However, if you read the actual text at the end of Torah, there seems to be little reason to rejoice. Let’s take a look at the final words of Moses to the people as written in Deuteronomy 33 (chapter 34 is the description of his death)-
|“Blessed are you, O Israel; Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord, Who is the shield of your help And the sword of your majesty! So your enemies will cringe before you, and you will tread upon their high places.”(Deuteronomy 33:29)||
“אַשְׁרֶיךָ יִשְׂרָאֵל מִי כָמוֹךָ, עַם נוֹשַׁע בַּיהוָה, מָגֵן עֶזְרֶךָ, וַאֲשֶׁר-חֶרֶב גַּאֲוָתֶךָ; וְיִכָּחֲשׁוּ אֹיְבֶיךָ לָךְ, וְאַתָּה עַל-בָּמוֹתֵימוֹ תִדְרֹךְ.”
For me, these words discussing Moses’ death left me feeling depressed. It saddens me that the Torah, the book that guides and inspires me and so many others around the world, ends with words about death and war. I know that I can’t change the location of the passage about Moses’ death since it gives rise to the story of Joshua as a leader. However, I would like to offer that when we read the Torah and the words of Moses, let’s instead cherish the previous chapter where he blessed all the tribes-
|“He (Moses) said to them, “Take to your heart all the words with which I am warning you today, which you shall command your sons to observe carefully, even all the words of this law. For it is not an idle word for you; indeed it is your life. And by this word you will prolong your days in the land, which you are about to cross the Jordan to possess.”||
“וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵהֶם, שִׂימוּ לְבַבְכֶם, לְכָל-הַדְּבָרִים, אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מֵעִיד בָּכֶם הַיּוֹם: אֲשֶׁר תְּצַוֻּם, אֶת-בְּנֵיכֶם, לִשְׁמֹר לַעֲשׂוֹת, אֶת-כָּל-דִּבְרֵי הַתּוֹרָה הַזֹּאת. כִּי לֹא-דָבָר רֵק הוּא מִכֶּם-כִּי-הוּא חַיֵּיכֶם; וּבַדָּבָר הַזֶּה, תַּאֲרִיכוּ יָמִים עַל-הָאֲדָמָה, אֲשֶׁר אַתֶּם עֹבְרִים אֶת-הַיַּרְדֵּן שָׁמָּה, לְרִשְׁתָּהּ.”
“The Torah is our life” – these are the words that I prefer to remember as the last words of Moses. Don’t you think it’s nicer to end one year and start the next with a message about life rather than death? Share your thoughts!
Happy Sukkot everyone!
He wondered-tāhāh – תָּהָה
Word-millāh – מִלָּה
Last-’achărôn – אַחֲרוֹן
Death-māvet – מָוֶת
Life-chayyîm – חַיִּים