22-23 Tishri 5780

[Please scroll down for Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah Readings]

FROM THE TORAH

V’ZOT HABRACHA: The Fifty-fourth Sedra of the Torah
Deuteronomy 33:1-34:12

This final sedra of the Torah, Sedra V’zot Habracha, is read in its entirety only on the morning of Simchat Torah, celebrating the completion of the annual cycle of reading Torah in the synagogue.  Immediately thereafter, the cycle is renewed in part with the reading from Genesis of the opening account of six days of creation and the sanctification of the seventh day of the week.

MOSES BLESSES THE TRIBES OF ISRAEL
33:1-29

And this is the blessing (V’zot Habracha) that Moses, the man of God, bestowed upon the Children of Israel before his death:

Source of Blessing

From Sinai comes the Eternal—
He sheds light upon them from Seir,
He appears from Mount Paran—
founded in vast sanctity
is the fire of law for them
in His right hand!

May the Lover of peoples
fulfill His promises
to all of Your holy ones
and those whom You have chastened.

With the Torah that Moses commanded us,
as the heritage of the Congregation of Jacob,
there is in Jeshurun a King
over the assemblage of leaders
of the tribes of Israel.

Reuben

May Reuben live and not die,
but may his men be few.

Judah

This he says regarding Judah:
Hear, O Eternal, the voice of Judah,
and bring him to his people.
While he struggles against his enemies,
add Your help to his own hands.

Levi

And regarding Levi he says:
Your Tummim and Your Urim
rightly belong to Your devoted one,
whom You tried at Massah,
with whom You struggled
over the waters of Merivah,
who showed no favor
to his father or mother or brothers,
or even to his sons;
rather, they kept Your teaching
and guarded Your covenant.
Let them teach Your Torah to Israel
and delight You with incense,
with whole offerings on Your altar.
Bless his strength, O Eternal:
favor the product of his efforts,
and impair those who go against him.

Benjamin

Regarding Benjamin he says:
Beloved of the Eternal,
may he dwell securely beside Him.
The Eternal shall embrace him
and protect him always.

Joseph

And regarding Joseph he says:
His land is blessed by the Eternal,
bounteous in its dew from heaven,
in its water stored below,
in its seasons’ products of sun and moon,
taken from its ancient hills,
all that fills the country—
may it be the will
of the One who dwelled in the bush
to crown David with the majesty
of his firstborn ox.
May the wild ox’s horns be his:
to gore peoples to the ends of the earth,
one horn for the myriads of Ephraim,
the other for the multitudes of Manasseh!

Zebulun and Issachar

And regarding Zebulun he says:
Rejoice, O Zebulun, in your voyages,
and Issachar, in your tents!
May they assemble peoples at the mountain
and offer there sacrifices from the righteous,
as they draw out the sea’s abundance
and the hidden treasures of the sand.

Gad

And regarding Gad he says:
Blessed is the One who enlarges Gad,
crouching like a lion
ready to tear its prey!
It chooses first,
the region where the lawgiver was covered.
It comes at the head of the people,
carrying out with Israel
the judgments of the Eternal.

Dan

And regarding Dan he says:
Dan is a lion’s whelp,
leaping forth from the Bashan.

Naphtali

And regarding Naphtali he says:
Naphtali inherits the most it could want,
the fullest blessing of the Eternal,
the west and the south.

Asher

And regarding Asher he says:
Most blessed of sons is Asher,
may he be pleasing of his brothers
and dip his foot in oil!
May you be secure and at peace
for as long as you live.

Israel

There is none for you, O Jeshurun, like God,
riding majestically through heaven in your aid,
the ancient God your protection;
His everlasting arms support you,
and any who would threaten you
He orders destroyed!
Israel shall dwell secure and alone
in its land of grain and wine,
where the heavens drip dew.

Happy are you, O Israel,
who is like you,
O people whose salvation is in the Eternal,
your Shield and your Sword,
crushing your enemies for your sake
as you ride over their presumptuous shrines!

