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Here and Now

Ha'azinu (Deuteronomy 32 )

by Rabbi Shaul Rosenblatt

In this week's portion, God tells Moses to ascend Mount Nevo where he is to die "in the middle of the day." The Sages explain that the Jewish people had decided they were not letting Moses go without a fight. He had taken them out of Egypt, split the sea, given them the Torah and provided manna for 40 years. Who wants a terrific leader like that to move on?

That explains why God took Moses "in the middle of the day" - to show the Jewish people that no one could stop Him from taking Moses back.

Now here's a paradox: During Moses' lifetime, the Jewish people complained about his leadership over and over again. And yet, when push came to shove, they were desperate for him to stay.

Human beings, and most especially we Jews, love to hang on to the past. We are always challenged to enjoy the now because the past, once it's gone, always seems so much rosier. Appreciating the now is our greatest challenge. The truth is, though, that the now is all that we have. Our life is lived only in the now. The past exists only in our memory; the future only in our imagination. All that we have is every precious, but fleeting, moment through which we experience our lives. And nostalgia can so easily make the "now" seem so miserable.

The truth is that after Moses was gone, the Jewish people did fine. New and different leaders came along who led each generation with their own unique set of capabilities. The Jewish people grew, developed and thrived - all without Moses to lead them. In retrospect, keeping Moses alive was not the solution for them. The solution was to come to terms with the incredible possibilities that remained even when he was not there.

Tradition and respect for the past is a key part of Jewish life, and crucial for moving forward in our national mission of repairing the world. But when we are overly concerned about holding onto what is in the past, that can cloud our perception of the new possibilities that exist in the here and now.

Life is what we make of the moments we are given. And every moment is of equal potential. The past and future are no better than today. In the grandest of all equalities, all moments are created completely equal in their potential for us to realize the rich and varied - infinite, in fact - possibilities that God constantly places before us.

God is not in the past, nor is He in the future; He is outside of time. He exists only in the timeless 'now' that every moment provides. God is right here, right now. Why would we want to live anywhere else?

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