Devarim 5770

Posted on March 23, 2011

by Scott Greenberg

“Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth.”

These words were said by Lou Gehrig on July 4, 1939, in Yankee Stadium, to begin his farewell speech. Gehrig had been told less than a month earlier that, due to a muscular deterioration disease known as ALS, he would never be able to play baseball again. This was Gehrig’s final chance to address his supporters, his fans – and he used it to thank them for all they had given him.

But thousands of years before Lou Gehrig would ever take the plate, there lived a prophet named Moses. Just like Lou Gehrig, Moses had a prosperous and successful career. Similar to Gehrig, Moses knew that his death was approaching. And Moses too wanted to impart a final message, some last advice to the people that admired him so much.

This week, we start the fifth and last book of the Torah, D’varim, which is essentially Moses’s farewell speech. The Israelites are almost about to enter the land of Canaan, and Moses has already been told by God that he cannot enter with them. So he begins a speech so long that it takes 30 chapters and eight entire portions of the Torah to complete. What is in this speech?

Moses’ farewell begins with a recounting of Israel’s journey from Egypt and through the desert: the places they had gone, the wars they had won, and wonders God had done for them. Then, Moses goes over many of the laws previously stated in other parts of the Torah, to serve as his last advice. He even adds some new laws, many of which have to do with entering the land of Israel. Finally, Moses outlines the positive and negative consequences that will occur to Israel if they choose to follow God’s word or not.

This is a very different farewell speech than Gehrig’s. Lou Gehrig focused on his thankfulness and the relationships he had made. Moses, however, used his last words to ensure Israel’s spiritual future and create a legacy for the laws he had taught. But these two very different farewell speeches do have one thing in common – both men felt that their lives and experiences deserved to be shared in some way.

Gehrig was able to look back at his life and consider himself lucky. Moses was able to look back at the journeys he had taken with Israel and provide them with the guidance that they’d need for a new chapter in their history.

When you look back at your life, what will you see? Will your life deserve to be shared? What type of farewell will you be able to give?