MOSES DIES IN MOAB
34:1-12

Then Moses goes up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the summit of Pisgah, facing Jericho, and the Eternal shows him all of the Land, from the territory of Gilead as far as Dan, all of Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all of the land of Judah as far as the westernmost Sea, the Negev, and the Plain—the valley of Jericho, city of palm trees—as far as Tsoar.  The Eternal says to him:  This is the land which I promised to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob, saying, “To your offspring shall I give it!”  I have let you see it with your own eyes, but you shall not cross over to it.

Moses, servant of the Eternal, dies there, in the land of Moab, by the Eternal’s word.  He buries him in the valley, in the land of Moab, opposite Beth Pe’or, but to this very day no one knows the place of his burial.

Moses was 120 years old when he died.  His vision had not dimmed; his vigor had not abated.  The children of Israel weep for Moses in the plains of Moab for thirty days.  Then the days of weeping in mourning for Moses end.

Joshua, son of Nun, was full of the spirit of wisdom, as Moses had placed his hands upon him.  The children of Israel heed him and do as the Eternal commanded Moses.

But there has not since arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Eternal knew face-to-face, with respect to all of the signs and the wonders which the Eternal sent him to perform in the land of Egypt, for Pharaoh and for all of his servants and his land, and also the strong hand and the great awe which Moses displayed in the sight of all Israel.

Chazak! Chazak! Venitchazek!

 

Yom Tov Readings

 

 FROM THE TORAH

SHEMINI ATZERET

                                                         Deuteronomy 14:22-16:17

TENTH OF PRODUCE AND FIRSTBORN OF LIVESTOCK
14:22-29

Separate a tenth of all of the produce of your grain, wine and oil, from year to year, to consume in the place which the Eternal shall choose as the habitation of His Name, along with the firstborn of your herd and your flock, in order to learn to fear the Eternal your God always.  If that place be too far from you for transport, as a result of the blessing of the Eternal your God, then convert them into money which you shall carry physically to the place and there spend it on whatever you wish—of the herd, of the flock, of wine, of shaychar—for you and your household to enjoy before the Eternal your God.

However, you must not overlook the Levite within your gates, who does not have an inherited portion like you.  So, at the end of every three years, leave the entire tenth of your produce in your gates for the consumption and satisfaction of the Levite, as well as for the stranger and the orphan and the widow who are within your gates.  For this the Eternal your God will bless you in all that you achieve.

SHEMITTAH AND YOUR NEEDY BRETHREN
15:1-11

At the end of seven years you shall effect a remission (shemittah) of the claim of a creditor upon his fellow or his brother, a remission authorized by the Eternal.  You may still demand payment of a foreigner.  However, there should be no needy among you, for the Eternal will bless you in the Land which He is giving you as an inheritance to possess, if only you would obey the Eternal your God to keep to observe all of this Mitzvah that I am commanding you this day.  You shall cause many nations to give pledges, but you shall not need to give a pledge; you shall rule over many nations, but they shall not rule over you.

Now if there should be, among your brethren in any of the gates of your Land, which the Eternal your God is giving to you, one in need, do not harden your heart or close your hand from him, but open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need.  It would be wrong of you, in addition, to deny him because of the proximity of the seventh year, the year of remission.  If you do, he could well cry out against you to the Eternal, and you would be guilty of sin.  Rather, even so, should you provide him without hesitation, and the Eternal your God will bless you for this in all that you do.  To the extent that the needy will not cease to be in the midst of the Land, I command you to open your hand to your poor and needy brother in your Land.

SEVENTH YEAR OF A HEBREW SLAVE
15:12-18

Your Hebrew slave, male or female, who was sold to you and works for you for six years, you shall set free in the seventh year.  Do not send him away emptyhanded, but provide him from your flock, from your threshing-floor, and from your wine-vat.  Provide him of the blessings you have received from the Eternal your God.  Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Eternal your God redeemed you.  Therefore I command you this rule today.

