On the last day of Moshe Rabainu’s life he tells Klal Yisroel “Lo uchal od latzais v’lavo” – “I can no longer go out and come in.” (Devarim, 31:2) This expression obviously needs an explanation. If Moshe’s intention is to say that he is about to die, (which is the basic understanding of the phrase) let him just say so. [Rashi, quoting Rav Yonason (Sotah, 13b) understands Moshe as saying that he is no longer able to plumb the depths of Torah. This, too, does not explain why he would use the phrase “going out and coming in”.]
Perhaps we can explain Moshe’s choice of words in another vein. In order to do so we must look back at the beginning of Moshe’s life.
We are introduced to Moshe Rabainu in the parsha of Shmos. It is there we find Moshe’s maturation towards becoming a well-rounded eved Hashem –Servant of Hashem. “Well-rounded” in yiddishkeit means one who strives to be his best in the areas of “bain adam l’Mokom (between man & G-d), and “bain adam lechavairo” (between fellow man.)
Regarding his first foray into the world of bain adam lechavairo the passuk tells us the following: …Vayigdal Moshe vayaitzai el echav… “[And it was in those days] Moshe matured, and he went out to his brethren [and he saw their travails, etc.]” (Shmos, 2:11)
A little later on we also find the first recorded episode of Moshe’s bain adam l’Mokom experiences. The passuk tells us: “….Vayavo el har haElokim… – “And Moshe was the shepherd for the flock of his father-in-law Yisro, the priest of Midyan. He led the flock to the wilderness and he came to the mountain of G-d at Chorev.” (Shmos, 3:1)
The first verb used by the Torah to describe Moshe’s career as a well-rounded individual in bain adam lechavairo is “vayaitzai”. And in bain adam L’Mokom it is “vayavo”. Looking back, those verbs were the roots of all Moshe’s acts of serving Hashem in his accomplished life. History tells us that he became the ultimate leader of our nation, a man who cared deeply for every yid, one who laid his life on the line time and time again to save and protect them. And all that began with a “vayaitzai”! He was also the closest that a man has ever been to G-d, ascending to the heavens, speaking “face to face” with his Creator. And all that began with a “vayavo”!
Moshe never forgot those first steps; as a matter of fact he cherished them. And thus when expressing his inability to continue being able to serve Hashem (due to his imminent departure from this world) he used a phrase describing his personal avodas Hashem – “Lo uchal od latzais v’lavo”
We all have our own “comings and goings” – the seminal moments of our journey in serving Hashem. Like Moshe, we should remember them, and cherish them, humble as they may be.
One of my proudest possessions are my handwritten Hebrew notes on Gemara which I wrote as a young teenager. Looking at them today, I realize what a hatchet job I had done attempting to transcribe those shiurim. But they enabled the next year’s notes to be a little neater and clearer. And so too, the year after. They are part of my comings and goings. And they will always be precious to me.
I hope yours are precious, too.
Have a great Shabbos.
Rabbi Nosson Greenberg is rov of Khal Machzikei Torah of Far Rockaway, N.Y., and maggid shiur at Yeshiva of Far Rockaway.