaze out over the land from the mountaintop, his feet would never feel its warm sacred softness, never would he shyly approach its holiness, only to find himself swept away in a sudden rapturous burst of joy.

Never would he feel a gentle celestial tap on his shoulder, nor feel the soft breath of the divine, hear a playful, “psssst, helloooo – shoooooes…?” into his ear, followed by a more serious ״,של נעליך מעל רגליך״ gently reminding him, almost chiding — “ remove your shoes, allow your toes to feel the ground, caress the hot sand — enter this moment with your entirety; mind, body, heart and soul.”

Alas, he would enter only in heart.

Still, for that to be genuine, there was some work he needed to do, a breaking of the mental barriers — the Jericho mindset standing between him and his own peace of mind.

The writing on those walls, the 11th plague of self doubt, bore the signature of the Erev-Rav. A plague born during the apparently contagious Egyptian choshech -Darkness, seeping slyly into the Israelite consciousness, a reconstituted paradigm, whereby the physical slavery, is replaced by an existential slavery. Though there was only one group within the whole nation that was actually identified as Erev-Rav, the entire nation was scarred by this disorder -this residual slavery mentality is a collective Egypt memento that we carry till today.

His inner struggle may have sounded like this.

“I was able to manage the airlifting of an entire people out of Egypt, yet somehow the message, the fullness of freedom never took root in them, perhaps it didn’t resonate fully in me either?”

“How else to explain being replaced by Joshua, after all this?”

“How could that be though? Did I not facilitate giving them Torah? Or perhaps I failed at that as well? Perhaps I mismanaged by being hyper-focused on the Chesednosayn hatorah” flow of giving, and less so, or perhaps — even entirely dropping the ball on the Kaballas hatorah side, the Gevurah process on the receiving end.”

“I want to see them fully fixed.”

He knows however that this will not come to pass.

I imagine him then needing to wrestle with, and move past his own self doubt and failure, regrouping — to a place of acceptance and faith, restoring his balance sufficiently to enable him to part with his people while exuding the level of authentic joy and exuberance they expected of him.

It would mean coming to terms with his role, as a leader whose genius lied in his ability to facilitate only two thirds of a three part plan.

Part A.
Inspire people to break free from the clutches of slavery. Facilitate the Exodus. Moshe did this masterfully.

Part B.
Develop a game plan, a spiritual roadmap based on a sacred vision, an exploration of the meaningful ways that a free person can choose to live, beyond the ability to simply exist in that freedom.

Part of this process included developing the necessary strategies to deal with the inevitable setbacks, a life manual to follow, to prevent a sliding back into darkness.

The downloading of Torah was the diagram. The grounding of ones self in an all encompassing life program, was the key to fostering a continuity of this freedom.The transformational experience of revelation at Sinai provided the missing layer of meaning and purpose.

Moshe did this masterfully, lovingly, preaching a Torah that discouraged running from the pain of the past, preferring an approach that held onto those experiences, just enough for them to act as reminders — minus the trauma, rather, as signs along the road, “Zecher leyitsiyas mitzrayim.”

Part C.

The trickiest stage however, lay in the actual implementation of that roadmap.

Here is where Moshe needed to make an adjustment, in the realization- that his not leading them to phase three was not a reflection of a weakness in his leadership. To the contrary, his leadership was strong. Too strong perhaps.

In order for that step to be meaningful and lasting, it was a step that the people needed to take alone. In order to do that two things needed to happen.


The people needed to reach inside and discover a whole new place of soulfulness and faith. A high plain from which to survey life courageously, without projecting the fearfulness that inevitably leads to acting out in destructive “golden calf” behavior. Whereas beforehand they were too dependent on Moshe, after the forty year Torah incubation period they intuitively knew how to think, act, and respond as Moshe would have. This is the true meaning of the Talmudic adage “ad arbayim shnin lo Kai Inish adayte Drebbi — only after forty years of study can the disciple start to understand the master”.

The forty years had passed. The Jews “got” it. Now they needed to actually live in it. It was time for them to be reborn into the third phase. Though the essential bond with Moshe would always remain intact, the outer cord that bound them to him needed to be severed.


Moshe had to move past his rescuer syndrome, letting go of his need to be the fixer. The ultimate Rebbe is the one who knows when to step back and stop compensating for his Chassidim, encouraging them to process and internalize Torah -“ Keemu ma shekiblu Kvar

In order for the children of the “survivors” to enter into the promised land, they needed to end the cycle of transgenerational trauma, on their terms. Alone.

That day Moshe let go of one dream, but in doing so realized a far greater one, Taking a page from the playbook of My Rebbe, this is what I Imagine Moshe telling the people that day.

Rav lachem sheves bahar hazeh. I’ve brought you to the entranceway to your dreams, step away from the security of this mountain, let go of your addiction to it, accept the transfer of ownership of your own destinies, become custodians of this vision.”

Or to paraphrase the spinoff of the  Kabbalists on that same verse — “Rav Lach Sheves Be-emek Habacha…. enough wallowing in the valley of your tears!”

Make havdalah from the long 40 year passive — recipient oriented “Sheves-Shabbat” on this mountain, and begin the transition to the more proactive — giving “weekday” phase.

“Ich hab getton altz vas ich ken, I’ve done all that I can!

Even though you won’t see me there hovering at the mountaintop, don’t worry. From my vantage point at the summit, I will always see you. Don’t squander precious energy searching for me in the vast emptiness. Instead, use the time to review my Torah, my Sichos, Maymarim, my vision. You will find me there.”

Haphoch bah Va-haphoch Ba dekulah bah — turn it over, again and again, for all you need is in it.”

“Ive transferred my entire essence — Kol Atmosay — into my Tomarnah, into my words, into my thoughts, that’s where you can go to continuously withdraw all the secrets that I’ve whispered to you, whilst you were gathered around me — Ke-ish echad, as one — at the base of our mountains, where we assembled for our Farbrengens — the sweet echoes of which can still be heard, by continuing to sing the melodies of hopefulness that we sang together lovingly — “be aznei kol yisroel” penetrating deep into the hearts of an an entire generation.

I did my part, now do yours.

My mountaintop perch is my Israel.

Now you need to discover your Israel. I’m already redeemed. Now its your turn to redeem yourselves, “Heegeeya Zman Geulaschem, your redemption not mine.

Move away from the mountain of your paralysis, of your death, instead let this mountain be the birthplace of a new way to be in life.”

“Step away from your sadness, step away from your past, step away from your doubts, and step onto your path- the sweet rushing waters of the Jordan beckon in the distance. You must joyfully hoist the Ark onto your shoulders and commence your journey.”

That day, he realized that precisely because he had succeeded, not only in the giving, but much more importantly, in empowering them to truly receive Torah, were they able to move on, standing on their own feet, an entire generation of mini Moshe replicas, empowered to transmit that same Torah, to the next generation.

That day the glorious era of the shining of the infinite lights of Tohu, sadly- came to an end, but in its stead the new era of the filling of the vessels of Tikun, was ushered in.

That day, he realized like any good parent, the need to let go.

That day, Moshe’s countenance was ablaze, bathed in a soft but fiery incandescence, towering majestically over the Benai Yisroel.

That day he was every inch Moishe Rabenu, Rebbe of his people.

Rabbi Yossi

About the Author
Rabbi Yossi Lipsker is the co-founder and executive Director of Chabad of the North Shore and spiritual leader of the Chabad Community Shul. He can be reached at
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