If your Hebrew slave prefers to remain with you, considering his attachment to you and your household and his good treatment, then drive an awl through his ear to the door, and the slave, male or female, becomes your servant for ever.  But, otherwise, do not hesitate to free your Hebrew slave, who has provided you with twice the value of what you would have paid a hired servant for six years, and the Eternal your God will bless you in all that you do!

FIRSTBORN LIVESTOCK
15:19-23

Every male firstborn of your herd and of your flock shall you sanctify to the Eternal your God.  Do not work your firstborn ox, and do not shear your firstborn sheep.  You and your household shall eat it, from year to year, before the Eternal your God, in the place that He shall choose.  But do not sacrifice it to the Eternal your God it if it has a serious defect such as lameness or blindness; instead eat it in your gates, the unclean and the clean of you alike, as you would eat the gazelle or the deer.  But do not eat its blood: pour it out on the ground like water.

PESACH AND MATZOT
16:1-8

Keep the month of Aviv to observe Pesach to the Eternal your God, who brought you out of Egypt in that month at night.  For the Pesach you shall sacrifice to the Eternal your God from flock and  herd in the place where He shall choose to establish His Name.  Do not eat with it anything leavened.  For seven days you shall eat with it Matzot (Unleavened Bread), bread of affliction, as in haste you departed from the land of Egypt, so that you may remember the day of your departure from the land of Egypt all the days of your life.  Let no leaven be seen by you in all of your territory for seven days, and let none of the meat that you sacrifice in the evening remain overnight to the morning of the first day.

You may not sacrifice the Pesach in any of the gates which the Eternal your God gives to you, but only in the place where He shall choose to establish His name.  There shall you sacrifice it, in the evening, at sunset, precisely the time of your departure from Egypt; there shall you cook it and eat it.  Then, in the morning, turn around and return to your tents.  After you have eaten Matzot for six days, on the seventh day you shall hold a sacred convocation to the Eternal your God and do no work.

SHAVUOT
16:9-12

Count for yourself seven weeks, from when the sickle is first applied to standing grain, and observe a festival of Shavuot (Weeks) to the Eternal your God, your freewill offering in accordance with how the Eternal your God has blessed you.  Rejoice before the Eternal your God—you, your son and your daughter, your male and female slave, the Levite who is within your gates, and the stranger, orphan and widow, who are in your midst—at the place where the Eternal your God shall choose to establish His name.  Remember that you were a slave in Egypt, so shall you maintain and observe these laws.

SUKKOT
16:13-15

Observe for yourself the festival of Sukkot (Booths), for seven days, when you gather in the produce of your threshing-floor and wine-vat.  Rejoice in your festival—you, your son and your daughter, your male and female slave, the Levite, and the stranger, the orphan and the widow, who are within your gates—and observe the festival for seven days before the Eternal your God in the place where He shall choose, as the Eternal your God shall bless you in all of your produce and in all of the work of your hands, and you shall be only happy!

SUMMARY OF THREE APPEARANCES
16:16-17

Three times in the year shall every male appear before the Eternal your God in the place that He shall choose: on the festival of Matzot, on the festival of Shavuot, and on the festival of Sukkot.  Let him not appear before the Eternal emptyhanded, but each man in accordance with his gift, in accordance with the blessing that the Eternal your God has bestowed upon you.

SIMCHAT TORAH EVENING

Deuteronomy 33:1-26

And this is the blessing  that Moses, the man of God, bestowed upon the Children of Israel before his death:

Source of Blessing

From Sinai comes the Eternal—
He sheds light upon them from Seir,
He appears from Mount Paran—
founded in vast sanctity
is the fire of law for them
in His right hand!

May the Lover of peoples
fulfill His promises
to all of Your holy ones
and those whom You have chastened.

