10/17/2014 12:48 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Moses's Last Day Teaching: The Sky Is Not the Limit


How would you spend the last day of your life?

It's a question that many people ponder. Would you focus on your family and loved ones? Live out your most outrageous fantasy? Spend all your money and buy extravagant gifts?

When Moses, the first leader of the Jewish People, knew he would not make it to the Promised Land and it was his last day, he had the same choice to make. He decided to simply spend it the way he had spent his entire life: Teaching and guiding his People. He wanted them to know how to succeed in the Land after 40 years of wandering in the desert.

His last teaching that day was:

This commandment, which I command you this day, is not concealed from you, nor is it far away. It is not in heaven that you should say: 'Who will go up to heaven and fetch it, to tell it to us, so that we can fulfill it?' Nor is it beyond the sea that you should say: 'Who will cross the sea and fetch it, to tell it to us, so that we can fulfill it?' Rather, this thing is very close to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can fulfill it. (Deuteronomy 30:12-14)

While most commentaries interpret "This commandment" as the entire Torah, the Lubavitcher Rebbe interprets that Moses refers to world redemption and to world peace, which are not "concealed" from you and not "far away". One might think that both Torah's high moral standards and making the world a better place are "concealed," un-comprehensible but also "far away," attainable but requiring too much efforts to get there. If you feel it is "concealed" from you, then you may look for a spiritual leader who will go up to heaven and tell you how to make this world a better place.

However, Moses clearly wants to prevent this "un-comprehensible" feeling, this despair and its resulting dependency on someone "who will go up to heaven." There is no need to seek out one because you can do it yourself. You can understand the Torah and fulfill its ideal. You can become your own guide and carve out your own path.

Moses talks about it in terms of our religious and moral quest, reaching heaven, but he also teaches us a lesson for our professional journey. He wants to prevent the "far away" feeling and its resulting dependency one someone "who will cross the sea" and bring us the food and the business on which we depend. Don't rely on a boss or other material leader to "cross the sea" for you. Remain independent, be your own boss, connect directly to the source of all blessings.

It is so tempting and so natural to rely on the boss, on the company, on the system to ensure our wellbeing. It is also so tempting and so natural to rely on thought leaders - mainstream media or religious leaders - to shape our thinking and our connection to God. Moses, the ultimate spiritual leader, teaches his People that they actually should not rely on him to "go up to heaven." He asserts that they all should be leaders and shape their own connection to God, implementing the Torah to make the world a better place. It is attainable - one kind word and one good deed at a time, empowering one child and inspiring one community at a time.

Moses's last lesson is this "thing," the Torah and world redemption, a world that unites around the one and unique God, a world of peace and harmony. Such a world is actually close to you; it only depends on your words, your heart and your action.

This last lesson might be the most relevant for our tumultuous economic and political times: Don't blindly rely on world leaders. Don't just rely on business leaders. Be the leader and take responsibility for the world around you. So, don't wait for your last day. How will you spend your day? Will you lead or will you follow? You can go up to heaven; the sky is not the limit anymore.