וזאת הברכה

One of the anomalies of the yearly Torah cycle is that the final parsha of the Torah, V’zot Ha’Bracha, is not read on Shabbat, but only on Simchat Torah, the holiday celebrating the continuing renewal of the cycle (which occurs on Tuesday).  So instead of focusing on what will be read this Shabbat, namely special portions for the holiday of Sukkot, I will take this opportunity to look at the closing of the Torah.  The short parsha deals mainly with Moshe’s final blessings for the tribes, but I was struck by the way Moshe himself is described.  At the opening of the parsha, he is described as איש האלהים, the man of God (33:1), while at the end of the parsha he is called עבד ה, the slave/servant of God (34:5).  While the English sounds similar, it is important to note that in the Hebrew the name of God used in each case is different.  In the first description, the name of Hashem associated with justice is used, while at the end, when describing the actual death of Moshe, the name of Hashem associated with mercy is used.  I do not think that this is an accident, and one way of understanding the shift is to consider the famous Talmudic passage (Menachot 30a) which says that the last verses of the Torah were written, not by Moshe, but by Yehoshua.  In his life, Moshe described himself one last time as strong, a man (with all the traditional depictions of male-ness that carries) associating himself with the perfect Judge.  In eulogizing him, though, his successor Yehoshua depicts him as a humble servant of a benevolent God – a striking change in tone accomplished in two words.

Moshe judged himself

In relationship to God

Harsher than the rest

 

חזק חזק ונתחזק

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