With the Torah that Moses commanded us,
as the heritage of the Congregation of Jacob,
there is in Jeshurun a King
over the assemblage of leaders
of the tribes of Israel.

Reuben

May Reuben live and not die,
but may his men be few.

Judah

This he says regarding Judah:
Hear, O Eternal, the voice of Judah,
and bring him to his people.
While he struggles against his enemies,
add Your help to his own hands.

Levi

And regarding Levi he says:
Your Tummim and Your Urim
rightly belong to Your devoted one,
whom You tried at Massah,
with whom You struggled
over the waters of Merivah,
who showed no favor
to his father or mother or brothers,
or even to his sons;
rather, they kept Your teaching
and guarded Your covenant.
Let them teach Your Torah to Israel
and delight You with incense,
with whole offerings on Your altar.
Bless his strength, O Eternal:
favor the product of his efforts,
and impair those who go against him.

Benjamin

Regarding Benjamin he says:
Beloved of the Eternal,
may he dwell securely beside Him.
The Eternal shall embrace him
and protect him always.

Joseph

And regarding Joseph he says:
His land is blessed by the Eternal,
bounteous in its dew from heaven,
in its water stored below,
in its seasons’ products of sun and moon,
taken from its ancient hills,
all that fills the country—
may it be the will
of the One who dwelled in the bush
to crown David with the majesty
of his firstborn ox.
May the wild ox’s horns be his:
to gore peoples to the ends of the earth,
one horn for the myriads of Ephraim,
the other for the multitudes of Manasseh!

Zebulun and Issachar

And regarding Zebulun he says:
Rejoice, O Zebulun, in your voyages,
and Issachar, in your tents!
May they assemble peoples at the mountain
and offer there sacrifices from the righteous,
as they draw out the sea’s abundance
and the hidden treasures of the sand.

Gad

And regarding Gad he says:
Blessed is the One who enlarges Gad,
crouching like a lion
ready to tear its prey!
It chooses first,
the region where the lawgiver was covered.
It comes at the head of the people,
carrying out with Israel
the judgments of the Eternal.

Dan

And regarding Dan he says:
Dan is a lion’s whelp,
leaping forth from the Bashan.

Naphtali

And regarding Naphtali he says:
Naphtali inherits the most it could want,
the fullest blessing of the Eternal,
the west and the south.

Asher

And regarding Asher he says:
Most blessed of sons is Asher,
may he be pleasing of his brothers
and dip his foot in oil!
May you be secure and at peace
for as long as you live.

Israel

There is none for you, O Jeshurun, like God,
riding majestically through heaven in your aid!

SIMCHAT TORAH MORNING

Deuteronomy 33:1-34:12
Genesis 1:1-2:3

MOSES BLESSES THE TRIBES OF ISRAEL
Deuteronomy 33:1-29

And this is the blessing (V’zot Habracha) that Moses, the man of God, bestowed upon the Children of Israel before his death:

Source of Blessing

From Sinai comes the Eternal—
He sheds light upon them from Seir,
He appears from Mount Paran—
founded in vast sanctity
is the fire of law for them
in His right hand!

May the Lover of peoples
fulfill His promises
to all of Your holy ones
and those whom You have chastened.

With the Torah that Moses commanded us,
as the heritage of the Congregation of Jacob,
there is in Jeshurun a King
over the assemblage of leaders
of the tribes of Israel.

Reuben

May Reuben live and not die,
but may his men be few.

Judah

This he says regarding Judah:
Hear, O Eternal, the voice of Judah,
and bring him to his people.
While he struggles against his enemies,
add Your help to his own hands.

Levi

And regarding Levi he says:
Your Tummim and Your Urim
rightly belong to Your devoted one,
whom You tried at Massah,
with whom You struggled
over the waters of Merivah,
who showed no favor
to his father or mother or brothers,
or even to his sons;
rather, they kept Your teaching
and guarded Your covenant.
Let them teach Your Torah to Israel
and delight You with incense,
with whole offerings on Your altar.
Bless his strength, O Eternal:
favor the product of his efforts,
and impair those who go against him.

