Closing the Torah Only to Begin Again (Quick Commentary, Parashat V’Zot Ha-B’racha, Deuteronomy 33:1-34:12)

Often people ask, why did God not allow Moses to enter the Promised Land?

In reality none of us enter the Promised Land. We all die with dreams unfulfilled and hopes unrealized.

But we need not feel sorry for Moses. He dies at a ripe old age in full vigor. He has the privilege of viewing the land from afar and has the honor of burial by the Eternal One. Moreover, we read: “Never again has there arisen a prophet whom the Eternal One encountered פנים אל פנים, literally ‘face to face.'” (Deuteronomy 34:10)

We understand “face to face” to mean more directly than anyone before or since.

 But for all his greatness Moses displayed human foibles. His temper could explode, and his patience could wear thin.

Later Jewish tradition criticizes him for breaking the first set of Tablets of the Covenant and bringing forth water for the thirsty people by banging his staff against the rock instead of addressing it as God had instructed.

But I agree with those who claim that, serious though they were these transgressions were not sufficient to keep him from crossing the Jordan. Rather, Moses death reminds us that no matter how important we are, life will go on without us. Therefore our task is to do the most good that we can in the finite amount of time allotted to us.

What a wonderful lesson to close the Torah!

But we conclude only to immediately ponder Genesis’ creation story and the responsibilities imposed upon us as creatures created אלהים בצלם in the image of God. As we do Moses’ reflection in our rear view mirror fuels our passion to become, as he was ה׳ עבד, “servants of the Eternal One,” who use our talents to create a more just, caring and compassionate society.

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