The ultimate Jewish parent’s/leader’s dream – that the next generation will surpass us in moral and spiritual achievements, and in fulfilling their unique, vital roles in this world!
At the end of Moshe’s life, after God’s painful reminder in this Parasha that he will not enter the Land, Moshe asks: “Will God, who knows the unique spirit of every being, choose a leader for the people, who will go before them in war, and take them out and bring them back in his merit? Will God’s congregation not be left like sheep without a shepherd?” (Rashi, Bamidbar 27)
God responds by commanding Moshe to “take” Joshua “asher ruach bo” – i.e. who can sensitively lead in the face of diverse and dissenting voices – encourage him to begin teaching while Moshe is still alive, and give him authority and glory in front of the People.
Joshua, Moshe’s most devoted student and proven warrior, merits this honor. But he is also a symbol of Moshe’s impact as mentor and leader, something we can lose sight of from the stories of kvetching and rebellion throughout the People’s journey through the desert.
The five daughters of Tz’lofchad, who request their inheritance in this Parasha, also bear witness to Moshe’s influence on this new generation. They are independent thinkers who have absorbed not only Moshe’s love for the Land, but also his commitment to pursue justice and clarify God’s will.
As parents and educators, we can only hope to create the environment and set the example that will inspire our children to believe passionately in themselves, as the new torchbearers of goodness, purpose, and truth.
Our greatest achievement will be that they lead their families and communities with deep-rooted confidence and love, that they view the different approaches of every child/student/Jew as enriching, versus intimidating.
It is also helpful to remind them and ourselves, that even when our future paths are not clear, our everyday actions and choices are what reveal the singular roles that we have been given, that no one else can fulfill.
When we try to do a bit every day, according to our consciences and the inspiration of precious mentors and teachers, not only life happens “while we make other plans,” but history too.