Benjamin

Regarding Benjamin he says:
Beloved of the Eternal,
may he dwell securely beside Him.
The Eternal shall embrace him
and protect him always.

Joseph

And regarding Joseph he says:
His land is blessed by the Eternal,
bounteous in its dew from heaven,
in its water stored below,
in its seasons’ products of sun and moon,
taken from its ancient hills,
all that fills the country—
may it be the will
of the One who dwelled in the bush
to crown David with the majesty
of his firstborn ox.
May the wild ox’s horns be his:
to gore peoples to the ends of the earth,
one horn for the myriads of Ephraim,
the other for the multitudes of Manasseh!

Zebulun and Issachar

And regarding Zebulun he says:
Rejoice, O Zebulun, in your voyages,
and Issachar, in your tents!
May they assemble peoples at the mountain
and offer there sacrifices from the righteous,
as they draw out the sea’s abundance
and the hidden treasures of the sand.

Gad

And regarding Gad he says:
Blessed is the One who enlarges Gad,
crouching like a lion
ready to tear its prey!
It chooses first,
the region where the lawgiver was covered.
It comes at the head of the people,
carrying out with Israel
the judgments of the Eternal.

Dan

And regarding Dan he says:
Dan is a lion’s whelp,
leaping forth from the Bashan.

Naphtali

And regarding Naphtali he says:
Naphtali inherits the most it could want,
the fullest blessing of the Eternal,
the west and the south.

Asher

And regarding Asher he says:
Most blessed of sons is Asher,
may he be pleasing of his brothers
and dip his foot in oil!
May you be secure and at peace
for as long as you live.

Israel

There is none for you, O Jeshurun, like God,
riding majestically through heaven in your aid,
the ancient God your protection;
His everlasting arms support you,
and any who would threaten you
He orders destroyed!
Israel shall dwell secure and alone
in its land of grain and wine,
where the heavens drip dew.

Happy are you, O Israel,
who is like you,
O people whose salvation is in the Eternal,
your Shield and your Sword,
crushing your enemies for your sake
as you ride over their presumptuous shrines!

MOSES DIES IN MOAB
Deuteronomy 34:1-12

Then Moses goes up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the summit of Pisgah, facing Jericho, and the Eternal shows him all of the Land, from the territory of Gilead as far as Dan, all of Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all of the land of Judah as far as the westernmost Sea, the Negev, and the Plain—the valley of Jericho, city of palm trees—as far as Tsoar.  The Eternal says to him:  This is the land which I promised to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob, saying, “To your offspring shall I give it!”  I have let you see it with your own eyes, but you shall not cross over to it.

Moses, servant of the Eternal, dies there, in the land of Moab, by the Eternal’s word.  He buries him in the valley, in the land of Moab, opposite Beth Pe’or, but to this very day no one knows the place of his burial.

Moses was 120 years old when he died.  His vision had not dimmed; his vigor had not abated.  The children of Israel weep for Moses in the plains of Moab for thirty days.  Then the days of weeping in mourning for Moses end.

Joshua, son of Nun, was full of the spirit of wisdom, as Moses had placed his hands upon him.  The children of Israel heed him and do as the Eternal commanded Moses.

But there has not since arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Eternal knew face-to-face, with respect to all of the signs and the wonders which the Eternal sent him to perform in the land of Egypt, for Pharaoh and for all of his servants and his land, and also the strong hand and the great awe which Moses displayed in the sight of all Israel.

Chazak! Chazak! Venitchazek!

CREATION
Genesis 1:1-2:3

God began to create heaven and earth from inchoate land, water and darkness, transcended by God’s spirit.  God called forth light and considered it good.  God separated light from darkness, calling light day and darkness night.  There was evening then morning, One Day.

