“A police officer graduated from the police academy about 10 years ago. Fighting crime and helping others were the officer’s primary purposes in life. The streets were a war zone, and there was always a battle or challenge ahead.

“Then, eventually, the challenges ended. A lot of hard work and personal sacrifice had gone into achieving rank and seniority. But now, the red lights and sirens don't make the adrenaline flow as before. The car accidents with injuries are just a lot of paperwork. Going on a drug raid just means having to wake up early.

“The officer's current rank is stagnant … The job is not hated; it is just dull. Seemingly, it has all been done, and the job has become routine.”1

What do you think is going to happen to this police officer? Is his current situation sustainable? How long do you think he can keep it going?

And, more importantly, have you ever hit such a brick wall in life?

No Longer Able to “Come and Go”

Our parshah contains the words Moses spoke on the last day of his life. In the second verse, he informs the people of his advanced age and how he will no longer be able to accompany them on their journey, essentially bidding them farewell:

He said to them, “Today I am one hundred and twenty years old. I can no longer go or come, and the L‑rd said to me, ‘You shall not cross this Jordan.’ ”2

What do the words “I can no longer come and go” mean? A casual reader would be forgiven for understanding them in the simplest sense: Moses was old and frail, and he was no longer able to move about freely as he could in his earlier days.

But, as Rashi points out, that doesn’t work, for the verses that describe Moses on the day he passed say “His eye had not dimmed, nor had he lost his [natural] moisture.”3 So, what does it mean that Moses was unable to “come and go?”4

Arriving at the End of the Road

Rabbi Tzadok Hakohen of Lublin offers a brilliant and prescient explanation.

Every person experiences ups and downs in life. It’s the nature of the world, baked into the DNA of humanity. There will be downfalls, and together with the fall comes the promise that there will be a subsequent climb.

Anyone who has lived for more than a few days knows this to be true.

But what many people don’t know, or at least don’t regularly appreciate, is that this process of up and down is not a random cyclical washing machine of misery; rather it is a linear process that propels the trajectory of your life increasingly upwards. In other words, the “up” you experience on Tuesday after Monday’s down doesn’t simply bring you back to where you started on Monday morning; rather today, on Tuesday, you are now in a better position than you were Monday morning.

Think of it as the quintessential picture of the S&P 500 over a hundred year period that your financial advisor friend is always shoving in your face: Though there are dips along the way—and some of them are quite frightening!—the overall trajectory has always trended up.

This is the way G‑d created the world and the people who inhabit it. For us to be able to consistently climb higher, there must be some tripping and falling along the way.

The eminently spiritual man he was, Moses knew that more than anyone else. Despite—or more precisely, because of—his spiritual greatness, he also experienced downs along the trajectory of his own life.

So when Moses noticed that there were no more downs to be had, and no more ups towards which to climb, he realized that he had “arrived.” That’s it. “This is the end of the road. If there’s no falling from here, that means there’s no more climbing.”

Acknowledging that his life’s mission was complete, Moses declared, “I can no longer come and go. Today, I will pass.”

Beware the Plateau

And so it is with all of us. If you feel like you’ve plateaued in life, that can mean two things: either today is your last day on earth (G‑d forbid!), or—more probably—you’re gravely mistaken and there’s a huge curveball just around the corner coming at you to shake things up and continue your upward trajectory of life.

That curveball may smash things as you know it and present a short-term wrecking ball to your life. That’s OK, for you know that the challenge is only to bring you up to the next level, to knock you off your smug plateau and swing you up to the next mountaintop.

Whatever it is, it’s better than the plateau. The plateau is basically death. Like the bored police officer pushing papers, the last thing you want to do is get stuck on a plateau—no matter how accomplished and successful it is!—and die on that hill.

Unless your name is Moses and G‑d personally told you that today’s your last, you can safely assume that it’s not. So if you’re still here, don’t get stuck. Keep pushing forward, challenging yourself, and taking risks.

If moving forward risks your current safe statues, then so be it. After all, that’s the only way you’ll grow. As one wise person said, “Growth only happens outside your comfort zone.” Is it scary? Absolutely! Is it better than the alternative of remaining tethered to a secure, yet stagnant place? Of course!

So, if you’re on the plateau, don’t be afraid to jump off. Your days on earth are still full, and you should keep on “coming and going.”5