The weekly Torah portion and its lessons for all people

Ve-zot Ha-brachah, Deuteronomy 33:1-34:12
Moses lives

by Avraham ben Yaakov

"And Moses, servant of HaShem, died there in the land of Moab by the mouth of HaShem. And He buried him in the valley in the land of Moab over against Beth Pe'or, and no man knows his burial place until today."
Deuteronomy 34:5-6

".and there are those who say that Moses did not die, because here (Deuteronomy 34:5) it is written: 'And Moses died', but there it is written: 'And he was there [on Mount Sinai] with HaShem for forty days and forty nights' (Exodus 34:28). Just as there it means he was standing and ministering, so here it means he stands and ministers."
Babylonian Talmud, Sotah 13b

"The righteous are greater after their death than in their lifetime."
Babylonian Talmud, Chullin 7b

The biblical verse explicitly states that Moses died -- for none of Adam's descendants are exempt from the decree of death (Genesis 3:19). Yet the Torah sages could not believe that the man who was so pure that he stood at Sinai for forty days ministering before the Living God simply underwent the same kind of ignominious death and decay as ordinary people. Indeed, until today Moses' physical body has never been discovered, as the Torah itself testifies. Yet as the Master of all the prophets and the chief lawgiver of monotheism, Moses' influence endures until today through the Torah of Israel and all who uphold it, as well as indirectly through Christianity, Islam and many other influences in our culture that are ultimately rooted in the Torah.

If Moses is "dead" - a figure from the past that has no bearing on the present - this is only from the limited perspective of fallible humans, who often imagine that only those who are in a living, physical body can be considered "alive". They cannot grasp that the souls of the righteous are very much alive in the spiritual realm, which indeed permeates the physical world in which we live, influencing it in a multitude of unseen ways.

To those who follow the Torah, which is "the Tree of Life for those who take hold of it" (Proverbs 3:18), Moses is very much alive and a source of guidance and inspiration in our world today. Moses is only "dead" to those who do not hear the call of the Torah - or do not wish to hear it.

Some who claim to speak in the name of Christianity say that “the Jews killed God” – a ludicrous thought, since God is not a corporeal being that anyone could “kill”. A similar accusation can be turned against those very people for trying to "kill” Moses with the idea that the Torah of Israel that he brought into the world had in some way become defunct. But at HaShem’s dictation, Moses testified that the Torah is eternal and cannot be changed in any way: “You shall not add to it or subtract from it” (Deut. 13:1). Indeed the Christian scriptures acknowledge that “not the smallest letter or one dot will disappear from the Law …” but in actual fact in the Christian world there has been a widespread tendency to ignore or even actively discourage its practice. Most Jews who converted to Christianity abandoned their Torah observance even though the Law never was and never could be abrogated.

Likewise, some who claim to speak in the name of Islam relate their tradition to Biblical personalities and teachings yet imply that Moses' prophecy was in some sense superseded by that of their prophet, despite the fact that the latter stated that he heard from an angel, while Moses heard from the mouth of HaShem (Numbers 12:8). Some claiming to speak in the name of Islam state that "the Jews manipulated their texts". But this is a slander, as is clear to anyone who is familiar with the strict rules governing the writing of Torah scrolls to ensure that each one is an exact copy of a copy of a copy of Moses' original Torah scroll that was kept with the Ark of the Covenant in the Temple. With Jews so often prone to argue with one another about almost everything, how could any one person have persuaded everyone else that his was the authentic Torah text if not Moses himself, whom all Israel accepted as HaShem's greatest prophet?

The fact is that although the Torah scroll must be handwritten by a scribe and contains a total of 304,805 Hebrew letters, all the Torah scrolls in the world are identical with the exception of certain scrolls from Jewish communities in Yemen that have only 9 cases of different spellings, which do not affect the meaning of the original. This contrasts with the number of textual variants in copies of the "New Testament", of which the lowest estimate is around 30,000 , while there is abundant evidence that the Quran underwent textual corruption via additions, omissions and conflicting variant readings .

Any tradition that denies the authenticity of the Torah as HaShem's word revealed to Moses is immediately vulnerable to more serious doubts about its own sources. For "HaShem is not a man that He should lie" (Numbers 23:13). If HaShem's eternal Torah could somehow be changed or abrogated, what would give any other tradition immunity against forgery and abrogation?

Yet the truth of the Torah cannot be "proved" through argument and external proofs. The only way to know and experience the truth of the Torah is through persistent, careful study. " Taste and see that HaShem is good; happy is the man that trusts in Him" (Psalms 34:9).

Moses lives on in the Torah which he brought to the world at HaShem's dictation. Until today, Moses' influence is a blessing to all who devote themselves to the study and practice of the Torah.

"And this is the blessing which Moses, the man of God, blessed."
Deuteronomy 33:1




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