God called forth an expanse within the water, separating water below the expanse from water above the expanse.  God called the expanse heaven.  There was evening then morning, a Second Day.

God called for the gathering of water from under heaven so that dry land would appear.  God called the dry land earth and the water seas, and considered it good.  God called for the sprouting of vegetation, herbs producing seed and trees bearing fruit containing their own seed, and considered it good.  There was evening then morning, a Third Day.

God called forth lights in the expanse of heaven to separate day from night, to serve as signs for seasons, days and years, and to shine upon the earth: two great lights, the greater to rule by day and the lesser to rule by night, and the stars.  God considered it good.  There was evening then morning, a Fourth Day.

God called for the water to abound with living creatures and for the birds to fly over the earth across the expanse of heaven.  God created the giants of the sea, all kinds of moving living creatures from the water, and birds of wing, and considered it good.  God blessed them to be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and for the birds to multiply on earth.  There was evening then morning, a Fifth Day.

God called for the earth to produce every kind of living creature—cattle, moving things and wild beasts—and God considered it good.  God further considered: “Let Us make Man in Our image, after Our likeness.” (1:26)  God created Man in His image, male and female.  God blessed them and said to them:  “Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and master it, and rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and all the living creatures that move upon the earth.  I give you and all living animals of land and sky the vegetation producing seed upon earth and trees bearing fruit producing seed for you to eat.” (1:27-29)  God considered all that He had made very good.  There was evening then morning, the Sixth Day.

Heaven and earth and all their array were complete.  God was finished on the seventh day with all of the work that He had done.  God rested on the Seventh Day and blessed it as the holy day.

 

MAFTIR FOR SHEMINI ATZERET & SIMCHAT TORAH
Numbers 29:35-30:1

On the Eighth Day, there shall be Atzeret (Assembly of Conclusion) for you; do not perform work of service.  You shall offer a burnt offering by fire of a pleasing aroma to the Eternal of one bull, one ram, and seven year-old lambs, without blemish; and their meal offering and their libations, for the bull, for the ram, and for the lambs, shall be in prescribed amounts.  There shall be one goat for a sin offering.  All of this is besides the regular burnt offering, its meal offering, and its libation.

These, then, shall you make for the Eternal at your appointed times, besides your votive and freewill offerings, be they burnt offerings or meal offerings or libations or peace offerings.  Moses teaches the Children of Israel in accordance with what the Eternal commanded Moses.

 

FROM THE PROPHETS

Haftarah for Shemini Atzeret
I Kings 8:54-66

When Solomon concludes his prayer and supplication, for which he was kneeling with his hands spread out toward heaven, he stands up and blesses all of the congregation of Israel in a loud voice:

Blessed is the Eternal, who has given rest to His people Israel and has not failed in any good thing that He promised through Moses His servant.  May the Eternal be with us as He was with our fathers and not forsake us, but turn our hearts to Him to walk in His ways and keep His commandments, statutes and ordinances, which He commanded them.  May these My words remain close to the Eternal our God, day and night, that He may uphold the just cause of His servant and His people every day, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Eternal is God and there is none else.  Therefore let your heart be whole with the Eternal our God to walk in His statutes and to keep His commandments, as it is this day.

The king and all the Children of Israel dedicate the House of the Eternal.  Solomon sacrifices to the Eternal peace offerings: 22,000 of the herd and 120,000 of the flock.  The king sanctified the middle of the Court that was before the House of the Eternal in order to sacrifice the burnt offerings, the meal offerings, and the fat of the peace offerings, because the Copper Altar before the Eternal was too small to contain them.

Solomon observes the festival at that time with a large congregation of Israel from the Entrance of Chamath to the River of Egypt, before the Eternal our God, for seven days, and for another seven days, making fourteen days.  On the Eighth Day he releases the people, and they bless the king and go to their tents with heartfelt happiness for all of the good which the Eternal has done for David His servant and for Israel His people.

