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Making the Most of Your Bucket List

08/21/2019 11:32:30 AM


Rabbi Brad Levenberg

We know a great deal about the life and accomplishments of Moses. But as we navigate through the Book of Deuteronomy, we have an opportunity to learn more about his personal aspirations. Framing the titular text is a repeated refrain from this venerated leader, paraphrased for brevity: “God, I will continue to convey everything you want to me to convey to the Israelites. But would you PLEASE just let me cross over the Jordan River and step foot in the Promised Land?” Sadly for Moses, he never achieved that goal. Though he led the people for 40 years to the end of the land, his feet never touched the soil of Israel. Our hero’s bucket list remained fulfilled.
I find it very comforting to consider that Moses, the Greatest Prophet of Israel, had a bucket list. And when I begin to consider the list in comparison to my own, they are in stark contrast. My bucket list is 16 items long; Moses’ list contained only one item. And there is something really wonderful about that.
Moses was Moses because he did not ask much for himself. He was all about the mission and only a little about his own wants. True, he occasionally lost his temper, and we are told in various sections of Torah that this anger and poor reaction is why he was not allowed to enter the land.
I think, however, that his impatience and anger are understandable. It’s not like he had an easy job. At the age of 80, he is tasked with leading the difficult, and ever complaining, and occasionally outright rebellious, Israelites through the wilderness. He really didn’t want the job, but he did it anyway. Thus, his frustration is, in my opinion, understandable.
One can imagine Moses saying, “I just want to touch the Promised Land with my own hands and feet before I die.” And I am left wondering why God would not grant him this one request. 
Then again, I wonder about bucket lists. They are all about personal aspirations. I want to go to Alaska. I want to attend South by Southwest. I want to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. I want to see my favorite artist in concert. I want to make a transformative gift to a nonprofit. I want to live in Europe (for a month or so, not forever!).

Bucket lists are all about what I want, where I want to go and what I want to do. They are about the about the places I want to see, the cultures I find fascinating and the heretofore unimaginable things I might learn doing these things. They are about the people I could possibly meet on my travels and the self-discovery I might achieve. They are about the experiences I hope to achieve and the impact I hope to have. 

Bucket lists are about imagining the personal fulfillment we might gain in the allotted years we are granted. If only every one of us were to be blessed with a lifetime of Moses’ 120 years! This is the nature of bucket lists. Each of us writes, and rewrites, these lists. They seem to grow longer with each passing year. 

Our bucket lists are really more about ourselves than the world.  

What if our lists looked more like Moses’? What if the personal ask was only one item long and the rest of the list was about how we are going to help others get to their promised land? 

Imagine that. Our personal fulfillment might better be achieved by lifting others up and helping others master their goals.

So tell me. What does your bucket list look like now. And then, after considering the example of Moses, how would yours be rewritten to do the most with the time you have?
Shabbat Shalom 

Wed, February 19 2020 24 Sh'vat 5780