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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

When You've Reached the Top of the Mountain

Updated: Jun 30, 2021

Nestled into Parshat Pinchas, after we have once again talked about counting people through the census, is a piece of text which describes what will be the transition of leadership from Moses to Joshua. Because of his disobedience, Moses will not enter the land, but will meet his end on the "heights of Aberim." When this is revealed to Moshe, he asks God to give the people a new leader. Although I could never put myself into the mindset of Moses, I understand the concept of retirement and leaving a position into which you have poured your energy, your creativity, your love. Transitions are difficult, but not impossible. Moses does not find a new beginning, but Joshua will. People who retire certainly do find new beginnings and this is the subject of this poem.

Endings are new beginnings

Aren't they?

There is always someone who comes after you

Assumes your job

Becomes the new captain,

the new leader of the team.





Different from you,

yet somehow the same.

Ready to make his own mark

to follow his vision

of what things can be.

A new leader is a deep pool

of unfulfilled potential.

A bright torch waiting to glow brighter.

She will climb the mountain

on the path that you have



Those around you say

“No one can do it like you.”

“Look what you’ve done,

Look what you've built?”

"It won't be the same without you."

You want to believe them.

You really do.

But deep inside,

You know that they are wrong

They speak

and it is as though you are

hearing them through a mist,

which settles around you.

It dulls your senses and numbs you,

slows your footsteps as you part ways.

How could this be?

How can you leave?

After all your hard work.

Who can replace you?

With all that you have done.

With all that you've built.

With your mouth you have

spoken to hundreds

equal measures

of praise and criticism.

So many words,

so many meanings

With your feet,

you have walked the same worn floor,

the worn path on the floor

as familiar as an old friend.

Your hands

have wrung together in despair.

clapped for accomplishments,

scrubbed floors and reached high.

With your ears which have listened

to an endless

trail of tales, reports,

complaints and suggestions


of your vision, your errors.

Your eyes

have gazed at these same walls,

searching for answers

a never-ending quest.

Your mind has dreamt a mountain of dreams,

dreams and promises and guarantees

at night visioned and visioned again

some dreams came true

and some did not.

You dared to dream

and it is only dreamers who see results.

You did it for them.

You did it for you.

You have been there,

You have lived it,

loved it,

hated it

Your job is you and

you are your job

Your job is your home

Your job is where you have

grown and blossomed.

Your job

Where you are familiar

Where everybody knows your name

Where you can create

Where the sky is the limit.

How can you leave that sky behind?

It is so hard to let go

to head to a destination

where it is not you at the helm.

"To everything there is a time

and a season

A time for planting and a time for uprooting the planted;"*

It is done.

Someone else will have the headache

the heartache

Someone else will take the chances,

dream the dreams

get the credit

and the blame

Someone else will care as much as you have

Is it possible?

Through the clouds that cloud your vision

you know it is.

Your season has past.

It is time for you to climb the mountain.

When you've reached the summit

Look down

and see what you have built.

Someone else will cross that river.

*(Kohelet 3:2 Translation from Sefaria)

Numbers 27:12-18 (Translation from Sefaria)

The LORD said to Moses, “Ascend these heights of Abarim and view the land that I have given to the Israelite people.

When you have seen it, you too shall be gathered to your kin, just as your brother Aaron was.

For, in the wilderness of Zin, when the community was contentious, you disobeyed My command to uphold My sanctity in their sight by means of the water.” Those are the Waters of Meribath-kadesh, in the wilderness of Zin.

Moses spoke to the LORD, saying,

“Let the LORD, Source of the breath of all flesh, appoint someone over the community

who shall go out before them and come in before them, and who shall take them out and bring them in, so that the LORD’s community may not be like sheep that have no shepherd.”

And the LORD answered Moses, “Single out Joshua son of Nun, an inspired man, and lay your hand upon him.

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