The commencement speech Moses never gave


I have been fortunate to have attended a lot of graduation ceremonies lately. They are wonderful events, but I always feel bad for the adult keynote speakers. Everyone just wants to see their own child get the diploma and throw his or her hat in the air.


A lot of these speakers are very inspiring and talk about how to achieve success in the future, and not just financial, but emotional success, too. They emphasize that, if you try hard enough, things will be fine and everything will work out in the long run the way you want.


This is why Moses has never been invited to give a commencement speech. Even if he were alive today, he would likely not be invited. His message, at least on the surface, is not quite as reassuring as we expect a graduation speaker to be.


Moses understood that life may never work it out the way we want it to, or think it will. Life is potentially filled with unresolved disappointments and failures. What makes Moses great, is that he teaches us how to handle all of our potential frustrations in a healthy and life affirming manner.


In the Torah, Moses sends the leaders to check out the land that the whole people were to someday enter. The leaders bring back a scary and disheartening report. The land was filled with giants, and not the friendly kind. The people panic and say that they are afraid to go forward. They felt they were better off as slaves in Egypt. God then tells them that they will not enter the promised land, and will live the rest of their lives in the wilderness, and someday die there.


The people ask for another chance, but God knows they will never be able to handle what it will take to go into the land.


The people are frustrated and terrified that their lives are now meaningless because they will never achieve the success for which they were brought out of Egypt.

Instead of telling the people not to worry, Moses does something he interesting. He does not tell them not to worry. He does not tell them things will work out the way they want. He does not tell them they can still make it to the promised land. He tells them the rules of sacrifice that are to be followed in the promised land. He describes all the great things the people that will make it into the promised land will do. This is not cruelty or taunting. It is to remind them that their lives still have purpose even if things did not work out.


They are to live their lives in the wilderness without bitterness and jealousy and without taking it out on the next generation. Their job is to help the next generation. It is to teach about perseverance even when you know you will not get exactly what you want.


This is important for us, because we live in a goal obsessed society, where we measure our worth by achievement, not by the quality of our moral character or our compassion. Moses tells us we may fail in our goals, but we do not have to be failures as human beings. We have much to offer in all aspects of our lives, even in the broken and imperfect ones.


Moses may not have made a great commencement speaker, but he was responsible for making sure we can still live meaningful and valuable lives even if we never get out of the wilderness.



















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