Parshat Hashavua Vezot HaBracha
By: Rabbi Nissim Mordechai Makor
Vezot HaBracha is the 54th and final weekly Torah portion (פָּרָשָׁה, parashah) in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading and the 11th and last in the Book of Deuteronomy. The parasha sets out the farewell Blessing of Moses for the 12 Tribes of Israel and concludes with the death of Moses.
The Day that Moshe Died
(Adapted from the Rosh of the Chumash)
When the time came for Moshe to die, he declared 'I will not die, for I will live and relate the deeds of G-d'. But G-d replied in the negative, and that Moshe was obligated to go the way of all mankind.
So as a final request, Moshe asked that all the gates and all the depths should split open, and the nations of the world should see with their own eyes that there is no-one besides G-d. When G-d complied, Moshe announced 'Ein od mi'Levado (There is none besides Him)!' G-d's response was that 'Since you said about me 'There is none other besides Me', I will say about you "And there never arose a Navi in Yisrael like Moshe" '.
At that point, G-d Himself descended together with the three Angels, Micha'el, Gavri'el and Zagnegi'el. Gavri'el spread a sheet on Moshe's bed, Micha'el a purple cover, and Zangnegi'el a cushion made of a precious wool. At that moment, G-d stood at his head and Zagnegi'el at his feet, Micha'el on one side and Gavri'el on the other. G-d ordered him to place his feet together, which he did, and to close his eye-lids one on the other, which he did.
Then He gently called his Soul to leave him, explaining how he had allotted for her a hundred and twenty years to be inside the body of Moshe, and how the time to leave it had now arrived. To which she replied that, in spite of knowing that G-d was the Master of Spirits and Souls, she did not wish to leave Moshe's body, since there was no purer body in the world than it, a body that would not be subject to worms after death, and no fly or hornet had ever approached it during its lifetime. That was why she loved Moshe's body and did not want to depart from it.
G-d replied that she should no longer delay, for her time had expired, and He would take her to the uppermost Heaven, and place her beneath His Throne of Glory, beside the Serafim, the Ofanim and the Angels. Yet again, she refused, insisting that she preferred to be inside the body of Moshe than in the company of the Keruvim and the Angels. And this time, she argued that two Angels, Uza and Aza'el, had descended to earth (prior to the Great Flood), had desired the daughters of the land and had even had relations with them, and had corrupted their ways, until G-d took them and suspended them between Heaven and earth. In contrast, Moshe had separated from his wife from the time that G-d revealed Himself to him at the Burning Bush. When G-d saw how loathe Moshe's Soul was to leave its body, He drew her out with a kiss.
At that moment, G-d wept and announced 'Who will stand up for Me against the evil-doers' Who will pray to Me on behalf of My children?' And the Angels wept and announced 'Where is wisdom to be found, and where is the location of understanding?'
Whilst the Heavens wept and announced 'The Tzadik is lost and nobody cares ... They fail to understand that he was gathered in so that he should not see the evil that is destined to befall the world'.
The sun and the moon wept and announced 'Understand you stupid people', and the Mazalos wept and announced 'and when will you foolish ones become wise?' And the Divine Spirit said 'Save oh G-d, for the pious are no more'.
"And there did not arise in Yisrael a Navi like Moshe". This is what Shlomoh Hamelech was referring to when he wrote in Mishlei (31:29) "Many daughters did acts of valor, but you exceeded them all". How is that?
Adam ha'Rishon claimed that he was greater than Moshe, in that he was created in the image of G-d. But Moshe replied that he was greater than Adam, for whereas Adam was stripped of the glory that was given to him when he was created, his remained with him even on the day of death, as the Pasuk testifies "and his moist did not depart from him".
No'ach claimed that he was greater than Moshe, since he was saved from the Great Flood. But Moshe replied that he was greater still, for whereas he (No'ach) was not able to save his generation, he succeeded in saving Yisrael from extinction following the episode with the Golden Calf.
Avraham claimed that he was greater than Moshe, since he fed and sustained the wayfarers. But Moshe replied that he was greater still, for where Avraham had sustained gentiles, he had sustained the Jewish nation; and whereas Avraham fed them in the inhabited land, he had fed them in the desert.
Yitzchak claimed that he was greater than Moshe, because he had been bound on the Mizbei'ach and had, out of love for Hashem, stretched out his neck to be slaughtered, at which point he saw the Shechinah. But Moshe replied that whereas he (Yitzchak) had become virtually blind upon beholding the Shechinah, he (Moshe) spoke with the Shechinah, and as the Pasuk testifies, "his eyes did not become dim".
Ya'akov claimed that he was greater than Moshe, for he struggled with an Angel and overcame him. But Moshe replied that if he met an angel on home ground, he (Moshe) met angels on their territory, in spite of which it was they who were afraid of him.
And this is what Shlomoh meant when he said "Many daughters did acts of valour, but you (Moshe) exceeded them all".
The Pearls of Life
The Pearls of Life want to remind the nearly 100,000 who around the world now receive the Pearls shouldn’t allow the festivities of the Succos to forget Yom Kippur was only a week ago. HaRav Avigdor Nebenzahl tells us that as the Torah concludes its description of the Yom Kippur service, it presents a precis of sorts: This shall be to you an eternal decree to bring atonement upon the Children of Israel for all their sins once a year [Vayikra 16:34]. The entire Yom Kippur service is described by the Torah as chukat olam, an eternal decree or statute. The term chukim, as opposed to Mishpatim, implies mitzvot whose reasoning lies beyond the grasp of our limited human intellect. Yom Kippur is beyond Human Comprehension. What aspect of Yom Kippur is a chok? The entire concept of Yom Kippur is beyond our understanding! There can be no greater chok than a day that atones, a day that contradicts everything that we are accustomed to during the rest of the year. The concept of teshuvah [repentance] contradicts the regular order of the world. Anything a person does affects either the present or the future. Is there anything we can do now that will retroactively affect what has already taken place? Teshuvah is capable of doing just that! When we repent out of love [teshuvah me’ahavah], we are moving backward in time and transforming our past sin into a mitzvah. The moment Yom Kippur begins, the teshuvah [repentance] goes into effect. During that moment, the inexplicable happens the past is rewritten! Let us all keep that past rewritten with no new negative entries into our book of Life.
Yeshiva Pirchei Shoshanim
As heard from my Torah Masters