How Moses Let Go

For 40 years, Moses held tight to the Jews lest they relapse into idol worship. As his time drew to an end, he forced himself to loosen the reins.

August 13, 2015 | Atar Hadari
About the author: Atar Hadari’s Songs from Bialik: Selected Poems of H. N. Bialik (Syracuse University Press) was a finalist for the American Literary Translators’ Association Award. His Lives of the Dead: Poems of Hanoch Levin earned a PEN Translates award and was released in 2019 by Arc Publications. He was ordained by Rabbi Daniel Landes and is completing a PhD on William Tyndale’s translation of Deuteronomy.

From Moses, 1902, James Jacques Joseph Tissot. Jewish Museum.

This week’s Torah reading of Re’eh (Deuteronomy 11:26 – 16:17) covers a vast swath of time, but it’s centrally devoted to the aging Moses’ effort to engineer the Jewish future. The thread running through it can be traced back to a recurring issue in Israelite life over the previous four decades in the desert—an issue codified much earlier in the book of Leviticus (17:3 – 4):

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