"The great use of life is to spend it on something that will outlast it." -- William James
This week we begin reading the last words of Moshe, our great teacher. What will follow from now until Simcha Torah are a series of speeches that he gave to the Jewish people in the plains of Moav to prepare the Jews for when they will enter the Land of Israel. In volume, we have more words here, more speech, than we have from Moshe in all for the rest of the Torah combined. As such, it goes almost without saying that the book of Devarim is a crucial part of Moshe's legacy.
However, despite the prominence of this moment in Moshe's life, it is not the main thing we remember him for. It is quite likely that if you were to ask anybody at all what made Moshe special, what it is that he did, you would not even once receive the answer that he gave a long (and critical) series of speeches immediately before he died. Instead, we remember the great heights of his leadership. We remember him leading the Jews from Egypt. We remember his stand of Mt. Sinai. We remember him rebuking the Jews in the desert. We remember him teaching the law. Devarim is the part of Moshe's legacy, which is the most often forgotten. This is all the more surprising when we realise that Moshe has the signal achievement of writing an entire book of the Torah, our most central text!
The reason that we don't think of Devarim at first when we remember Moshe, in spite of its seminal importance, is that Moshe spent his entire life building his legacy. Devarim is important, but after a lifetime of activity on behalf of the Jewish people, it is still on a footnote. Moshe's life was extraordinary not for any of the single incredible things that he did, but because he did all of them.
It is never too late to start living our lives better, to start building a legacy which can carry us forward. While many think of their legacy later on, those who are truly exceptional build and improve on the world around them from the beginning. It is that fact which makes them beloved. It is that fact which causes us to honour them. And it is that fact which makes their lives so well lived.