“May my teachings be…like storm winds upon vegetation.”
~ Deuteronomy 32:2
Moses charged the people to continue following his teachings after his death.
Why compare them to something negative?
Although hurricanes are destructive, your average storm wind doesn’t damage plants – quite the opposite – by pushing the stems and stretching them to their limit, the wind actually strengthens them and makes them grow better.
So too Torah wisdom; although it pushes our boundaries and stretches our minds, it strengthens us and makes us grow.
The things you find difficult usually benefit you.
“Moses summoned Joshua, saying to him before the eyes of all Israel: ‘Be strong and courageous, for you shall come with this people to the land.”
~ Deuteronomy 31:7
Moses instructed his successor to “come with” the people and lead in accordance with the elder’s advice.
However God commanded Joshua to “bring” the people.
Why change the verb?
To impress upon the fledgling leader the most essential leadership lesson of all: there can only be one boss. Taking advice is often helpful, but only after you’ve accepted full responsibility for the task at hand.
So too in life, friendly advice is only beneficial if you’re prepared to ignore it.
“You’re standing today – all of you – before God: your heads, your tribes, your elders, and your officers, all the men of Israel, your children, your wives, and your stranger in the midst of your camp, from the hewer of your wood to the drawer of your water.”
~ Deuteronomy 29:9-10
On the last day of his life, Moses gathered the entire people to stand before God.
Why the detailed list?
To communicate a crucial message: authority, social stature, age, intelligence, gender, religion and career have no significance in God’s eyes.
The mystics reveal that when the Hebrew letters of the word כלכם “all of you” are rearranged, they spell כמלך “like royalty”. It’s not just that we’re all equal – we’re all equally great.
“Accursed is one who leads a blind person astray.”
~ Deuteronomy 28:18
One of the consequences for the really bad transgressions is being cursed.
But what’s so terrible about misleading the blind? No one gets killed!
When someone who sees less than you – whether literally or figuratively – allows you to direct them, they’re putting their lives in your hands. If you deceive them, you break more than just their trust in you, but their ability to trust anyone.
Conversely, if you affirm their trust in you, you strengthen their faith in everyone.
“When a man marries a new wife, he shouldn’t go to the army, nor obligate himself for any matter; he must be free for his home for one year and gladden his wife.”
~ Deuteronomy 24:5
Getting married is an exceptionally special time and good reason to celebrate.
But why quash all responsibilities beyond the marriage for the first year?
Like any long-term process, marriage is built brick-by-brick on the foundations we initially lay. The stronger the foundation, the higher we can build. While losing a war is terrible, a generation of broken homes is worse.
Don’t be impatient. Great homes need strong foundations. Take the time to lay the floor before putting the roof on.
“Place for yourself judges and officers in all your gates.”
~ Deuteronomy 16:18
Establishing a just court-system is essential for any society.
But why only at the gates?
The gates are the portal through which a city is accessed. Prevention is better than cure, so while trouble is obviously unwelcome anywhere within a city, it’s most efficient to not let it in to begin with.
People have gates too: our five senses. We too need to be “judges and officers” ensuring what we see, eat, hear etc. is both physically – and spiritually – healthy.
“Provide for yourself intelligent men who are wise.”
~ Deuteronomy 1:13
Moses gave specific criteria for choosing judges.
What did he add by saying they should be wise if they’re already intelligent?
It’s the difference between the rich and the enterprising: the rich are secure enough to relax when business is slow, while the enterprising go and make things happen.
Intelligent people know plenty but they’re often complacent in their knowledge. The wise, however, always seek to understand that which they don’t yet know.
Great judgment needs a combination of both.