Haftarah for Simchat Torah
Joshua 1:1-18

After the death of the Eternal’s servant Moses, the Eternal bids Moses’s minister, Joshua son of Nun, to cross over the Jordan with the people “to the Land which I am giving to the Children of Israel” (1:2).  Wherever your foot treads, He says, I shall give it to you, as I promised Moses: from the Wilderness and the Lebanon as far as the great river Euphrates, all of the Hittite territory, as far as the Great Sea, where the sun sets.  No one will deter you for as long as you live: as I was with Moses, so shall I be with you.  I will not fail or forsake you.

He continues:  Be strong and courageous as you enable this people to inherit the Land which I promised their fathers to give to them.  Be strong and very courageous to act in accordance with all of the Torah that Moses My servant has commanded you.  Do not deviate from it, either to the right or to the left, so that you may succeed in all that you do.  Let this book of Torah not depart from your mouth, but meditate on it day and night, in order to act in accordance with all that is written in it.  Fear not, for the Eternal your God is with you wherever you go.

Then Joshua tells the people’s Officers to go through the camp and instruct the people to provision themselves in order to cross the Jordan three days hence and take the Land “which the Eternal your God is giving to you to possess.” (1:11)  He reminds the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh, of Moses’s stipulation that their wives, children and livestock could remain in the territory east of the Jordan, which the Eternal is giving to those three tribes, while they assist their valiant brothers of the other tribes by marching, armed, ahead of them, to possess the Land which the Eternal is giving to those tribes (cf. Numbers 32).  They affirm to Joshua the stipulation of Moses and pledge to Joshua that they will obey his charge to them, just as they obeyed Moses’s charge to them, and they pray, “May the Eternal your God be with you as He was with Moses!” (1:17)  In addition, they demand death for anyone who might disobey Joshua’s command, concluding with the words to him, “Be strong and courageous!” (1:18)

FROM THE MIDRASH

Deuteronomy Rabbah 11:8

When the time arrived for Moses to depart from this world, the Holy One, blessed be He, said to him, “Your time is near…” (31:14).  Moses responded:  Master of the universe, after all of my rigorous service, You tell me that the time of my departure has arrived?!  “Let me not die but live, and I shall declare the works of the Eternal!” (Psalms 118:17)  He said to him: But you cannot, for “Upon consideration of everything, fear God and keep His commands, as that applies to every man!” (Ecclesiastes 12:13)

Deuteronomy Rabbah 11:10

Moses decreed a fast upon himself and drew a circle around himself from which he would not be removed until the edict of his death was revoked.  What else did Moses do at that moment?  He covered himself with sackcloth and rolled in the dust, then he engaged in prayer and supplication before the Holy One, blessed be He, until heaven and earth and the orders of creation were shaken, and they worried lest the Holy One, blessed be He, had decided to change the order of His world.  Then a divine echo was heard to say:  The Holy One, blessed be He, has not chosen to change the order of His world; rather, “In His hand is the soul of every living thing and the spirit of every mortal man” (Job 12:10), and who is a “man” but Moses, as was said, “And the man is Moses, most humble…” (Numbers 12:3).

Then Moses took this stand before the Holy One, blessed be He: Master of the universe, You well know my effort and my pain over Israel that they might believe in Your Name and observe your mitzvoth.  I comforted myself to think that just as I have seen their suffering so may I see their blessing.  Now that their blessing has arrived, to inherit the Land, You say to me: “You may not cross over this Jordan!” (3:27)  You would thus falsify Your Torah, as is written therein: “You shall pay him his wage (grant him his reward) before the end of the day, for he is poor and his life depends on his receiving his reward; otherwise he would be justified in complaining against you to the Eternal, and you would be deserving of condemnation!” (24:15)  In this case I appeal for due compensation for the forty years’ of work which I labored until they became a holy and faithful people, as was said: “Judah still rules with God and is faithful with the holy ones.” (Hosea 12:1)

As a last resort, with only an hour left for him to live, Moses supplicated the Holy One, blessed be He:  If You do not allow me to enter the Land of Israel, let me at least remain in this world, “Let me live and not die!” (Psalms 118:17)  Said the Holy One, blessed be He, to Moses: If I do not let you die in this world, how can I then revive your life in the world to come?  Not only that, He continued, but you would be falsifying My Torah, as is written therein by your very hand, “I cause death and I grant life; if I have wounded, I may still heal; and none can be rescued from My hand!” (Psalms 32:39)

Yet Moses offered another type of supplication: Master of the universe, if You do not grant me entrance to the Land of Israel, allow me to live like one of the beasts of the field, who eat grass and drink water, being sustained to live and perceive the world!  “Enough already!” He answered.  Still Moses pleaded: Master of the universe, if not, then allow me to remain in this world like one of the birds, who fly to all four corners of the earth, gathering their food every day and night then returning to their nests!  “Enough already!” He answered.  “Enough already?”  “Enough of your speaking!”  When Moses realized that no creature could save him from the inevitability of death, at that moment he declared: “The Rock, His work is perfect, all of His ways are just, faithful God, without unrighteousness, true and upright is He.” (32:4)

Deuteronomy Rabbah 11:7

“He buried him…”
(34:6)

What was the merit of Moses such that the Holy One, blessed be He, undertook personally his final arrangements?  When Moses went down to Egypt as the time of Israel’s redemption had arrived, all of Israel were engaged in pursuit of silver and gold.  But Moses went about the city, for three days and three nights, strenuously searching for Joseph’s coffin, as was said, “Joseph made the Children of Israel promise: When God will take notice of you, you shall bring my bones up with you!” (Genesis 3:25)

With the help of Segula (another name for Serach, daughter of Asher; cf. Genesis 46:17 and Numbers 26:46), Moses learned that Joseph’s body was to be found in the river, encased in his coffin with 500 talents of silver and gold.  For Pharaoh’s magicians and astrologers had advised Pharaoh that since Israel would not depart Egypt without the bones of Joseph, the best way to prevent them from escaping would be to hide Joseph’s bones at the bottom of the river.

Immediately Moses stood at the river’s bank and called out, “Joseph! Joseph!  You know how you made a promise to Israel, ‘God will take notice of you!’  Show respect to the God of Israel, and delay not Israel’s redemption.  With many good deeds to your credit, seek mercy from your Creator and rise from the depths!”  Whereupon the coffin of Joseph began to break apart, and up from the depths it comes like a lone reed, which Moses places upon his shoulders and carries from Egypt, while all of Israel carry the silver and the gold.

The Holy One, blessed be He, said to Moses:  You have said that your deed was a small thing, but, by your life, it was a great act of lovingkindness, and especially so in that you did not spend your time in pursuit of silver and gold.  So also shall I show you lovingkindness when the time comes for Me to arrange for you.

Petirat Moshe 3

The Holy One, blessed be He, said to Moses: Is it your wish to live and not die?  Moses answered: Yes!  He said to him: Then hand over to Me the keys of wisdom.  Whereupon he did, and his memory was erased.  When Israel came to him for judgment, he did not know how to answer, so Joshua sat in judgment.  Moses thought:  Now Joshua, my junior, will sit in judgment, and I will be left ignorant.  My death would be preferable to my life!  So Moses requested death, and the Holy One, blessed be He, Himself gathered the soul of Moses to heaven and Himself “buried him in the valley…” (Deuteronomy 34:6).  He departed upwards to the Garden of Eden, and his spirit was sweet as the aroma of apples: “Like the apple among trees of the forest, thus is My beloved…!” (Song of Songs 2:3)

CHAG SAMEACH!

SHANAH TOVAH!

Copyright © 2019 Eric H. Hoffman
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